The US Armed Forces and Muslims in Its Ranks

America is a society at the cross roads. At one end, it is being besieged by Muslim radicals who have vowed to destroy the ‘great Satan’ meaning the USA and at the other end a significant number of blacks and a small number of whites have converted to Islam in the USA itself. The fact is that the Muslims as a percentage are the fastest growing community in the USA and the blacks after centuries of subjugation are now asserting themselves and one way they have followed, is by converting to Islam. Remember Cassius Clay converted to Islam 40 years back, to cock a fist at the white Americans.

Wars with Muslim Nations

The United States is involved in wars against the Muslims all over the globe. Though it is not a war against Islam per se, yet most of the opponents of the USA are Muslim Nations. Thus America is embroiled in a war in Afghanistan and is fighting a terrorist movement in Iraq, after the second Gulf war and ouster of Saddam Hussain. Another factor is a militant Iran, Syria and Yemen. Even a fringe in Pakistan led by the Haqqani faction is looking for ways to destabilize America.

Manpower Shortage

In such a scenario there is a need for additional manpower for the US armed forces. With the draft (compulsory military service) a story of the past, the US armed forces are facing man power crunch. To tide over these man power problems, the United States has opened its doors to all races and religions. The result is that sizeable numbers of Muslims have joined the Armed forces. The going was good so long as the USA was not involved in wars with Muslim nations, but once that started, the Muslims in the US armed forces suffered a trauma. They had dual loyalties as Islam is a religion that transcends boundaries.

Muslims in US Armed Forces

After the carnage at Fort Hood where an army Major named Nidal Hussain gunned down 13 of his colleagues as he felt that fighting war against Muslim nations was unjust, the United States army is uneasy. No army can fight a battle if it has an enemy in its own ranks. By that single act the problems in the US army have come to the fore.

There are about 5-7 million Muslims in the USA and their numbers are increasing. The US army has about 10,000 Muslims in its ranks. That’s a small number compared to the overall strength of 1.4 million, but they are enough to create a headache. The army is beset with a problem as some Muslim soldiers detailed for duty in Afghanistan pray as per the Muslim custom five times a day. In a battle situation that becomes a liability. In addition, Muslims want special status during the month of Ramadan. Can the army call a truce and not fight during this period? For that matter can any army do that?

Cases are now coming out that soldiers detailed to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan feel its wrong to fight against their own brothers. Many Muslim soldiers have conscientious objections. There is no solution in sight. An Army sergeant detailed for combat duty in Kuwait against Iraq was so incensed that he threw a grenade and killed 2 officers and injured 14.

These are the cases that come out, but there are thousands who for a fact are not happy to fight their brethren at all. The US army is in a dilemma. Despite assertions by the Chief of staff, the fact is the USA while fighting against Muslim nations will have one hand tied behind its back if Muslim soldiers are in combat missions.

The Future

The Muslims were willing recruits once the USA was fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, but that is all history. The new breed of converts is more fanatic and feels a brotherhood and don’t want to kill fellow Muslims. The US Armed Forces will have to tide over this problem on its own. How will they do it? Can there be a loyalty test? The freedom enshrined in the US constitution will not allow it, as America is a free society. Perhaps the United States army will in its own way find a solution, but it won’t be easy.