Muslims debate serving in non-Muslim armies

In the wake of this month’s mass shooting at Fort Hood, a number of leading Muslim-American soldiers and scholars are — in addition to condemning the heinous crimes — discussing the alleged gunman’s belief that serving in the U.S. military compromised Islamic faith.
They’re debating Maj. Nidal M. Hasan’s interpretation of Islamic teachings, theorizing that the religion prohibits Muslims from fighting in wars against other Muslims, as Hasan perceived the U.S. military to be doing, RNS reports. Instead, Hasan said the military should allow Muslim soldiers to be released as conscientious objectors. Read more at the jump.

From the RNS report:

While no one condones Hasan’s violent actions, some say his military arguments have merit. But others say Hasan misread the Quran, and the U.S. military’s actions.
A wide variety of fatwas and other opinions on this issue are available on the Internet, but Islam’s lack of a centralized authority makes it difficult to say which opinions hold the most sway.
For instance, a number of Muslims in the U.S. military see themselves not as waging war against fellow Muslims, but protecting them from enemies who claim to be Muslim, like the Taliban, al-Qaida, and Saddam Hussein.

Sociologist Louise A. Cainkar says it’s irresponsible to automatically connect Hasan’s actions with Islamic extremism. She notes that Hasan spent the entire course of his medical residency and subsequent professional life listening to and counseling veterans returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan — an experience that likely traumatized him. The question, Cainkar asks, is why the media seem to be focusing on Islam as an explanation for Hasan’s actions:

What does one make of Major Dr. Hasan’s faith? It is possible that the day in and day out, for years upon end, hearing of stories of vets returning from war drove him to seek spiritual peace. It is plausible that he looked to religion to find this peace. My own study of the Muslim American experience after 9/11 found such a pattern. The majority of persons I interviewed told me their religious faith increased during the period of backlash and government targeting after 9/11 and many who had not been religious in the past became religious. Their faith increased because they were looking for answers, because they needed a pillar of support, and because they wanted to believe that justice would someday prevail.
The media’s coverage of these killings thus far appears to be another effort to reduce complexity to stereotype, to demonize Islam, and to shift the focus of public thought away from a deep questioning about war, American military activity, and the damage these are doing to people (including “our own” people), and to refocus it on the ubiquitous, evil “them.”

Since Cainkar’s Nov. 10 essay, there have been reports of Hasan’s e-mail correspondence with a radical Yemeni-American cleric but the extent of their discussions is still unclear.

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