If you ever visit Arlington National Cemetery, as many are doing on this Memorial Day, you may notice that every now and then, a crescent pops up among the field of crosses. Few Americans are aware that many American Muslims have fought and died in the US Armed Forces, including in Iraq. When you wander the cemetery grounds that overlook Washington, DC, you’ll notice the grave of Army Captain Humayun Khan, who lured a suicide car bomb away from the men in his charge, saving their lives but giving up his own.
You might also come across the grave of Army Spc. Rasheed Sahib, an American Muslim from Guyana who was killed in Iraq as well, under mysterious circumstances. And then there’s Army Spc. Omead Razani, a son of Iranian immigrants who also died in Iraq. Also, Marine Staff Sgt. Kendall Damon Waters-Bey was killed in a helicopter crash on his way to duty in Iraq. In fact, you’ll find the graves of fallen Muslim soldiers and Muslim veterans in military cemeteries all over the United States, from Hassein Ahmed (Army, WWII) to Ibrahim Muhammad (Navy, WWII), from Mahir Hasan (Army, Korea) to Abul Fateh Umar Khan (Air Force, Korea).
Today, nearly 15,000 Muslims serve in the US Armed Forces, under situations of conflicting loyalties and misunderstanding both by their non-Muslim colleagues as well as other Muslims. “We don’t have to prove anything,” said Imam Ghayth Nur Kashif, a Korean War veteran and former counselor for the Muslim American Military Association. “Many of us were born here so it’s really kind of an insult for people to question are you an American.”
Shahed Amanullah is editor-in-chief of altmuslim.com.