Army Muslim opposes war A private with the Army’s 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., is opposing plans to deploy him to Afghanistan, claiming his Muslim beliefs prohibit him from fighting in the war.
Pfc. Nasser Abdo in June sought conscientious-objector status and wants out of the Army, Fort Campbell spokesman Rick Rzepka told Inside the Ring.
“As his application is being processed, we cannot discuss specific, individual cases currently in the administrative phase, and will respect the soldier’s privacy,” he said, noting that plans to send him to Afghanistan were put on hold.
However, Mr. Rzepka said the Army recognizes that “even in our all-volunteer force, a soldier’s moral, ethical or religious beliefs may change over time.”
Pfc. Abdo will undergo a series of interviews and assessments as part of the review that could take up to six months and the review “may not result in immediate action or termination from the service,” Mr. Rzepka said.
“Commanders at every level are aware of the importance of properly identifying conscientious objectors assigned to their units, and expediting their discharge or reassignment as appropriate,” Mr. Rzepka said.
Mr. Rzepka said he did not know whether military commanders had security concerns about Pfc. Abdo, 20, who joined the military last year. “I’m not on the ground at the unit level, but I’m not aware of any concerns that the unit may have,” he said. “The unit is doing what they need to do. He will be afforded every opportunity to make his case as a conscientious objector. As of now, his deployment has been deferred.”
Friends of Pfc. Abdo have set up a website called Free Nasser Abdo that includes statements from the soldier, an infantryman. In one statement, Pfc. Abdo said that after learning he would be deployed to a war zone, “I began studying Islamic teachings about war and peace, and reflecting more deeply about the role of Islam in my life.”
“I began to believe practicing my faith had to become a central pillar of my life,” he stated. “As the time to deploy neared, so my concern for how God would judge my affiliation with the Army grew. I began to seek the opinions of religious scholars, …and [Koranic] verses that would help me decide if it would be permissible to serve in the U.S. Army. This was the first time I had seriously considered that being a soldier in the U.S. Army may not be permissible according to Islamic doctrine. It did not take me long to find an abundance of religious sources on the matter.”
Asked why he joined the military and is now seeking to get out, Pfc. Abdo said in a telephone interview that “the main reason I am seeking conscientious-objector status is that I cannot involve myself in any war the U.S. military could conceivably participate or involve itself in.”
“A war has to be justifiable by Islamic standards,” he said. “And this war is Islamically unjustifiable.”
Documents obtained by the Associated Press, which first reported the case, quoted Pfc. Abdo in papers seeking separation from the service that “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 said he was harassed and persecuted for his religious beliefs and was not allowed to pray five times a day.
Patrick Poole, a counterterrorism consultant who specializes in domestic Islamism, said the sentiment expressed by Pfc. Abdo that one cannot be a U.S. soldier and faithful Muslim at the same time is not a fringe notion within the Muslim community and has been expressed by some senior U.S. Muslim leaders.
“We shouldn’t be surprised that this anti-American sentiment has trickled down into ranks when it is the military’s own Islamic advisers or even Muslim chaplains in our service branches who are preaching it,” Mr. Poole said.