Bias repels American Muslims from army

The U.S. military is desperately seeking to recruit soldiers who speak Arabic and understand Islam, but many American Muslims are reluctant to join an institution they believe is prejudiced against them.

Bias repels American Muslims from army

"The military have the same problem as civilian government agencies, such as the FBI," says Ibrahim Hooper of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). "There is a general reluctance to join because Muslims think there is bias against them and career prospects are limited."

Pentagon statistics show there are more Jews and Buddhists than Muslims serving in the 1.4 million strong, overwhelmingly Christian armed forces.

In the Marine Corps, there are slightly more Muslims than Wiccans, who practice witchcraft. And in the Air Force, Wiccans are more than Muslims by at least two to one.

The Pentagon says 3,386 Muslims are currently in active service, compared with 1.22 million Christians.

The military is now striving to attract Arabic-speaking soldiers who are aware of the Islamic culture – two issues many troops returning from Iraq complained of.

While there is no recruitment program aimed at Arab and Muslim communities in the United States, the military is trying to show that it does not link Islam with "terrorism".

For example, last July, the Marine Corps set up a new Muslim prayer center at its base in Quantico, Virginia. A month later, the Air Force Academy commissioned its first Muslim chaplain. And in September, West Point, the oldest military academy in the U.S., established its first Muslim prayer room.

"There's a large pool of expertise," said an officer involved in recruitment. "People who know the languages, people who are familiar with the culture. We just haven't found the right way to draw from that pool."

"Big problem"

Despite the efforts, critics claim that building mosques at military bases will make more Muslims "infiltrate" the U.S. army.

"A chief concern of the U.S. military is Islamist infiltration," the conservative Investor's Business Daily said in an editorial. "Yet the Army, in a show of blind tolerance, just made that easier with the dedication of a new mosque at West point… Erecting mosques at our military bases and academies ... gives berth to erect a Fifth Column inside our military."

Public opinion polls suggest that many Americans hold negative views of Islam and Muslims. A Gallup survey taken around the time the West Point prayer room opened showed that a third of those polled thought Muslims living in the U.S. sympathized with al-Qaeda.

"This is a big problem," said Hossam Ahmed, a retired Air Force Reserve colonel. "I never had had anyone question my loyalty until September 11. After that, yes, it has happened."

Lt. Col. Tim Oldenburg, a Muslim flight test engineer attached to the Pentagon, says that he encountered "lack of understanding and ignorance" from his colleagues, but notes that he doesn't have problems practicing his faith.

"What I get constantly is reactions of surprise when people hear I'm a Muslim," he says.

In the U.S. population as a whole, people of South Asian origin make up the largest proportion of Muslims, accounting for 33%, according to estimates by community groups. Black Americans come second, with 30%, followed by Arabs with around 25 percent.

According to recent estimates, Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the United States, mainly due to the high number of Muslim immigrants or those who convert to the noble religion.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16