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Letter to the Editor

BY DI READERS | NOVEMBER 19, 2009 7:21 AM

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Diversity strengthens country’s military

I am a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces. I served in the U.S. Army for five years, three of which were spent at Fort Hood, Texas. I deployed overseas on two occasions, held a top-secret security clearance, and was honorably discharged with numerous citations and awards.

I am also a practicing Muslim, and I observed my faith while serving in the military. I can say with firsthand knowledge and experience that I and the other Muslim soldiers with whom I served possess an unshakeable loyalty to our country and allegiance to its Constitution. Our faith inspires us to become better soldiers, men, and citizens in our communities, and equates the value of saving an individual life to the value of saving all of mankind.

Ethnic and religious minorities are often subjected to increased scrutiny, suspicion, and discrimination, particularly in times of crisis or panic. The loyalty of Japanese, German, Catholic, and Jewish communities in the United States have all been questioned at different times in American history. While individual bad apples may have been found to exist on occasion, the overwhelming majority of those communities remained steadfast and loyal to the United States of America. The same is true of Muslims living in America today, who make up the most diverse and assimilated Muslim minority in the world.

In addressing the recent shooting at Fort Hood, Army Gen. George Casey stated that our diversity, both in our army and in our country, is our strength. He warned that speculation based upon anecdotal evidence could fuel a backlash against Muslims currently serving in the military and advised that concerns over the possibility of Muslim soldiers feeling “conflicted” should be looked at on an individual basis.

The diversity of the military is very much a microcosm of American society. The singling out or harassment of a soldier because of his or her race, ethnicity, or religion can destroy a unit’s cohesion. In my experience, such incidents were swiftly nipped in the bud. That same lesson can be applied to our country today as a whole.

Our nation would be well-served to heed Casey’s advice. We should also realize that irrespective of whether Maj. Nadal Malik Hasan’s alleged actions were motivated by his religious beliefs, they do not represent the beliefs or sentiments of the overwhelming majority of Muslims living in America, who share in the grief and suffering of an unspeakable tragedy.

Tarek Khowassah
Iowa City resident


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