Tag Archives: Arlington National Cemetery
Published on Huffington Post Religion
On May 27th, Americans will celebrate Memorial Day, a day of remembrance for the men and women who have died fighting in the United States armed forces. On this Memorial Day, I want to draw attention to the Muslim Americans who have died in battle for the United States. In doing so I hope to honor the Muslim American community for the sacrifices they have made for their country.
In the spring of 2009 I visited Arlington National Cemetery with Professor Akbar Ahmed to stop by the gravestones of Muslim American soldiers who died fighting in the Iraq War. Colonel Martinez of Washington’s Old Guard, a regiment of the United States army, walked us around to see the resting place of several of his “great soldiers,” which made me feel humbled and thankful to be in the presence of such brave American citizens.
One of the soldiers was Captain Humayun Saqib Muazzam Khan, a Pakistani American who received a Purple Heart, a military decoration awarded by the President to those who have been wounded or killed in action. Next to Captain Khan was Ayman Abdelrahman Taha, an Arab American, who also received the Purple Heart for the courage he exhibited in the Iraq War.
The graves of Captain Khan and Ayman Taha show that Muslim Americans have not only been soldiers in the United States armed forces, but that they have also brought honor to the United States for their courage and bravery in fighting for freedom.
Captain Khan and Ayman Taha are just two of the many Muslim Americans who have died fighting for the country that they love. In fact, the history of Muslim Americans’ service in the United States armed forces goes back to the founding of the country in the American Revolution.
Under George Washington, several Muslim Americans served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Bampett Muhammad, for example, fought for the “Virginia Line” between 1775 and 1783. History also denotes a man named Yusuf Ben Ali, referred to by his slave name Joseph Benhaley. Ben Ali was descended from North African Arabs and served as an aide to General Thomas Sumter in South Carolina.
Another man believed to be a Muslim in Washington’s army was Peter Buckminster, who etched his name into American history at the Battle of Bunker Hill by firing the shot which killed Great Britain’s Major General John Pitcairn. After being granted his freedom for freely enlisting in the army, Buckminster changed his last name to “Salem.” Historian Amir Muhammad points out that “Salem” is nearly identical to the word “Salam,” which is the word for “peace” in the Arabic language. Salem later reenlisted in Washington’s army and fought victoriously at the Battle of Saratoga and the Battle of Stony Point, where Washington served as commander.
The presence of these Muslim Americans in several of Washington’s most defining moments suggests that Washington cared little for the religious makeup of his army and cared more for their devotion to freedom and independence.
In reflecting on the Muslim Americans in Washington’s army and my visit to the gravestones of the Arlington National Cemetery, I cannot help but be struck by the symbolism of the religious backgrounds of America’s soldiers. Christians, Jews, and Muslims have all died fighting for the American people. On this Memorial Day, we should remember the power of American pluralism and that our strength as Americans comes in our diversity and not in our differences.
Tags: American Revolution, Arab American soldier, Arlington National Cemetery, Ayman Abdelrahman Taha, Ayman Taha, Continental Army, George Washington, Graves, Humayun Saqib Muazzam Khan, Memorial Day, Memorial Day 2013, Memorial Day News, Muslim American soldiers, Pakistani American soldier, Patriotism, Patriots, Religion, U.S. Armed Forces, U.S. Military, United States, Washington
Journey into America should be required viewing for all Americans and Muslims worldwide. For this reason I have started the initiative One Film 9/11. The purpose of this initiative is to screen Journey into America in as many places of religious worship around the world on September 11th, 2013 in the hope of improving relations between American and Muslims.
We learned through Innocence of Muslims that one film can make a difference in the way Americans and Muslims perceive each other. Now is the time for Journey into America to make the difference, but for the better. If you want to help, please join One Film 9/11 at onefilm911.wordpress.com.
Writing: Press Release
I want to challenge your comment that Americans need to be concerned about the loyalty of Muslim Americans. I want to do so through a story of my own experience.
Throughout 2008 and 2009, I was conducting research under Professor Akbar Ahmed of American University with the hope of better understanding American identity through the eyes of Muslims. Resulting from this trip was the documentary, Journey into America, and the book, Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam. A scene in both the documentary and the book may be of interest to you.
In the spring of 2009, Professor Ahmed was invited by Colonel Martinez of Washington’s Old Guard to speak to American soldiers, who were on the verge of being deployed to Afghanistan. After his discussion, Professor Ahmed and myself were invited by Colonel Martinez to Arlington National Cemetery.
It was here – in this most hollowed ground of our country – where I paid my respect to the Muslim Americans that have died to protect our freedoms.
As Professor Ahmed writes, ‘Among those buried in section 60, reserved for American soldiers killed after 9/11, is Humayun Khan, killed in Iraq and awarded the Purple Heart. And he is but one example of Muslim soldiers who have sacrificed their lives’.
Mr. Harris – it appears that you have overlooked this ultimate sacrifice in loyalty. You would be wise to not degrade the Muslim American community with your insidious remarks. You are putting yourself in danger of becoming anti-American in the eyes of your fellow citizens.
Craig Considine, Needham, Massachusetts
The Twittersphere is overflowing with Tweeters that have dedicated what seems like their entire existence to ragging on Muslims in the U.S. I want to hear what the jingoists think about a Muslim scholar who walks through Arlington National Cemetery with an American Colonel as they pay respect to fallen Muslim Americans.