Are Muslims Serving in the Military a Risk? A "Delicate Question", With Mixed Responses

November 2, 2003

Source: Washington Post

On November 2, 2003 the Washington Post reported that "U.S. military officials are wondering whether they have been inattentive to outside influences on the small community of Muslims in the armed forces. But even asking that question is a delicate matter for an institution that has long embraced tolerance of all faiths. Some military officials believe that the al Qaeda terrorist network is trying to recruit Muslim members of the U.S. armed services and contractors who work with them. Other officers have expressed fears that some Muslim soldiers, sailors and airmen might one day decline to take up arms against fellow Muslims. Air Force Gen. Ralph Eberhart, head of the U.S. Northern Command, the military's homeland defense unit, said terrorists who try to penetrate the U.S. military by playing on religious or ethnic identities will fail '99.9 percent of the time, with as many 9s as you can add.' Even so, Eberhart said, 'there's no doubt in my mind there's an effort [by al Qaeda and other terrorists] to turn our people.' Some in the military might be exploitable by terrorists or demagogues because, like other people, they 'have sympathies for other causes or nations,' he said... Despite these concerns, U.S. officials say they have seen almost no evidence of hesitancy, much less disloyalty, among the 5,000 to 10,000 Muslims in uniform, and believe only a tiny number would ever be vulnerable to manipulation by foreign extremists. In the Marines, for example, only three Muslims have switched military assignments or requested conscientious objector status since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, officials said."