Since the Fort Hood tragedy, many have asked me to address what the United States must do with American Muslims in the military.
Some have taken an emotional response and promoted the view that Muslims should not be allowed in the U.S. military. Others tried to approach the issue in a more rational manner. Wall Street Journal reporter Yochi J. Dreazen addressed some aspects of this sensitive topic in an article entitled "Muslim Population in the Military Raises Difficult Issues."
The possibility of a backlash against Muslims in the military also was discussed on CNN. I will summarize my answer as follows. There are three possibilities (or options) for the reaction: Option 1: Stop all Muslims from working in the military Option 2: Give permission to Muslims in the U.S. Army not to fight against their fellow Muslims. Option 3: Do nothing
The first option would deprive the United States from benefiting from the experience of moderate Muslims who also fight Islamic radicalism. Such experience can be invaluable in achieving victory over radical Muslims. This situation makes it imperative for U.S. officials to set parameters to define who is moderate and who is radical.
Using proper parameters to define these terms can allow the United States to use the knowledge of true moderate Muslims effectively to fight radical Islam and at the same time avoid discrimination against all Muslims. Failure to set these parameters can allow many radicals to infiltrate sensitive positions in the military and may end in catastrophic consequences.
The second option also raises several serious concerns:
1. This option could be seen as a form of discrimination against non-Muslims in the military. In other words, why should non-Muslims take the risk of going to war and die while their fellow Muslim soldiers are refusing to defend their nation? In this case, we would face one of the most bizarre situations in history, when non-Muslims would have to die to defend Muslims who sympathize with the enemy and refuse to fight it.
2. What if ALL U.S. troops converted to Islam? Should we just surrender to Islamic radicals because No one in the military is willing to defend the country anymore?
3. Accepting this option casts doubt on the loyalty of these Muslims. If these Muslims were more loyal to their “umma” (Muslim nation) than to the United States, then they should be considered a fifth column and must not be allowed to work in military or any sensitive position.
4. Those American Muslims who refuse to fight another Muslim to defend the US must be ready to answer the following imperative question: Is it OK for them to kill Christians or Hindus if they attacked the US but it is unacceptable by them to kill Muslims if they did attacked their country?
5. If radical Muslims declared war on the United States, would Muslims in U.S. military allow the killing of their fellow American citizens to avoid fighting their radical Muslim brothers? In other words, are the lives of their fellow Americans less in their view than the lives of the radical Muslims?
If the third option is accepted as the best type of reaction, many Islamic radicals will be able to infiltrate our military. In this situation, the disaster of Fort Hood may look trivial compared with what could happen if these radicals managed to use radiological, biological, or chemical weapons against our society.
In such a case, we may wake up one day to the news that an Islamic radical in military released a lethal bacteriological or viral agent inside the United States that will kill thousands of people and destroy the economy. The tragedy that could happen in this case is far beyond words to describe it. Doing nothing and just waiting for another attack by a radical Islamist inside the United States could be a catastrophic approach.
We were just lucky that Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan, who allegedly committed the atrocity in Fort Hood, did not have access to a biological weapon. An important approach to deal with such a complex situation is to educate senior officials in the United States how to detect early signs of radicalization, as this can allow these officials to take appropriate measures to prevent a possible disaster.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad." He was a former associate of Dr. al-Zawahiri (second in command of al-Qaida) and currently he is a reformer of Islam. For more information, visit www.tawfikhamid.com. Hamid's writings in this blog represent only his thoughts and not the views of the institute where he works.
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