Sorting Out Life as Muslims and Marines

This is about the US, but I have no doubts that Muslim soldiers in Western armies around the world are facing these dilemmas.

Few people ever see Ismile Althaibani’s Purple Heart. He keeps the medal tucked away in a dresser. His Marine uniform is stored in a closet. His hair is no longer shaved to the scalp.

It has been 20 months since he returned from Iraq after a roadside explosion shattered his left foot. He never expected a hero’s welcome, and it never came — none of the balloons or hand-written signs that greeted another man from his unit who lived blocks away.

Mr. Althaibani, 23, was the last of five young marines to come home to an extended family of Yemeni immigrants in Brooklyn. Like the others, he grew accustomed to the uneasy stares and prying questions. He learned not to talk about his service in the company of Muslim neighbors and relatives.

“I try not to let people know I’m in the military,” said Mr. Althaibani, a lance corporal in the Marine Corps Reserve.

The passage home from Iraq has been difficult for many American troops. They have struggled to recover from the shocking intensity of the war. They have faced the country’s ambivalence about a conflict in which thousands of their fellow soldiers have been killed or maimed.

But for Muslim Americans like Mr. Althaibani, the experience has been especially fraught.
They were called upon to fight a Muslim enemy, alongside comrades who sometimes questioned their loyalty. They returned home to neighborhoods where the occupation is commonly dismissed as an imperialist crusade, and where Muslims who serve in Iraq are often disparaged as traitors.

Some 3,500 Muslims have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan with the United States armed forces, military figures show. Seven of them have been killed, and 212 have been awarded Combat Action Ribbons.

More than half these troops are African-American. But little else is known about Muslims in the military. There is no count of those who are immigrants or of Middle Eastern descent. There is no full measure of their honors or injuries, their struggle overseas and at home.

The rest of the article can be read on the NY Times site (requires a free signing up).

Source: NY Times


nouille said...

This says a lot:" Here, many immigrants say that killing Muslims is simply wrong, and they cite the Koran as proof. Their opposition to the war is rooted as much in religion, they say, as in Arab solidarity.

The same week that Abe Althaibani headed to Iraq with the 25th Marine Regiment, his wife joined thousands of antiwar protesters in Manhattan, shouting, “No blood for oil!”

“It was my people,” said his wife, Esmihan Althaibani, a regal woman with luminous green eyes. “I went because it was Arabs.”

Esther , what you may or may not know is that in the U.S. many people from immigrant families turn to the U.S. armed forces as a way to get their education paid for,job training and in some cases citzenship. They never really plan on having to actually go to war.

The fact that many muslim soldiers don't feel wholly accepted is correct, they aren't. re read the statement above, this may be why.

For many Arabs/muslims, their religion and people come first.

We pay our men in uniform to defend our country, and they are sworn to do so.

Muslims under the control and direction of a kuffar military are also violating the tenets of Islam when they fight other muslims. It's haram.

One only has to look at what happened to the muslims who fought on the French side in Algeria, having their throat cut was the kindest thing that could happen to them.

nouille said...

Also, as for half the muslims in the military being African American, it's that whole Malcom X thing.

The Nation of Islam was permitted to infiltrate the prisons and "recruit".

Esther said...


Thanks for your comments.

Notice that some of the people mentioned in the article joined the army after 9/11 and knew they were going to battle and against whom it was going to be. I do agree that there should be a lot of care taken. Nobody in the article actually said they want to join the army in order to protect their country, though the people interviewed do feel loyalty to the US over everything.

It is interesting though, that these soldiers are going through so much anguish over killing terrorists, when so many Muslims are being killed by Muslims and nobody thinks twice of it.

Regarding African-Americans - I don't know how much of it has to do with 'black power' issues, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that the army is almost color blind. The top general can be black and nobody will think twice of it. In the 60's, the army enabled African Americans to do things they weren't allowed to do in civil life, and I think it embedded the army in their community life.

In Israel, btw, Arabs are not forced to do army duty, and most of them don't (in the Druze and Bedouin communities, though, volunteer). This might be a mistake on the part of Israel, because they're not forcing those Arabs to show their loyalty. Yes, they might have to fight their brothers across the borders, but Jews have been doing that for years. The Army is a great way to show at least token loyalty to your country.

nouille said...

Esther said: This might be a mistake on the part of Israel, because they're not forcing those Arabs to show their loyalty"

I think it is intentional on Israels part not to force Arabs/muslims to fight, they understand it could be treasonous.

Frank said...

I have little extra sympathy for Americans doing the same job as anyone else in America. This is not a problem with Islam, or America, or the army; it is a problem with immigration itself. Imagine if the US goes to war with China at some later date, with the millions upon millions of ethnic Chinese in North America. Are we going to have to extend kudos to those ethnic Chinese who DON'T desert?

Esther said...


I agree, in general. The Army is not something that most Americans do, though. Americans should be thankful to all soldiers who are there protecting them, and I think it is a disgrace that these soldiers feel bad when they come home. Maybe some right wing activists should have been there at the airport cheering?

What you're saying about the Chinese goes along with what I was thinking too. The article stresses how problematic it is for Muslims to fight other Muslims (and it is a religious prohibition, amazing enough.. you wouldn't know it just reading the news). However, isn't that true for minorities of all types?

During WWII, Japanese immigrants were locked up in camps. Nobody ever claimed that this had caused them to feel "anger" at the gov't and I'm still waiting for the first Japanese who would commit atrocities in the name of the insults they've received by not being treated as equal citizens. Many Muslims are upset at the very notion of getting extra checks in airports, and therefore security people check everybody but the people they should. They're upset for being suspected of being terrorists (for some obscure reason).

This article stresses the two sides: both that there are those among the Muslim community who feel American and would defy their religion for it, and that most do not feel that way.

For immigrants 60 years ago, it was an honor to serve in the military. Defectors from the USSR were proud to serve their new country whichever way they could. For some reason, for Muslims it's understandably not the case.