Suspect in Fort Hood shooting, a Muslim, asked Army to discharge him, aunt said

Members and leaders of the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring, where Maj. Nidal M. Hasan used to pray, speak out the day after the tragedy. They describe him as a devout Muslim, quiet but friendly.
By Mary Pat Flaherty, William Wan, Derek Kravitz and Christian Davenport
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, November 6, 2009; 5:12 PM

He prayed every day at the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring, a devout Muslim who, despite asking to be discharged from the U.S. Army, was on the eve of his first deployment to war. Yesterday, authorities said Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, a 39-year-old Arlington-born psychiatrist, shot and killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex.

Today, he remains in a Texas hospital listed in stable condition, breathing with the aid of a ventilator.

As authorities scrambled to figure out what happened at Fort Hood, a hazy and contradictory picture emerged of this son of Palestinian immigrants, a man who received his medical training from the military and spent his career in the Army, yet allegedly turned so violently against his uniformed colleagues. Family, friends, acquaintances and co-workers said Hasan was devoted to his faith, gave generously to those in need, but had few friends and odd, sometimes off-putting work habits. Some were aware of his desire to leave the military, but none suspected he could be capable of violence.

In an interview, his aunt, Noel Hasan of Falls Church, said he had endured name-calling and harassment about his Muslim faith for years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"I know what that is like," she said. "Some people can take it, and some cannot. He had listened to all of that, and he wanted out of the military, and they would not let him leave even after he offered to repay" for his medical training.

An Army spokesman, Lt. Col. George Wright, said he could not confirm that Hasan (pronounced Hass-in) requested a discharge.

Hasan's neighbors in Texas where he had lived since July, described him as cordial but reclusive. The only thing about which he was outgoing was his faith. "Sometimes he would have the white Muslim outfit with the beanie on," and had given copies of the Koran to some of his neighbors.

Over the past few days, Hassan started handing out more Korans, as well as most of his possessions, presumably in preparation for his deployment, the neighbors said.

He gave Patricia Villa folding chairs, a shelf , an air mattress, microwave, clothes racks, shirts and suits -- all practically new.

"He was nice to me," said Villa, 47, who moved to Killeen from Fresno, Calif., last month. "He wanted to leave it to persons who really needed it."

Hasan was born in Arlington and grew up in the Roanoke Valley of southwestern Virginia. He was a bookish young man whose father hoped he would go on to significant professional achievement. He spent nearly all of his Army medical career at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the District, caring for the victims of trauma, yet spoke openly of his deep opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hasan was shot during a rampage in which he used his own personal handguns. Investigators have not been able to question him.

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