In February, a Muslim physician named Mariah (whose Beliefnet moniker is "docwitchy") informed her friends on the Women in Islam discussion board that she and her husband Ahmed had been called up to serve in the campaign against Iraq. She and Ahmed (a.k.a. "cutter65"), are both U.S. Army Reserve surgeons. The news of their imminent departure for Kuwait began a lively debate about whether Muslims should serve in the U.S. military. The discussion stopped when she and Ahmed left Kuwait for Iraq.

Surprisingly, a few days ago Mariah reappeared. She had a temporary break from her work in Iraq and wrote to her Beliefnet friends about her impressions from the front.

Directly below are her most recent posts from the Mideast. On the following pages are highlights from the original discussion as they prepared to go overseas.

At War

Worse Than I Expected
April 5
"I never thought I'd welcome a case of intestinal flu, but it got me out of Iraq and back to Kuwait for a day or two. We've been treating many more Iraqi prisoners than Americans or British soldiers. This is my first time, and please Allah, my last time, in a war and it's worse than my husband, who has been in one before, told me [it would be]. So many young men, and some women, hurt, and too many civilians.

After the fighting is over we expect to work with the Iraqi docs. Right now we leave supplies with them as we pass. You have no idea what some of the fedayeen are doing--forcing people to fight by threatening their families and using women and sometimes children to hide behind. If anyone deserves a place with shaitan it is these men and all of Saddam Hussein's followers. I hope this is over soon. Ahmed and I pray for that every day and night unless we are too tired and just fall asleep when we can."

May it be Resolved with Justice
April 5
"May Allah bless and keep you and Ahmed well. I think of you often and pray for your safe return, as well as for everyone else in this awful situation. May it all be resolved with justice, whatever that may be--only Allah knows, and may all well-intentioned people make it home to their families."


Returning to my MASH
April 5
"I'm returning to my MASH in a few hours. I pray that the next time I am able to write, this war will be over and we'll have begun healing and building. Iraq deserves this, and I look forward to the time, soon insh'Allah, when we'll no longer be treating battlefield casualties and will be able to begin helping the Iraqi people...and even more for the time when we return home. May Allah bring reconciliation and peace...soon!"


Saying Goodbye from America

What follows is the original discussion, in chronological order, that ensued when "docwitchy" and "cutter65" told the message boards they were being called up to serve in the military.

Heading Off With Our Reserve
February 12
"It came as no surprise, but Ahmed and I had hoped it wouldn't happen. Major Ahmed, and Captain Mariah, Medical Corps, U.S. Army Reserve, are putting on our uniforms and heading off with our reserve medical brigade, which has been called up. We're just going to a post in the United States initially, but who knows where to next. We are packing our laptop so we'll try to keep in touch. We're going to miss our doggie, and kitties, and horsies a lot. And a lot of our human friends too.
Mariah...the (oh my GOD...) soldier"


February 12
"Go perform surgeries on the disbelievers and try to spare their lives when they get hurt trying to kill your own brothers and sisters..very noble deed.. good luck on your very Islamic deed!"

"The hypocrites are always confused, always planning deceit and plots. Although outwardly they appear to be with the believers, inwardly they are with the kaafireen. Surah 4:143"


We'll Miss You
February 12
"Wahhh!! We will miss you both. Stay safe and keep in touch! Don't worry about [altaariq]. While you're readying yourselves to serve, he and his donkey will be smug at home watching the disbelievers on "The Bachelorette" tonight."


The Islamic Thing and the American Thing
February 12
"I'll make a quick addition to what Mariah wrote. 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. Mariah is indeed packing our laptop. Medicine is where you find it."


Stop Giving Them Grief!
February 14
"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 possibility when one joins the military, so one can't just opt out once things get rough. Plus, they medically help more Iraqis than kill them. 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? We certainly should be giving our Muslim sisters and brothers support, not crap."


Salaam From a Sandpit
February 15
"My husband and I both found out about Mariah and Ahmed being called up from an e-mail, and then I read this posting. Thousands of our reservists have been called away from their homes and civilian jobs to join us regulars, and many of them are here in Kuwait, waiting for the order to either return home, or finish what should have been finished in 1991. I believe we will receive the latter order. In any case, we are ready and if ordered will accomplish our mission. I'll repeat what both Hassan and I have said before, many times. 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.

Should Mariah and Ahmed be sent over here, I am certain that they will do their duty superbly and aid any and all who are in need of their medical skills, be they Americans or captured Iraqis. As for Hassan and me, and the thousands of other Americans like us who happen to be Muslims, will do our jobs professionally and well also. Insh'Allah if, as I expect, we do end up fighting Iraq, we'll win quickly with as little loss of life on BOTH sides as possible. Salaam and bye until I can get to a computer again."


Salaam From an Icebox
February 16
"Yep, our laptop is up and running, so good morning and hi from an extremely frigid place. At least Kuwait will be warmer if we go there. There's not a lot of medicine to be practiced here since the army hospital is adequately staffed. So Ahmed and I are doing nothing except training for how to deal with chemical or biological attacks, something we haven't had any experience with. What a horror that would be! Insh'Allah that won't happen.

The French remind me of an aging actress, no longer beautiful, who still aspires to leading roles, and is bitter about her time being past. I'd like to take credit for this, but I saw it on Face The Nation a little while ago, spoken by George Will. Also, the French are terrified of our finding out that much of what Iraq has came from France, and the French are also afraid of being cut out of economic ties with Iraq. Insh'Allah, Ahmed and I will return home without going overseas. Insh'Allah, Aisha and Hassan will not have to fight in Iraq. To put a very personal note on this, both my husband and I have all too much experience in treating the results of violence. So, if it does come to war, at least we'll be well-placed to do our best to help those who suffer the results of it, regardless of what uniform they wear, or no uniform at all. That, at least, is a little blessing from Allah."


Brainwashing and Indoctrination
February 17
"Excuse my language, but I still do not understand what possibly motivates a fool to go into something like the U.S. 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 U.S. 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. I question your integrity, values and morals, not only as Muslims but also as human beings."


We Are Going Overseas
February 18
"Oh my. You wrote, and I quote, `I wouldn't save the life of a disbeliever..' How totally sad. How can you say such a thing? I'll do my best to save the life of ANYONE who comes into my ER, or anyone who is brought into our MASH. There are a lot of very legitimate arguments to be made about what is going on, and how different people view the same circumstances, and a lot of them have been made on this thread. But please, check out your own humanity please. To all, we've received our movement orders and we are indeed going overseas, and soon. If I can, as may be possible, I'll make postings about what we experience since we can bring our laptop along and hopefully we'll be able to use it."


Sandpit Salaams Again
February 20
"My husband, Hassan, and I are together right now, though only for two days. If and when sis Mariah and bro Ahmed get over here we'll try to look them up. I do have a suggestion that everyone can agree with. Let's all pray that this mess gets solved without a war, and that Saddam poofies away without us having to make that happen. Whether or not any of you agree with Hassan and me doing what we do, we can, I hope, agree that prayer never hurts, and can sure help.


We're 'Here'
February 26
"Well, we're 'here'...which means not in the U.S. anymore. Obviously, we have our little `puter running. Ahmed and I send our best to all. Hopefully, we'll be able to meet up with either Aisha or Hassan or both. At least Ahmed and I are in the same unit and will remain together. Insh'Allah there will be no war. That's worth praying for. If it does come, we pray that it will be a quick one and we'll be able to begin helping Iraqi civilians quickly. We are certainly prepared to do just that, by the way.

Midnight Sandpit Salaams
March 4
Aisha flew in for a quick visit yesterday and she, Ahmed, and I got to spend some not-too-quality time together....unfortunately Hassan could not get away from his unit to join us. We had lunch and babbled away...and then she had to get back on her American version of a flying carpet to return to her base.

Ahmed and I, along with other docs and nurses, really have little to do, so we've been studying up on what sort of problems we may face in Iraq. We frankly expect to be practicing a lot more medicine for Iraqis than our own troops...though of course we know there will be more than enough of that. It's a sad commentary, but just as Sister Aisha and Brother Hassan prepare to do their jobs quickly and well, we prepare to do ours equally well, which in large measure, initially at least, will be to try to help those on the receiving end of what Aisha and Hassan's units do. Ahmed and I will be most happy when we can begin concentrating on needy Iraqi civilians...for we expect that we'll be doing a lot of medical work for them after the fighting is over.

What we will both be most, most happy about, of course, is when we can come home! And THAT is certainly worth praying for. All the best from this beach without water."


Iraqi People In Our Prayers
March 15
"We're still waist deep in snow. And somehow, the weather has forgotten that March means warmer. Instead, we keep getting the nice, cold Arctic fronts keeping us at times below zero. Anyway, I sincerely hope all is going well for all of you...The Iraqi people are in our prayers as well as our people."


Sand-Blasted Mariah
March 16
"That's OK, dmsteph...we pray for the Iraqi people here too...lots. They need it. Insh'Allah they will soon have a better life. The biggest problem here right now is sandstorms. Those of us who have laptops keep them in plastic bags. I wish I could put myself in a plastic bad at times. All those jokes about sand getting into everything are TRUE. There is a Czech Republic Chemical detection unit based near us and we've sort of adopted them, since our food is a lot better than what they get. They get a beer ration and some brandy, which the U.S. Army does NOT issue...particularly when in a Muslim country. The Czechs, however, manage to get it, more than they need. My husband and I don't drink, of course, but we contribute a bit of our rations to the 'trading pool' so that our non-Muslim colleagues (as in about 200 out of 204 of us) can trade for the occasional 'medicinal' nip, as it were. We officers know when to look the other way when our enlisted men and women bend a regulation on occasion. The above isn't really all that important given the seriousness of the situation, but I thought that a little basic humanity might be nice to add in."


Do You Like Lilacs?
March 16
"You and all our gals and gents have our support for a peaceful resolution to this whole matter. Please believe that and please try to make sure this is understood by the people you work with. This matter goes beyond religious belief and should bring us all to the human level. Well, we finally hit 40 degrees yesterday and today as well. So now, all that waist deep snow is melting and we'll soon be knee-deep in water instead. By the way, do you like lilacs? We still have over a month before they come out, but in the event you're still there, I'll pick a big bunch and keep them near my computer in remembrance of you all."


Prayers For Peace Won't Be Answered
March 16
"Good morning. It's 0720 here and no sand storms so far...yea. Since it looks like we are indeed about to be fighting very soon, we're switching our prayers toward asking that it ends quickly. The general feeling among our people here is a desire to get on with it and get it over with. We do know that neither Aisha nor Hassan can get on line anymore since our last e-mail a day ago. If and when we pack up to follow whom we are assigned to service we will not be able to either."


Saving A Life.
March 17
"I'm glad to hear that you're doing well, if a bit sandy. My friend's brother was sent to Kuwait last week. Of course she is very worried for his safety, and I am glad to know that there are competent doctors there to take care of the wounded! Insh'Allah, you won't be needed, but it is good to know that you're there. The Talmud teaches us that saving one life is the same as saving the whole world. I believe that there is a similar Islamic teaching. Anyhow, don't doubt for a second that your work is worthwhile and appreciated by ordinary people and by G-d. You and your husband will be in my thoughts and prayers and I know that Allah will look over you as you care for those who need your help."

Loading and Leaving
March 17
"No sandstorms again, but we're loading and leaving. We listened to Bush's speech and I guess that's that. We have a reporting team with us, embedded as it's called, so if you brothers and sisters see any reports of a MASH (mobile army surgical hospital) you might see Ahmed and me. Believe it or not, there are even Al Jazeera reporters assigned to some units. The Czech chemical detection unit that's been our neighbor left last night heading north. Now it's our turn. There is going to be a huge need for humanitarian aid for the Iraqi people. We expect to have to try and feed and care for many refugees, not to mention providing medical care for them. I'm sure there will be appeals for help back home. Regardless of what any of you think about the politics of this mess, and I of course know that many of you are opposed to it, I still hope you'll find it in your hearts to direct some meaningful zakat to help the civilians who are going to badly need it.

This will be my last message for I don't know how long. May Allah bless you all. Ahmed and I, and all the other members of our medical unit will do our best to care for anyone and everyone we can help.

Pray for this to be quick...whatever you think about what is coming, at least that is something everyone can agree on...the faster we get it over with the fewer people will get hurt, regardless of what uniform they wear, or none at all.

Until Ahmed or I can write again, goodbye."


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