Muslims in the U.S. Military

March 30, 2003

Source: Los Angeles Times

On March 30, 2003 the Los Angeles Times reported that "the deadly grenade attack on the 101st Airborne Division in the Persian Gulf -- allegedly by one of its own -- left military personnel stunned. But the further news that the suspect is an observant Muslim set off a ripple effect that touched at least two soldiers at this mountain post two continents away... Specialists Aboubacar Ballo and Abdul Faragan Muhamaad Raheem Marrow had long ago gotten used to explaining to fellow soldiers their schedule of five prayers a day, the purpose of the prayer mat, the prophet Muhammad. But what to say when asked why a Muslim soldier might kill and wound his comrades? Ballo, a 28-year-old native of West Africa, decided the answer was easy: 'It didn't happen because the guy was Muslim,' he said... Today's military is considered a model for accommodating soldiers of the Islamic faith, providing outlets for counsel and worship and adapting GI uniformity to diverse religious customs... Even so, it hasn't been easy for U.S. Muslims in uniform since the Sept. 11 attacks by 19 Muslim hijackers. Some said they have been viewed with suspicion or subjected to jokes and snide remarks about camels and turbans. Now the specter of the days-old war with a predominantly Muslim Iraq and last weekend's 'fragging' incident in the 101st has heightened concerns for these soldiers, who enlisted to defend their country but find themselves also defending their faith as well as wrestling with the ethical dilemma of combating other Muslims... Of 1.4 million active-duty U.S. forces, nearly 4,200 are declared Muslims. Factor in the undeclared, and Islamic organizations say the number exceeds 10,000."