The alleged attack on U.S. forces by Sgt. Asan Akbar, an African-American Muslim, turned public attention to a topic that Muslim Beliefnet members have debated on the message boards for more than a year: Should Muslims serve in the U.S. military?

Below are highlights from the discussion. Some posts are from this board, started by two Muslim doctors now stationed in the Gulf.

Personal Experiences

Torn Between Islam & Service
"I am an American woman and have recently joined the U.S. Navy. I will be in the Delayed Entry Program until May. In all this extra time my interest in Islam has increased. Even though I have still been too shy to visit a Mosque I have begun to feel torn between the two. I have not reverted but this problem is on my mind. I have given thought to putting such beliefs on hold until after my 4 year service but I don't feel that that would be right thing. My position will be in administration, a non-combatant role. Still, I saw the this question about hating those in the military and got worried. The worse thing is to be disapproved of by the Muslim community where ever I'm stationed and hated within the military due to recent events. Being so new to Islam those kind of reactions would likely crush any faith I have. I know I will be unable to wear hijab, so how terrible is it not to wear a head cover? I like and want the benefits of the military package I've agreed to, but I am also God fearing. I'm just not sure what to think or do."

According to the Department of Defense, 4,148 Muslims serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.
All in the Family
"I'm an American, and a Muslimah, and a regular US Army Captain, and army aviator (AH-64D pilot)...married to an American Muslim US Army Lieutenant Colonel who is also an aviator. My two brothers are both army officers and rangers...one is over here chasing Al Qaeda around Afghanistan, and the other was here until last week. My older sister is an air force officer and F-16 pilot and she's flown bombing missions over here, and also over Kuwait. Dad is a retired Brigadier General. We're all Muslims...all Americans....all proud of our country, our religion, and our service in the US Armed Forces. There are thousands like us...no problem...no way! That's why the US military has Muslim chaplains...same as Christian and Jewish and at least two Hindu chaplains I know of. We're Americans...we serve our country...we believe in freedom of religion...and we're going after, and getting, terrorists who profane ANY and all faiths, not just Islam."

There are 10 Muslim military chaplains. The first joined the military in 1996.

A Double Whammy
"I've been a practicing Muslim for nearly 3 years & I actually accepted Islam in the U.S. military. I have grown to feel it isn't right. I don't know if I can use the word haram, but I've found it quite difficult to accept some things in the military. I even thought about getting out, but a Muslim chaplain reminded me of my duty as a Muslim to keep my word & honor the contract I signed. I wouldn't tell another Muslim to not join, but I would inform that Brother or Sister to be extremely careful with that decision. This isn't easy for a Muslim. In many ways, America seems to have an innate hatred for Islam. I was somewhat naive to this fact at the time of my joining the military. I feel as though, I have a double whammy on me being in the military. I'm Black & Muslim."

The Islamic Thing to Do
"In 1991, when I was a very new doctor, I served in the Gulf War. I treated a few dozen American and allied soldiers. I treated hundreds of Kuwaiti civilians who had been brutalized by the Iraqis. I treated many hundred captured Iraqi soldiers. If we are sent over there I have no doubt that once again, my medical brigade will spend the great majority of our time helping Iraqi civilians, and thousands of surrendered Iraqi soldiers. This is of course the Islamic thing to do. It's also an American thing."


No Place in the U.S. Military
"As a Muslim and a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier and the son and grandson of American soldiers, I say, 'Muslims have no place in the US Military!' I just finished reading an email sent to me by a Muslim in the US Army, who happens to also be of Afghani descent. In it he reminded me of my advice, two years ago to not join the Army and my reasons why. He stated that he is faced with many personal conflicts, but more importantly the sense of betrayal and hyprocrisy he senses among his fellow soldiers. He stated that he is often reminded by fellow soldiers that this war is not against Afghan Muslims, but against "extremeism(sic) Islam," but on the other hand, he has to listen to jokes and comments that compromises the dignity of ALL Muslims.

"...He left an idealistic, patriotic American Muslim soldier, but was confronted by the reality that one can't be a soldier in support of man's law and be an advocate for Allah's Law. He learned, at his own personal expense, that in the US Military, that one signs away his/her constitutional rights and they are compelled to adopt the notion that they are AMERICAN first, Soldiers second and everything else after. This in itself contrasted with Islam serves as a major reasons why Muslims should not serve in the Military."


The number of Muslims in the armed forces has grown substantially since the Gulf War. In 1994, there were 2,701 Muslim on active duty.

Leaving Mercy for Allah
"As with many Americans who are Muslim, I'm an American, and my religion is Islam. That's it. Islam is my religion, it's not my country, lifestyle, or anything other than the way I believe in Allah. I'm an officer in the United States Army and I plan on remaining one until they make me retire, hopefully long in the future. I've fought alongside and with Muslims from other countries against Muslims from still, other countries and I expect I'll do it again. If they are enemies of the US, then they are enemies of mine. I hope Allah will treat them mercifully...it's our job, as American soldiers, to make sure that Allah gets that chance quickly. We're pretty good at making such arrangements and, as has been proven, we keep on getting better. Insh'Allah the day will comne when we do not have to prove it as often. Until then, i'll be doing my bit as an American soldier, who happens to be a Muslim."

We Didn't Start the Fire...
"I too am a Persian Gulf veteran. I too am Muslim. My unit (1st Cavalry Division) was tasked to seek and destroy the Republican Guard...We fought those soldiers hard, and they fought back hard. There were many deaths. Fortunately for us...all the deaths were on the other side. I have had to deal with dreams, anxiety, fear, depression, alcohol adn a wide array of other emotions over the past 11 years. By the Grace of Allah, everything is 'hunky-doory' now. It still hurts (I can't imagine what our Vietnam vets must have felt!) when I hear my fellow Muslims attack me/us for our military svc.

"I see it like this. No one likes home fires. But no one curses firefighters! We're like firefighters. They don't start fires, they just put them out. That fire may take the lives of families and the firefighters may not be able to save everyone. But no one curses the firefighter as he/she comes from the burning building. We (military) don't start the wars. We don't make the policy that designates who lives or dies. All we do is lay in our cots and wait for that call 2 AM to 'get your rear in gear'."


Today, 2,697 of the Muslims in the military are African American.

Other Opinions

Respect for Those Who Serve
"I feel nothing but respect for and pride of my Muslim brothers and sisters serving in the military. My hope is that peace will soon prevail, so that nobody--be they American, Afghani, Israeli, or Palestinian--dies...or has to live through the death of a loved one."

Adherence to Allah
"As for Muslims in the US military, I do not know of a fatwa for them. Only that the authority to kill, destroy, occupy, subjugate a people does not originate or adhere to Allah. Rather, it comes from the consensus of the American people, which is similar to the ayah [in paraphrase]: they take their priests and their rabbis as lords besides Allah; and of which An Nabi (saaw) addressed by stating that such a people does so by disobeying Allah and obeying men--making the unlawful lawful and the lawful unlawful--making man a legislator instead of Allah."


Nothing to Do With Religion
"This war against terrorism, and the likely war against Iraq, which is just another part of the larger fight, has from our point of view nothing to do with religion. So when some Muslims ask us how we can fight other Muslims it's a question that just does not resonate. Our enemies, meaning those who would like to kill us, and who have done so, and who obviously want to do it again, unfortunately happen to be Muslims. I wish they were not. But what religion they follow has nothing to do with the fact that they have attacked, and want to attack my country and my fellow citizens. It is the job of people like us to defend our country from such people."


A Form of Dawah
"I'm sure it's tough being a Muslim in the U.S. Armed Forces. Putting up with alot of trash talk and disrespect. And Uncle Sam isn't always in the right when calls on his soilders to service.

"However, as a American Citizen any Muslim as just as much right to benefit from the opportunities and advantages from serving in the Amrmed Forces as any other American. Also, it's important right now to have Muslims in all aspects of American life from the Medical field to the Law field even in the Military field as a form of dawah [propogating Islam].

"Like the Prophet Muhammad(saw)said: If something is wrong a Muslim must change things with his mouth and/or his hands. At the very least in his heart.

"...Of course no Muslim would go on a mission if the troops were told that they're going in for the reason that their targets are Muslims because that's blatant persecution of religion nor would Muslims go on a mission that would result in the destruction of the three holy mosques."


Muhammad Ali, perhaps the most famous draft dodger in U.S. history, cited his Muslim beliefs when he refused to serve in Vietnam.

A Burden for Muslims
"I can find no justification for Muslims to wage war against or be supportive of military actions against other Muslims--in the services of Non Muslims. Perhaps, I'm wrong and being simplistic or idealistic at best, but dropping bombs from 30 thousand feet isn't justifiable...in any instances. The probability of 'collateral damage' and the loss of INNOCENT Muslim lives places a serious burden on any Muslim who participates in such 'criminal behavior'."

Nationalism is Haram
"Nationalism is HARAM let alone fighting for a kufr nation, how can some of you justify fighting for the US armed forces?"


Keeping a Promise
"If they committed to being in the military, it is their duty to fulfill it. They can't just 'skip it'. I personally don't like the military but I think if a Muslim commits himself to something, he or she should follow through. We don't break our promises! Wars are always a possiblity when one joins the military so one can't just opt out once things get rough...Stop giving them grief and make Dua that they come back home safe and sound. Do you think this is easy for any of the soldiers, Muslim or not?"


For the Disbelievers
"I still do not understand what possibly motivates a fool to go into something like the US military. If you are a disbeliever, a walking failure of a human being, a weak minded person who has no belief, then I could understand why the US military would be appealing to you. Now, a person that comes from a supposedly 'islamic' background basically repeating the same lines of brainwash and indoctrination that is beaten into the heads of the disbelievers by the military is something I cannot comprehend."


Keeping American Strong
"I would be ashamed if there were no Muslims in the US military. Our freedom is about so much more than talk, it's about action, and we can all contribute in our own way.

"When I was growing up, the Viet Nam conflict was raging. As much as I wanted to join the military, my opposition to this engagement stopped me. I found other ways to serve my country and humanity as a treaty negotiator and human rights activist.

"If Muslims want to be a part of America, they have to help keep America strong and free."


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