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November 2, 2003
Muslim Troops' Loyalty a Delicate Question

The Washington Post published a thoughtful and balanced piece on whether Muslim troops can remain loyal to the US:

Military sociologist Charles Moskos is traveling to Iraq this month to poll troops about morale issues. He plans to ask whether Muslim soldiers seem to have their hearts in fighting fellow Muslims, and whether the troops trust Muslims in their ranks.

"I'll ask, 'How do you feel about having a Muslim in your tent?' " Moskos said.

A black Christian Army chaplain based in this country said some of her fellow soldiers feel "tension" with Muslims in their units, many of whom are also black. "They say, . . . 'Can we really trust them?' "

In past wars, this concern over disloyalty in a diverse military has come up again and again. Most famously, the Japanese formed a unit to themselves in World War II and became the most decorated unit in the war, suffering a high casualty rate in the European Theater. Religious groups have been seen askance before as well, but in this case it's a little different, because there is at least a perception that this conflict is a war of civilizations, between secular/Judeo-Christian Western nations and Islamic states of the Arab world.

Speaking of the Arabs, here's a little bit about Our Friends the Saudis:

Just after the 1991 Persian Gulf War against Iraq, huge tents were erected in Saudi Arabia near the barracks of U.S. military personnel. Inside, day and night, Saudi imams sent by their government lectured the GIs about Islam and made aggressive pitches to convert them. Saudi officials had promised that the discussions would touch only on Arab culture. But within months, about 1,000 soldiers, and perhaps as many as 3,000, converted to Islam -- the largest surge of Muslims ever into the U.S. armed forces.

"It was quite aggressive," said David Peterson, then the military's top chaplain in the region. In retrospect, he said, there was reason for concern that foreign clerics had gained influence over the troops, but military officials were slow to grasp the implications, he said.

Had our forces tried this while we were based in Saudi Arabia, not only would the Saudis have angrily demanded our immediate exit, but carpers here at home would have been screaming about a lack of tolerance and cultural imperialism. Where are their cries now?

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 2, 2003 10:53 AM

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