WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Desperately short of soldiers who speak Arabic and understand Islam, the U.S. military is quietly courting American Muslims. But they show little enthusiasm for an institution many say is prejudiced against them.
"The military have the same problem as civilian government agencies, such as the FBI," said Ibrahim Hooper of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an advocacy group. "There is a general reluctance to join because Muslims think there is bias against them and career prospects are limited."
Pentagon statistics show there are more Jews and Buddhists than Muslims serving in the 1.4 million strong, overwhelmingly Christian armed forces.
In the Marine Corps, there are only slightly more Muslims than Wiccans, who practice witchcraft. And in the Air Force, Wiccans outnumber Muslims by more than two to one.
The Pentagon lists 3,386 Muslims in active service, compared with 1.22 million Christians of a wide array of denominations, including little-known groups such as the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel or the Pentecostal Holiness Church International.