At first, we were told it was the work of terrorists. Then we learned that an American soldier was being held in connection with a grenade attack on fellow servicemen in Kuwait, and that he was a black Muslim named Sergeant Asan Akbar. This brought to mind the Washington Beltway sniper shootings, allegedly carried out by two killers, one of them named John Allen Muhammed, another Black Muslim and military veteran.
It is timely to mention the fact that Alex Tizon of the Seattle Times wrote a revealing article about Muhammed, quoting his former superior officer, retired Sergeant Kip Berentson, as saying that he thought that Muhammed might someday turn to murder. While serving in the first Gulf War, Muhammed read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” the story of the black militant who became a leading minister in the Nation of Islam. Later, he became active in the organization under Louis Farrakhan and changed his last name from Williams to Muhammed.
Tizon also wrote about an incident that occurred during Muhammed’s military service. It turns out that he also tossed a grenade into the tent of his fellow soldiers. This is eerily similar to what Sergeant Asan Akbar allegedly attempted to do in Kuwait. The story, according to Berentson and others, was that Muhammad threw a thermite grenade into a tent housing 16 of his fellow soldiers. It could have easily killed or maimed, but all 16 in the tent escaped unharmed. Tizon reported, “The Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, Berentson says, concluded Muhammad?was the lead suspect. Muhammad was led away in handcuffs and eventually transferred to another company pending charges. He had been court-martialed twice before for lesser incidents while serving in the Louisiana National Guard. But an indictment over the grenade incident never materialized, and Muhammad’s Army file has no record of it.”
The military has had other problems as well. Ali Mohammed, an Egyptian-born Islamic fundamentalist who helped plan Osama bin Laden’s bombing of the U.S embassies in Africa, had served as a sergeant with the U.S. Army Special Operations at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Yet the Christian Science Monitor recently featured a story about Army Sergeant Mike Dickinson, who is stationed in Afghanistan and converted to Islam two years ago while on a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. He says that if the U.S. ever goes to war alongside Israel against the Arabs, he will have to become a “conscientious objector.”
Qaseem Uqdah, president of the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council, is responsible for recruiting and endorsing Muslim chaplains for the armed forces. He says there are more than 15,000 loyal Muslims in the U.S. armed forces, with blacks making up the largest ethnic group.
The military opened its first permanent Islamic prayer center at the Norfolk, Virginia, Naval Air Station in 1997. And in December 2001, the Pentagon itself hosted a ceremony for Muslims in the U.S. military in connection with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The Pentagon message is that Islam is a religion of peace.