Muslim-Americans in the Armed Forces

Yesterday, the New York Times published an interesting article by Andrea Elliott about some of the issues that Muslim-Americans who serve in the military have to deal with, including distrust, racism, moral dilemmas and condemnation in Muslim-immigrant communities.(http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/09/us/09muslim.html?ref=global-home).  The piece comes in the aftermath of the tragic shooting of Army soldiers by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a self-described Muslim, at Fort Hood on Thursday. 

Unfortunately, there may be a backlash against Muslim servicemembers in the wake of the shooting.  Gen. George Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, warned against such a development on Sunday.  But given the dark side of human nature, and the fact that the military is fighting Islamic extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan, where soldiers and Marines have been attacked by members of the local security forces who were ostensibly allies, distrust of Muslims in uniform may increase as a result of last week’s attack.

That would be unfortunate for strategic and humanitarian reasons.  It might discourage Muslims from joining the military at a time when their linguistic and cultural knowledge is especially critical.  It could also negatively affect cohesion in units with Muslim servicemembers.  On an individual level, Muslims in the armed forces would more acutely suffer the pernicious effects of racism.

Hopefully the killings at Fort Hood will be viewed as an isolated event without broader implications for Muslim-Americans serving their country.

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