Military Needs Muslims —and Worries About Them

Fort Hood shooter reflects conflicted loyalties, pressures
By Caroline Miller,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 7, 2009 9:41 AM CST
A frame grab from a security video provided by CNN shows Maj. Nadal Malik Hasan in a convience store in Killeen, Texas early Thursday morning, Nov. 5, 2009.    (AP Photo/CNN)
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(Newser) – It's a double-bind for the US military: They desperately need more Muslims in the armed services, both for their language skills and their cultural expertise, but they worry that some soldiers might be vulnerable to co-option by insurgents or extremists. Since the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, Muslims have been aggressively recruited—the Pentagon estimates there may be as many as 13,000 now serving—with hefty signing bonuses and a shortcut to citizenship for those willing to act as translators and cultural advisers.

But this week's shooting spree at Fort Hood by a disaffected Muslim major bares anxieties about their loyalties, and the effects of pressures they face. Another conflicted convert to Islam, Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar, rolled a grenade into a tent filled with soldiers in 2003, the Wall Street Journal reminds us, adding that Muslim soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan often use fake last names to prevent being targeted by insurgents, who also threaten their families.