Muslim Soldier Claims Conscientious Objector Status
According to the Associated Press, US Army PFC Naser Abdo joined the Army last year but has since decided that his faith will not allow him to fight.
Abdo said when he joined the Army more than a year ago, he initially felt he could be a soldier and a Muslim at the same time. But he said he now believes Islamic standards would prohibit his service in the U.S. Army in any war.
According to documents provided to The Associated Press, Abdo cited Islamic scholars and verses from the Quran as reasons for his decision to ask for separation from the Army.
“I realized through further reflection that God did not give legitimacy to the war in Afghanistan, Iraq or any war the U.S. Army would conceivably participate in,” he wrote.
Abdo, for whom a “free Naser Abdo” website has been created, faces a similar problem as others who have thought about claiming CO status. In order to be a CO under US military law, one has to object to all war. Abdo seems to have carefully phrased his objection to indicate he objects only to war “as a member of the US military.” On the Abdo website, he appears to have called on the Koranic prohibition on fighting other Muslims as part of his objection:
[Abdo] came to see that fighting in an unjust war, particularly one against a fellow Muslim brother would be considered to be a form of disbelief or kufr, and that he would remain in this state as long he was serving in the US Army.
Abdo would not be the first American servicemember to have a “spiritual awakening” after joining the US military, nor is he the first to object to the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq. Like some others, however, it does not appear he has made the case for status as a conscientious objector, though the Army may disagree.
Abdo has said he will refuse to deploy if the Army attempts to send him to Afghanistan to rejoin his unit, which has already deployed without him.
The issue of a Muslim military member killing a Muslim has resurfaced many times over the past few years, for obvious reasons. The infrequently updated website MuslimMilitaryMembers.org (see links) has had questions from cadets asking how they can be in the military and not commit this “sin.” From an Islamic ROTC cadet:
Killing another Muslim is a big SIN in Islam and I do not want to be held accountable for that SIN on the day of judgment.
While there is no attempt here to imply equivalency, it is worth noting that Nidal Hasan reportedly said
Muslims shouldn’t be in the U.S. military, because obviously Muslims shouldn’t kill Muslims. [Hasan] told me not to join the Army.
By the same token, there are Islamic Chaplains in the US military, and they have generally not made similar statements. In fact, they have previously said the opposite.
That is not without exception, however. In 2004 Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Hamza Al-Mubarak testified on behalf of 18-year Army veteran Sgt. 1st Class Abdullah Webster, who similarly refused to deploy for fear of fighting fellow Muslims. He, too, had started a CO application, but he withdrew it when he was told it required an objection to all war. The Islamic Chaplain said Webster had done the right thing in refusing to deploy.
Webster ultimately pled guilty to disobeying orders and received a bad conduct discharge after serving 14 months in jail.