Arab-American Soldiers Stress Loyalty, Patriotism

February 16, 2007

Author: Mohamed Elshinnawi

Source: VOA News

As American troops battle Islamic extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan and try to bring stability to the region, here at home the Pentagon is reaching out to Arab and Muslim Americans, trying to interest them in joining the U.S. military. At least 15,000 Muslims, including about 3,500 Arab-Americans, are already in uniform. In fact, Arab-Americans have been fighting, and dying, for this country since 1776. The Pentagon regards Arab-Americans as especially valued members of the U.S. military because of their important language skills and their understanding of the cultures of the Middle East. The armed services make efforts to accommodate their religious needs on base, such as building Islamic prayer rooms and hiring Muslim chaplains. But many Arab American soldiers say, 5 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, they still feel they need to prove both their worth as soldiers, and their loyalty to the United States.

That sentiment prompted Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jamal Baadani to establish the Association of Patriotic Arab-Americans in the Military, or APAAM. The organization serves to empower Arab Americans "to stand up and say 'We are patriots.'" In reaching out to the American community at large, Baadani says, APAAM's goal is "to bridge the gap of misunderstanding" between Arab Americans and mainstream culture "so we can be united as Americans no matter where we come from."

Baadani says because so many people looked at the Arab American community with suspicion after 9/11, it was necessary to present solid proof that Arab Americans are no less patriotic than any other group in the society. So, Baadani says, APAAM documented a long history of Arab American military contributions to America.

"What we found was that the first Arab American to die for America was Private Nathan Badeen, a Syrian immigrant who died for this country on May 23rd, 1776, a month and half before the independence of this country." Baadani says Arab Americans have fought in every war the U.S. participated in since then. "In World War II there were over 15,000 Arab Americans who served this country to free the world of the German Nazi tyranny and Japanese imperialism."