A Muslim on Memorial Day

In the Name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful

Unlike the vast majority of Americans, I was not at home enjoying the Memorial Day holiday; I was busy at work in the intensive care unit. Unfortunately, I was the unlucky one who got stuck being on call Memorial Day weekend. C’est la vie, especially la vie of a doctor. Thus, I did not have time to reflect on what this day means to me, other than a day I should have been off from work with my family.

I was too busy tending to the patient who was drowning in her own secretions from heart failure, requiring me to place a breathing tube in her lung and later a camera into the lungs to make sure she did not have an infection. That was after I helped the senior resident place a catheter in one of the major veins in her neck. Another patient was also very sick, and I had to perform a bronchoscopy (camera in the lung) procedure on him too. Things did not slow down until about 1:30 P.M., and I came to work at 8 A.M. But…I am not bitter. I truly enjoy what I do, even though it was on a national holiday, and I was the only one in my cul-de-sac that had to get up early and…er…ahem…I am not bitter.

So, I really did not have much time to reflect on what this day means. We all know that Memorial Day is a holiday set aside to remember those who have given their lives defending this country, making the ultimate sacrifice for freedom and our way of life. Indeed, it is a very important day. Those who choose to wear the uniform and enlist in the armed forces do an enormous service for all of us. If it were not for them, we would not have an all volunteer army, and we would likely have compulsory military service, as is the case in dozens of countries around the world. They fight so that we don’t have to, and thus they deserve our honor and respect.

Yet, there are probably many who would strongly take issue with my tribute to the American Soldier. They may angrily place the photos of the abuse at Abu Ghraib in my face, or the reports of abuse at Guantanamo Bay, or the reports of abuse in Afghanistan. They may point to the Iraq war as evidence that American soldiers actually hate Islam and Muslims, and they are eager to shed Muslim blood for fun. How could you, a Muslim, pay tribute to people who are killing your brothers and sisters in Iraq and other places across the world? What sort of Uncle Tom traitor are you? they will probably ask me.

Respectfully, I take issue with those taking issue. Certainly, I do not support the actions of the soldiers who abuse detainees in American custody, be it in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, or anywhere else. I do not support the actions of any soldier who mistreats prisoners, or desecrates the Qur’an, or does anything else immoral or illegal. That does not mean, however, that I shower my disdain on every single American in uniform. That’s wrong. It is as wrong, in fact, as hating every single Muslim for the actions of the tiny minority who wreak terror on the innocent.

The American soldier does not choose to go to war; he or she is told to go to war, and they have to obey orders. Most, if not all, the soldiers serving in Iraq or Afghanistan would rather be home this Memorial Day than serving overseas. If we oppose the war, that is fine. But we must take our objections to those who sent the soldiers to war – the politicians and policy-makers – not the soldiers. Remember, they fight so that we don’t have to. I would be horribly ungrateful – a kafir, if you will – if I were to not show my respect and admiration for those who serve in the military on our behalf.

Furthermore, my respect and admiration increases several fold for those soldiers who have died, including many Muslims, in the line of duty. They have given the ultimate sacrifice for you and me. And I send my heartfelt prayers and wishes to their families, who have to endure the indescribable pain and grief of the loss of a loved one on our behalf. They, too, deserve our admiration and respect, and I would be horribly ungrateful if I neglected to do so.

Thus, on this Memorial Day, I pay tribute to those brave countrymen and countrywomen who wear – or have worn – the uniform to protect me and my family. They will always have my deepest gratitude, admiration, honor, and respect. Always.


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