Home / Current Affairs / Opinion / Reflections & Responses / a Muslim (me), a Christian (him), a Friendship (ours), a War (theirs)

There's little that can get between someone and their most loyal childhood friends...though a large scale military invasion stands about as good a chance as anything.

a Muslim (me), a Christian (him), a Friendship (ours), a War (theirs)

Preface: Originally posted on my personal blog, I debated whether or not to put this (partially edited version) up on MuslimMatters. It's a pretty introspective piece and I'm honest about the fact that, yes, I have a friend that I care about in the U.S. Army. I suspect I'm not alone. If this doesn't sit well with you, I respect that. I hope the respect will be mutual, inshā'Allāh.

The Wonder Years

Looking back at it, I have to say I had a pretty blessed childhood. Sure, I went through all the trials that accompany adolescence, which at the time probably felt colossal. But in hindsight, I had all I could wish for: two great parents, a loving (if often annoying) sister, the greatest city in the world and, most importantly for any male coming of age, a group of loyal friends.

Like most people, I suspect, I had a number of acquaintances but only 3 or 4 core friends with whom I spent most of my time: Danny, Chris, Steve and Dave. Throw me in the mix (Joseph) and I guess we had the makings of a new gospel. Instead, we mostly just played videogames and street hockey. Over the years, we'd grow apart, grow back together, and along the way manage to grow up (to varying degrees).

Though we each began high school around the same period, this would be the last time we were all on the same page. Within a year or so after school started, Chris became a working man and, just in the past few months, got married and moved to Austin; Dan and Dave similarly got their GEDs and each remain in New York today pursuing careers as musicians; and, as for me, I left Brooklyn to find knowledge, came back to find work, and left again to find inspiration. Then there's Steve.

Steve, and I say this lovingly, was a putz. Or perhaps goon is more apt? In any case, he wasn't the most together guy. Still, he was our boy.

Imagine our surprise though when he told us that he joined the army.

Be All That You Can Steve

I say joined the army because Steve, in his infinite wisdom, didn't come to us WHILE he was considering this life altering move, but only AFTER he had signed with the recruitment officer. Classic Steve. This all took place sometime during 2004, if I remember correctly, so this genius decided to join the U.S. Army in the middle of not one, but TWO foreign wars.

The whole scenario confounded Dan, Chris, Dave and I. Had it been out of some newfound patriotism that Steve decided to join the armed forces, perhaps we could've made some sense of the situation. Near as we could tell, however, Steve had been lured in by the recruiter's sales pitch (a $10,000 signing bonus is tempting to a young adult…unless you actually sit down and do the math). So, when we all managed to get together for an ex post discussion of the matter, all we could do was what came naturally – crack jokes (many of them at Steve's expense).

Steve had made his decision. We were comforted at the time though by the fact that he had signed on to be a cook (even though, so far as we knew, he could barely make a bowl of cereal). In any case, I couldn't resist getting one more jab in as he was about to leave.

“If it hits the fan, Steve, don't be a hero and reach for the paprika.” And with that, he was off.

“This doesn't look like a spatula”

In the years that followed Steve's departure, my studies, college life and real life caused me to lose touch a bit with my buddies back home. Through occasional phone calls, however, I learned that Steve's role in the army wasn't exactly what he envisioned. As it turned out – surprise, surprise – the recruiter wasn't entirely forthcoming and Steve was shipped off to combat duty in Iraq.

I believe he's seen a few bases during his tenure with the army, but I'm pretty sure he's spent the better part of these past half dozen years fighting along the Tigris and Euphrates. Despite being dealt a raw hand, Steve held his own and, wouldn't you know it, even managed to build up some of that character and grit the army ads are always talking about.

Today, Steve is not only married, but the father of multiple children! This, mind you, is the same individual whose strange and spastic ways back in the day inspired numerous parody songs within our crew. Now here he is, raising a family and leading men into battle. It's the latter of these newfound responsibilities that's never sat well with me.

Two winters ago, I got to see Steve for the first time since his deployment. He still retained much of his lanky awkwardness, but was definitely changed – clean cut, confident. To my relief, he wasn't brainwashed. In fact, he felt the war was just as unnecessary as I did. That belief was of little consequence, however, in the heat of battle.

A Dark Reality – And Bright Truth

Steve wasn't callous enough to bring up the gritty details of his duties. He realized, I think, how touchy the subject would be – especially since I had drawn nearer to Islam in the intervening years (my religious identity had been nascent, at best, when Steve was still around). I sensed, too, that Steve similarly avoided the matter partly from an increased God-consciousness (surprising, given that Steve's Christian background never really affected his outlook on life pre-army). Yet, despite our best efforts, the issue didn't stay buried for long.

While Steve and I appreciated the magnitude of what he was doing, some of our friends equated his time in Iraq to a Call of Duty cut scene.

“Tell him how many confirmed kills you had,” one of our buddies urged Steve on with a satisfied elbow nudge.

“…Thirty-two,” Steve reluctantly replied.

Thirty-two Muslims dead at the hands of my childhood friend. Without knowing the circumstances of the combat or motives of the combatants, I still couldn't help but loathe what Steve had accomplished. I believe he sensed my unease, and we let the issue drop.

I haven't seen Steve since then, who's still stationed in Iraq. My image of the kid I grew up with certainly changed the moment I learned firsthand the extent of his involvement in the war. I wasn't quite sure how to process what I learned that day. Since then, Steve and I have only been in touch a handful of times – not because of any tension between us, just busy schedules. His most recent message, however, was as timely at it was edifying.

hey brother happy Ramadan i hope it brings your family peace and prosperity. ive had a unique experience being a non muslim in a muslim land during a holy time. not once but twice. and still i am amazed. the will of you and your fellow muslims is astounding. no matter whom we pray to i wish you and your family all the best. i miss you man.

Here's a soldier in a war zone seeing humanity and strength in the faith professed by the those shooting at him, while simultaneously many Americans are vilifying and objectifying Muslims on account of a property dispute.

It brought home for me the only way I could reconcile wanting Steve to stay safe while hating the current consequences of his safety: I want my friend to come home.

I hope, and pray, that all soldiers return soon. In the meantime, may they gain perspective and understanding from their crumby situation. Āmīn.

ameen inshallah

About Youssef Chouhoud

Youssef is from Brooklyn, New York by way of Alexandria, Egypt. Currently, he is a doctoral student at the University of Southern California studying Political Science and International Relations. A student of Islam, history, and politics, his recent extended stay in Cairo placed him squarely at the nexus of these disciplines. Follow him on Twitter (@TheAlexandrian) as he tries to make sense of all that's happening in Tahrir and beyond.

102 comments

  1. assalamu alaikum,

    I understand how sticky the situation is with your friend, and how you feel about him, but it is “his” war as well, not “theirs”. In fact, it could not be more “his” war, short of him being an army general.

    The 32 Muslim Iraqis he killed had their own families, hopes, dreams, and most importantly, they were our brothers in Islam, defending their land from an occupier. But simply because we never saw them, and never knew them, they don’t seem to matter as much. If one of them had been your friend, you would feel differently – but let logic triumph your emotion.

    you should not treat this so light heartedly. The blood of a Muslim is more sacred than the Kaaba, indeed the blood of any innocent is sacred.

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    • W/Salam,

      I think we need to keep in mind the motives of the modern US soldier when it comes to ownership of this war. In many ways, the US has a mercenary army. Soldiers join more and more for wages and benefits than for any abstract sense of “duty” (see this NYT op-ed from 2005). Couple that with recruitment lies and the way many in the army feel about the state of Iraq & Afghanistan, and it seems inconsistent to label this as any one soldier’s war.

      In terms of the outcomes of this war – the lives lost, the families shattered – I abhor them just as much as you do. The ones in the middle of this carnage, however, have a far greater right to any indignation me or you might have. Yet, as my friend’s message evidences, they still manage to impart the beauty of Islam in the midst of an unimaginably harsh environment. For at least this article, that”s what I’ll choose to focus on.

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      • asalamu alaikum

        I can see where you’re coming from Youssef, but that doesn’t change the fact that he killed 32 people, I don’t even want to think about whether or not they were innocent civilians. I don’t know how differently you would look at it if he came to your house and killed your mother, father, and sister.

        All for a mere $10,000. May Allah guide us all.

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        • I don’t think we have a right to blame the soldiers or the non-Muslims in general for these acts if we as Muslims have NOT done our duty to do da’wah to them.

          And if you think you’ve satisfied and fulfilled the responsibility of da’wah that Allah has placed upon you as His ‘khalifah’ on this earth, then that’s great, but I can say pretty confidently that overall, the entire Muslim ummah is doing a horrible job at spreading the message of Islam, myself included.

          And without proper guidance, how on earth do you expect the soldiers to put the same values we have on the table before they decide to go into the army?

          It’s easy to blame, but blame is only away of avoiding the responsibilities that we ourselves have not fulfilled.

          So yes, feel compassion for the Muslim lives lost, but know that those non-Muslims involved in the offensive are humans as well, who need guidance and the complete message of Allah (swt) in order to make the right decisions in this life.

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          • But you have to understand that Guidance only comes from Allah (swt),we can work hard as much as we want to, but at the end of the day a person believes if Allah wills.

            As we have our responsiblities they do too.

            Besides,it does not need da’wah or Islam to show someone that these wars are based on injustice. Just a bit of fitrah on the inside,if any left.

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          • another white brother

            Yes we do.

            I have a cousin serving in Afghanistan. I don’t outright wish him death but if its him or a muslim, any muslim, may my brother in Islam send my cousin to the akhira.

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          • Ok Aisha carry on giving da’wah to Obama before we can criticise him for sending drones to kill our brothers and sisters in Pakistan.

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      • With friends like these….who needs enemies?

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      • Assalamu alaikum,

        Akhi, I’m going to be straight here if I may. Whilst the motives may be other than just plain carnage, it doesn’t change the outcome one iota. If a robber came into my brother’s house intending to steal some money because he was poor, and found my brother there and went on to shoot him, not wanting to due to it being a greater crime but doing so because he is standing between him and the money, I would have zero less hate and contempt for him.

        I have non-Muslim friends myself too and understand how we need to contextualise their misdeeds, and sometimes may need to overlook some faults for the time being, in the pursuit of opening up their hearts to the truth. But sometimes it takes a person outside of that situation to point out that certain things should not be tolerated. Even if he seems to be friendly to you and sees humanity in those he is shooting, again this doesn’t detract from the crimes. It is said that the Crusaders came back to Europe with better manners after experiencing the ways of the Muslims. This could be similar to that.

        No doubt this person is not in the same as one who is there for more sinister motives, but I personally feel you need to have the courage to tell this person what you think of him and put your deen before your friendship. No murderer like this can possibly be considered your friend and no one will respect you for publicising such a friendship on a popular Muslim website with the excuse that he is doing it for monetary reasons.

        May Allah guide me and you and all of us to love and hate for the sake of Allah.

        Wassalam

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  2. Very powerful piece, Youssef, thank you for sharing your experience and perspective. I have family members and colleagues in the military and I once worked in a place where I had the opportunity to see the best and brightest of the military, good folks, many of them, and some that were not so good and not so bright as well.

    I also had the chance to see young (some very young) men and women go off to boot camp or overseas deployment and the containers carrying the remains of military personnel back from war zones, very hard to see human beings that left walking and full of life return in boxes sometimes no bigger than a few inches on each side. The issues and emotions are complex. War is a human tragedy for everyone involved. May Allah protect us.

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  3. Asalaamu alaikum,
    Really mixed emotions here. =( I have an aunt in the U.S army and it saddens me to know that she may one day be killing some of our ummah. May Allah guide them. Ameen. That is all we can do. Make duaas. The power of duaas is beyond us and we can see through our own history with Abu Sufyan killed muslims and later became one himself. We can’t really judge people… we don’t know what’s in their heart…. but we can make a duaa for them.

    May Allah protect His oppressed ummah. Ameen.

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  4. Youssef,

    Thanks for writing this. It took a lot of courage for you to share your conflicted feelings. What I love about this piece is the humanity it shows. Your friend sees the humanity of the people who are supposed to be America’s “enemy”. You see the humanity of your friend, when many in the Islamic community would not. That is what is so sad in war. People, all created in the image of God, killing each other. If only we could all remember that “they” (whoever your “they” may be) are made by God.

    Salam ‘alaikum
    and
    Salam ‘alaina, inshallah

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  5. Surah 60:8-9

    God forbids you not respecting those who have not fought against you for religion’s sake, and who have not driven you forth from your homes, that ye should act righteously and justly towards them; verily, God loves the just! He only forbids you to make patrons of those who have fought against you for religion’s sake, and driven you forth from your homes, or have aided in your expulsion; and whoever makes patrons of them, they are the unjust!

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    • Exactly. It is very strange that we start making excuses for the invaders, just because they were “nice” people, or friends of ours. “He just wanted money, or just believed it was his duty.” Well yeah, so does every invading soldier, and every killer of Muslims in the history of the Ummah. Only it is easy to hate the crusaders, mongols, or colonizers because we didn’t know them.

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    • i read the tafsir (jalalayn) for this surah and it said that the Prophet saw did not rebuke People for having amicable feelings toward their families and friends from the unbelievers but the point of this whole surah was to prevent spys to pass on information to the Meccan’s.
      It was sent for the reason not to let moles infiltrate their quarters and to thoroughly test the reason for emigration to islam in war times (something that we don’t do these days, it’s shahada at all cost). The surah starts with the case of Hatib’s letter to the unbelievers full of information being intercepted by the Prophet saw.
      Surely the situation is a bit different here?

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  6. Salam wart wabrt…

    Im a girl and emotional too….BUT not when it comes to the deen of AllahSWT…go back to history and u will find that believers fought their own families in badr, uhud and so on…. they were ordered to do so and so they had to keep their emotions aside…. yes you will find some of them later became muslims….but the muslims fought against them before they converted (dint just sit and pray for them when it was time to fight them).

    did you even once tell your friend that what he is doin is a crime against humanity??!! if he is continuing to serve the army then there is no way you can be supporting him by thoughts or actions… then there is definitely an imbalance in your true feeling for your brothers and sisters who are dying and crying for help……moreover it DOESNT MATTER for what reasons he is serving the army…

    ok if you are feeling confused with your emotions and sentiments i will only ask you one question…….. what do you think is the status of your friend in front of Rabb of heavens and the earth who has killed (and is still conitnuing to maybe) slaves of His who has submitted to Him?

    if judge according to what will please Him and what will displease Him then things will be clear, inshAllah

    And Allah Knows Best.
    May AllahSWT destroy the wrong doers and bring peace and security for the oppressed ones around the world!

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    • seriously, are you kidding me? the soldier is doing his job and is following orders. Now if you are going say something about the war being wrong, fine and please stop bringing in religion into everything left, right and center. If the man wants to serve his country, make a living, you think he’s going against YOUR God’s “rules”. This man is not Muslim, and he clearly has his faith.. who are you to JUDGE him? Are only Muslims allowed to join alliances to defend their homeland and religion.. explain 9/11, 7/7, 26/11 – o and what about the Iran, Iraq war, the Iraq Kuwait war .. this must all be ok, becuase its brothers fighting each other right?
      Now, let me ask you this.. do you not have any non-muslim friends? Are so close minded that you will avoid cordial relationships with non-muslims, if yes, then you have a long way to go and grow! These two men are childhood friends, the innocence of childhood does not know who is muslim or jew or christian.. you can choose to live in a nutshell and accuse people of “failing to defend” their religion. One of the sad, sad, sad outcomes of this war is death and destruction for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.. blood is blood!

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      • Oh please…

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      • for many years now, the united states military has been a voluntary military-no one has had to join it that doesn’t want to. and unless one’s been living under a rock for the past several decades, the moral implications of associating with such an evil entity are staggering, whether you’re a jew, christian, muslim, or even an atheist. this excerpt, detailing the horrific actions of the us military was written by an agnostic writer, who doesn’t have any religious beliefs at all. even HE gets it-joining the united states military, with all of its implications, is a moral void. it’s an awful thing to do.

        –The ugly reality is that Iraq has become an arena for American sadists to act out their perverted fantasies, a vast Charenton where the de Sades in charge of American foreign policy have unleashed an army of torturers and murderous thugs on the Iraqi people. The American media doesn’t want to show the real face of U.S. “liberators,” but they are being outflanked by the new technology that makes the self-appointed “gatekeepers” of journalism increasingly irrelevant.

        The Americans seem particularly enthralled with shooting the wounded: here is some young savage, living proof that devolution is not just a concept, expounding on how “awesome” wanton murder is. He is the New American Man, invincibly ignorant, raised on rap music and violent video games, grinning boyishly at the prospect of a future of endless slaughter. He rides around the country, randomly firing on civilians, as if he were at one of those shoot-the-duck booths at the county fair.

        They murder to a Satanic tune – “Dead bodies everywhere!” – while joyously creating havoc wherever they roam. For allegedly stealing wood, an Iraqi taxi driver finds that his livelihood is crushed by an American tank – and, boy, it sure looks like those Americans are having fun! That is how a sick, decadent people amuse themselves.

        These “liberators” are war criminals, and it’s only fitting that they have installed a government of death squads as their local satraps. As they and their allies rampage throughout Iraq, like angels of death, committing war crimes in the dark, the U.S. Congress “debates” a non-binding resolution – and the Senate cannot even bring itself to vote on a meaningless motion, never mind one that could actually end the slaughter.

        Support our troops? Hell no. Anyone who “supports the troops” is an accomplice to their deeds. The evidence shows clearly that these are not innocent babes in the woods: they are wolves, predators, killers, deeply, profoundly implicated in what will go down in history as a horrific war of aggression.

        http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2007/02/19/murder-inc-2/

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        • they are drafting people actually. people that were on reserves are being sent to iraq.

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          • joining the reserves in the united states is absolutely, positively voluntary. no one forced them to join the reserves, under threat of imprisonment, fines, etc. people who sign up for the reserves are fully aware what kind of institution they are joining up with, and what it entails. it is NOT a draft.

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      • Listen, islam is for humanity…and that being said keep in mind islam is way of life and PLZ i cant restrict islam to masjids and religious gatherings….the rules that are prescribed by Allah SWT have wisdom…whether we are asked to fight the ones who are wroning people or whether it is the prohibition of befriending those who are spreading injustice…

        AND for ur kind information i do have non muslim friends…i wz bought up with close non muslim friends but ever since i started practising islam i have stopped takin them as CLOSE friends…because keep in mind a person will follow the way of his friends and thatz y there is mention about friendship in Quran and hadith…but i still do give them their rights according to shariah…and the relationship is friendly too…and one of the people i have very gud relationship is with a non muslim maid who is looking after my grandparents…she’s one of the people i pray will accept islam and Alhamdulillah recently she did indicate her interest to accept this beautiful deen… so verify stuff before assuming and accusing people of being “close minded”.

        And YES thatz the whole point they can fight for they believe and we must fight for what we believe in…

        and i never said iraq kuwait war is ok…..

        just admit what he did was wrong and he doesnt deserve an ounce of sympathy!

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      • ”….and please stop bringing in religion into everything left, right and center”.

        Your name is Sensible Muslimah. BarakAllahu feeki.

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      • Now he is no longer a child

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  7. Br. Yousseff,

    I can relate to the situation u r in some ways as a brother who’s in the army comes to the Masjid for Jumuah when he’s in town. Everyone treats him with respect but at the same it’s quite difficult for everyone to truly have connection with the brother as we know whr he’s coming back from & whr he will heading back again! it’s a tough situation to b in.

    And like br. Omar said we make excuses for these ppl as we know them personally despite the # of muslims he killed. But the sad reality is that we would not have any sympathy or an excuse, infact we would avoid a Muslim brother as if he had plague if we were to find out he fought (or even thought of it) defending his country against the occupiers aka our fellow country men & women.

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  8. How, in the name of truth, can having a US soldier as a friend be ok ya akhi? Please explain to us.

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  9. You should maybe think of submitting this to the HuffPost. The humanity of this piece is really nice.

    Obviously the whole issue of the US Army, war, etc. is very sticky – but it reminded me of a song by Kareem Salama called “Baby I’m a Soldier.”

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  10. So a bunch of us skipped over the mutual respect part at the begininng of this article?

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    • Yes, I think many did… in fact, I think some did not even bother reading the “mutual respect” part.

      People, please understand that this is not an analysis of the morality of the war; it is really a “human” piece. Thanks to the brother for sharing.

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    • Yes, this is one reason why many people avoid writing or expressing their full range of humanity with all its complexities, you need a thick skin to deal with what I like to call the haterade brigade who only see the world in terms of black and white simplistic answers and emotions. I know it’s kept me from writing some pieces. I applaud the courage it takes to put yourself (real name attached) out there in a vulnerable space like a public blog and then be strong in the face of attacks by mostly anonymous commenters, many of whom are would be shy to say their bold claims to your face if you met them in person.

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    • No, we didn’t skip over it. I can’t respect the fact that someone is friendly with those who kills Muslims.

      Hey, wanna be friendly with Pastor Perry? Oh, so what, he just hates Islaam and burns the mushaf, no biggie, I wanna be understanding and loving towards him. I don’t want to express my disgust and hatred of what he’s doing.

      Most of you would NOT befriend Perry…so why would you be ok with being friends with one who murders Muslims? Do you not know that the blood of a Muslim is worth more than the Ka’aba?

      So this guy has shed Muslim blood and you’re just thinking of excuses and justification? This is ridiculous.

      If this guy flew a plane into the Ka’aba, would you still be making excuses for him? NO, so why are we so numb towards our brethren in faith who are being killed by these animals (who voluntarily signed on to do this, I don’t care about their background or poverty level).

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      • There is a HUGE difference between Pastor Perry and an average Joe who gets drafted into the army. I’m not justifying Joe’s choice of employment nor am I saying that he is completely free of responsibilities for his actions. But to compare Joe to Pastor Perry or to say he is an “animal” is just callous, spiteful and inflammatory.

        BTW, do all the “Joe”s know exactly what they are doing? Do they know anything about the Deen? Are all of them foaming-at-the-mouth Muslim-haters and “animals” who want to murder us wherever we are in whatever way they can? Or are they just employed? Or perhaps guided by an illusionist sense of “patriotism” carefully instilled by propaganda? And above all else brother, did YOU or anyone else give them dawah?

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        • They sign up willingly and they go around killing people. If they really want to get out of the army, they can refuse to go. Yes, that would mean they’d be arrested, but they have that choice. What do they choose? They choose to kill people instead. I don’t care what reason they are there for. They are NOT forced into those situations (meaning no gun is put to their heads to join).

          Da’wah has nothing to do with this. When the Muslim armies during the Prophet’s time fought with the non-Muslim armies, the Muslims didn’t go to each person to make sure da’wah had been given to that person. Anyhow, I don’t mix with army personnel, so no, I will most likely never be one to give da’wah to them.

          And, you’re right, there is a huge difference. People get riled up that Perry is going to burn the mushaf…but they give excuses to people in the army who are going to burn PEOPLE. A person is worth more than the Ka’aba!

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  11. wallahi, sometimes the comments i read on articles make me raise my hands in frustration and stop being a practicing muslim, because its just so demoralizing that people who are my brothers and sisters in faith hold the opinions they do.

    america today is operating a basically mercenary army, one that is for the most part compromised of people from a poor background or/and from a racial minority.

    I can assure you, most people joining the army don’t do it from a sick desire to kill Muslims, just as most Muslims don’t have a sick desire to kill American troops. You can generalize about both groups, and Muslims love to complain about ad hominem attacks about our community, so please don’t do it about other communities.

    The author’s friend was obviously drifting in life. he needed direction, and was short on cash. he didn’t think he was going to go to iraq. tough luck, he ended up there – and in a situation where you are under attack, is the response “i know this war is illegitimate, so im going to sit here and possibly die whilst under heavy enemy fire” give me a break, that’s ridiculous.

    Also, if we are going by fiqh or whatever, the only people who can fight against the american troops would be an islamic government right? so how is this a legitimate conflict? and why should I support the people fighting against american troops? for me to support a side, it has to offer reasons to win my support – what reasons do these supposedly honorable revolutionaries have? uh…. wait…… they really dont have any……. the only outcome of their actions would be further destabilization of iraq.

    i didnt support the war, but unfortunately once america WENT to iraq, the best possible solution RELIED on america forming a stable government.

    If you look at it from that angle, I can understand the frustrations that lead people to fight against American troops, but view their actions and their methods as completely inexcusable.

    Also, have you ever considered what the author’s friend is going through internally? who knows what demons he faces inside? many people through what they see at war come away hating the other side, it happened with the Japanese in WW2, “charlie” in vietnam, and with Muslims today.

    Yet, his friend still viewed Muslims positively, even making the point of sending his childhood friend a nice email about shared characteristics in faith, and that he appreciated the Muslim faith.

    Yet most of these comments seem to not consider ANY of these issues, instead of out of Allah hu alim a misguided sense of zeal? muslim superiority? false sense of kinship against the “american oppressor” humiliate the author and his friend.

    im going to go pray to get this waswasa off my mind. peace.

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    • Is Steve human? Of course. Does he have feelings, hopes dreams? definitely. Does he have a loving family and children to care for? Indeed. He is probably a nice guy to hang out with, and may be even will stand behind you when you need him. A friendly guy too.

      But that changes nothing, he chose to invade a Muslim land and kill dozens of Muslims as part of a war declared unjust by Muslims and nonMuslims alike. Either for money or ideals he believes in.

      I am sure the idiots who did 9/11 were “nice guys” who had many childhood friends that liked them, and a family that loved them. Most people are nice that way. That doesn’t make their crimes any less tangible. And I doubt anybody would make excuses for them.

      Most German soldiers in WWII were probably ‘nice guys’, who didn’t join Nazi the army out of a sick desire to kill. Everybody has a very nice human side, be it Mother Teresa or Hitler, Stalin or Saladin, Bush or Bin Laden. And you can always try to understand where they are coming from, and they won’t seem so crazy from one perspective or another.

      Real villains are not the cartoonish universally evil “kills kittens for pleasure then takes over the world” type, they are far more complex, far more nuanced, and far more human.

      The point is, you don’t let this humanity blind you to the evil they have done, and you don’t make excuses for them. Especially when it is so manifestly against your deen, and when the Quran tells you explicitly not to make allies with those who are unjust to your brothers and sisters, and slaughter them mercilessly.

      -Edited. Pls stick with the same handle in your comments for the same post at least.

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      • By the way Youssef, I am not asking you to reject the feelings of compassion and humanity towards your friend. Only to put them in perspective, and measure them next to the very real weight of his part in this war.

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    • trivializing over a million dead in iraq, and possibly hundreds of thousands more in afghanistan by attempting to make people feel sorry for those with a hand in killing them because they’re “poor” or from “minority backgrounds” is appalling. it trivializes the millions of americans who are poor and from minority backgrounds who don’t sell their morality to the us government for $10,000 as well. their poverty, and the challenges they face as minorities wasn’t enough for them to put a price tag on their consciences. those kinds of sellouts get no sympathy from me. they made a choice, and it was the wrong one, whether they’re jewish, buddhist or atheist. inexcusable under any and all circumstances, even the most crushing poverty.

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  12. “Tell him how many confirmed kills you had,” one of our buddies urged Steve on with a satisfied elbow nudge.

    “…Thirty-two,” Steve reluctantly replied.

    This statement tells me that there is no humanity in a person who proudly discusses his “kills” with his buddies and then shows reluctance in front of “one of them -muslims”. Brother you need to to understand that you will be questioned by Allah swt on the “friends” that you kept in this world and why you disobeyed his Quranic laws. Maybe your friendship may have been acceptable prior to his enlisting, but now it is no longer acceptable. May Allah swt increase your guidance, Ameen.

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  13. One of the things is that his “keeping quiet” and “not cutting off the relationship with him” is an indirect manner of agreeing to what he’s doing. That’s Islamic pride swallowed, stamped on, and disgraced. The Muslims he saw there left a better impression. Now I am not here to bash our brother, but here to help him see an improvement he needs to make. I understand what you’re going through because I have a very close non-Muslim companion. It is very hard to cut them off but what is better is to let them know where you stand. I do that all the time, as nicely as possible, without holding back the fiery stuff. I am always trying my best to give da’wa to that friend too. Contradictions will always exist. It’s just a matter of balancing out your love for Allah (S.W.T) and how much you love this Deen against that friendship. I am sure you will gain his respect if you let him know where you stand on the issue.

    May Allah guide your friends, guide you, and guide us all. Ameen.

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  14. Very well written piece of work. Enjoyable read and interesting to get so many different perspectives on the war that devastated so many. The author is in a tricky situation, all right, but I do agree with him to some extent. After all, not the entire American army is full of mercenaries. We need to develop some humanity and although we might disagree with a friend’s point of view and may feel like reaching for his throat for killing 32 of our Muslim brothers (and maybe sisters), we still need to restrain ourselves. There are shades of gray. Not all is black and white. Sometimes, we don’t understand and see everything. Looking forward to more articles by the author.

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  15. This definitely took guts to post. JazakAllahu khairan for sharing this insight with us.

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  16. 1. Soldiers kill people full stop. they work under command of an officer.

    2. They were trained to use weapons for the purpose of inflicting as much damage as possible or to eliminate the taget.

    3. Soldiers work to serve the nation. But in this Iraq war, its a bit complicated because we have a lot of mercenaries involved.

    4. It is not just Iraqi Muslims who have to deal with this war, but also Christian iraqis.

    The whole offending part of this article for me, is not how your friend is Christian and he is killing Iraqis (whatever their religion may be)… but how you and your friends have treated him over the years. I thought this whole Islamic deal is about treating your brothers with kindness and compassion? Calling him spastic, goon… no matter how lovingly isn’t helpful.

    In general I hate war. I can never understand the need for it in our world, and I pray that your friend will get to come back home soon and safe with his family and friends. And the people in Iraq.. especially the children… astaghfirullah.. get the help they need asap, to rebuild their lives again. Move on, not get into this endless cycle of hate and revenge.

    What I do love about the article, is how you’ve managed to beautifully describe the complications involved in a multi religious friendship. And how it’s dynamics have evolved over the years. What intrigues me, is that this article speaks from the perspective of a Muslim, growing up, finding his place in the world, emerging in faith and then suddenly discovering that even when you grow up together, you can also grow apart.

    I’m sure there are plenty of young adult Muslims the world over who are experiencing this sort of friendship anxiety.. not only will it be a litmus test of your love for your friend, but also especially when it is multi religious, it may appear as if it is a litmus test of your faith in Islam.

    To the author of this article, I don’t know what you are looking for when you were writing this article. Maybe you are searching for the magic formula that will make it all the same again. Back to the simple and easy days and times. Maybe you are hoping that someone in this forum will provide you with a solution for how you are going to deal with this.

    Allah has the answers. Keep walking the straight path brother. Take comfort that there are many having to struggle similar issues as yourself. At the end of the day, its a simple thing. Allah will ask you about your deeds, he will look into your manners, and your worship to Him. I have a sense that your going to take this one day at a time. This is your struggle. Keep it yours. But insyaAllah you read His signs right, and never stray from the path he has destined for you.

    To all of MM readers, I pray that Allah provides Muslims with strong multi religious friendships strength and an easier path. Simple because He can provide that. I pray that Allah inspires the hearts and minds of those who have returned from war, and those inflicted by the disease of war, with a cure, a calmness and a strong desire for peace, and cooperation. May we live in a peaceful place, so we can focus our faith on Him.

    I pray that these wars end. And that we won’t have to deal with a backlash of revenge attacks. Too many people have been lost from both sides. Too much destruction has taken place. At the end of the day, are we all really doing this because of Allah, or for us without a god, because it is really right and just, or are we just carrying and fanning the hate because we just want to hate and fight and kill?

    Isn’t that counter productive to our own humanity?

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  17. Jazak Allah khayr for publishing this article. Very well written and very powerful! I agree with previous comments, it takes a lot of guts to publish something like this so thank you.

    May Allah reward you and guide you ameen.

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  18. Thoughtful article Youssef. What many of the bashers fail to realize is that you were not asking us to have friendly feelings towards your friend, but rather try to understand why you might have them.

    We all have people near and dear to us who have done wrong. One has to be careful that Allah doesn’t put us in the same situation where a family member or a close friend has to do something that we abhor.

    As a personal example, a long, long time ago, in my teens, I remember being very hard on a brother who shaved his beard to work as a valet parking guy. I can never forget it, because some years later I had to do something similar for a job in the oil industry. The lesson it taught me is that I can never be too confident of what “I would do if I were in your shoes”. Because I am NOT in your shoes right now, and it might happen and I might not be able to do what in my bravado I thought I could and would.

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    • really amad? understanding the position of a friend who shaves his beard so he can be a valet is supposed to be comparable to a friend who knowingly signs up with an institution that everyone knows is in the business of murder by way of unjust, unprovoked wars that slaughter civilians with impunity? this has the same moral ramifications as facial hair!? i’m not buying it. valet guy, i can understand. but maintaining feelings for someone who’s ventured as far over into the dark side as army guy steve, who we don’t get a hint of remorse or regret from in the article anyways, not so much.

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      • You don’t have to buy it. One needs to look beyond one’s own passionately-held views to see some stuff. Obviously you cannot.

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        • The best line I have read from all the comments.. I don’t know why so many of our brothers and sisters have so much hate in their hearts.

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        • It is one thing not to ask us to have friendly feelings towards Steve and I understand that.

          However, what I think most people have a problem with here is that one continues their friendship with a person who is openly killing Muslims, whether for monetary or other reasons. What shar’i excuse is there for befriending such a person? For someone to be in a difficult situation is one thing – but to openly publicise that they have not denounced that friendship seems highly problematic.

          As Allah says:
          “He only forbids you to make patrons of those who have fought against you for religion’s sake, and driven you forth from your homes, or have aided in your expulsion; and whoever makes patrons of them, they are the unjust!”

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  19. MashAllah a very well written piece. It illustrates that things are not always black and white and it’s not always about ”us” and ”them”.

    However, we must realise that Muslims killed anywhere in the world are our brothers/sisters as much as our own blood brothers/sisters.

    If a US soldier killed our own brother/sister/father/mother in cold blood (or by merely doing his ”duty”, however he wishes to put it), I think it would be very difficult to maintain a close bond of friendship with him.

    Just something to think about. We will all be held accountable on the Great Day.

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  20. Salam All,

    I suspected this post would garner some strong comments. I’ll go through a few recurring issues in this reply and inshAllah address the more unique points once I’m settled back home.

    I shared this account essentially to shine a light on another facet of complexity in the Western, particularly American, Muslim’s life. I’m not asking people to excuse what Steve has done – I myself haven’t. I simply submit that the context, circumstances, and intertwining of our lives merits a more nuanced assessment.

    This was also, as some have mentioned, an attempt to humanize an often caricatured subject. Some in the Army have an “Onward Christian Soldier” mentality, some abuse their power, but many more, like Steve, simply want this war to end so they can go home. I don’t think it’s at all controversial to join him in that hope.

    As for those who were offended to some level by this essay, let me first say that I understand and fully appreciate where you’re coming from. The blood of Muslims is not cheap, despite recent public proclamations to the contrary. So a visceral reaction to someone who’s done what Steve’s done is, to a certain extent, warranted. I myself was initially filled with equal parts rage and disgust not just at his actions, but at Steve himself.

    Yet, I truly believe that cutting off all ties with him would have done no “good.” This is not an individual with any animosity towards Muslims. Indeed, our friendship likely played no small role in the way he was able to see the strength of Muslims around him – numerous polls correlating Islamophobia and the lack of close contact with Muslims evidence as much. Put differently, if having a real life frame of reference – our friendship – dissuaded him in any way from objectifying the Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere, then that alone was more than enough reason to preserve our bond.

    W’Allahu Alam

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    • I understand your perspective, and even Fir’awn was given da’wah in a befitting manner by Musa. But Musa did not stop speaking a word of truth regarding the oppression of his people in front of he who was meting out the oppression.

      If anyone can get through to Steve the severity of his crimes, you can, because of your history. If he will be bothered by anyone expressing their regret at the what he has done, it will be one of his childhood friends. If he sees you are balanced in this respect you may be likely to change him. May Allah cause you to do so whilst being balanced and giving him da’wah at the same time.

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      • Br. Umer,

        I continue to speak truth to him. And it is indeed b/c of our history that I think these words hold more weight. Moreover, unsolicited messages like that one he sent me make be believe that there remains room in his heart for the light of Islam to grow. I pray this is so.

        W/Salam

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        • Allah forgave a person who killed 100 people… Allah guides whom He wills… May Allah guide him to see the evil of his actions and guide him to the deen.

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          • “Allah forgave a person who killed 100 people… Allah guides whom He wills… May Allah guide him to see the evil of his actions and guide him to the deen.”

            Please bring this to mind also , when -rightfully- condemning terrorism.

            Allah can undoubtedly forgive all things.

            Additionally while all innocent blood – irrespective of the victim’s faith, is a crime; it won’t be lost on you Amad bhai, that there is no proof to say those killed by ‘the man who killed 100′, were Muslims.

            Whereas the Prophet Muhammad has told us:

            “The killing of a single Muslim is heavier with Allah, than the whole earth/planet perishing.” [Agreed upon]

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  21. yes sensible because I was able to respect what this brother wrote and not charge at him for opening up to us… telling him Allah will judge you, and you are “bad” and drop this friend.. really? How rude and obnoxious!

    The more we paint the world as black and white, i.e. Muslim and non-Muslim, the more we feed into Islamophobia. We can’t cry unfairness, injustice, the world does not understand us, when we put ourselves in that corner by not opening up. Creating a divide like Amatul mentioned is only going worsen the problem.. sometimes, the most complicated issues in life is resolved by a simple gesture of humanity which should transcend race, color. religion etc… I;m not a hippie Muslim, vying for world peace or anything, but I think it is part of my deen to debunk this cult mentality people have of us, and show how sincere and wonderful our religion teaches us to be.

    And for the record, yes, he does deserve sympathy.. we don’t know what happend, what went through.. the fact that he even knows how lives he took, I think shows his regret.. and if Allah can forgive and show sympathy, who are we to make such a proclamation?

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    • Like the response here… sensible indeed… we expect not to be marginalized and we are americans like everyone else, when here we are clearly speaking as muslims vs non-muslims… no doubt, this war is abhorring and unjust, and we must speak against it. What we need to ask is, if this war was with non-muslims, would we say anything (I am speaking for myself, and ashamed to say, I probably would not) against it.

      A couple of days back, a friend’s father was kidnapped and killed in Afghanistan – he was Christian, and he had been in Afghanistan since 1979 (before the war, etc), giving up his medical practice here in the US to help the people there… and what was his end – they shot him, cause he was a Christian – there was no shout and cry by us as muslims about that.
      http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20100810/NEWS/308109989/medical-humanitarian-murdered-in-afghanistan-had-ties-to-sequim

      How many of us (speaking to myself here so apologize if anyone misunderstands) would go to Afghanistan and sacrifice our lifestyle here to help others (again, emphasis to myself only!)? I talk about my muslim brothers and sisters dieing, but have I gone out there to provide any humanitarian assistance? I have not and I am sitting here, in the US, and thinking of muslims vs non-muslims and I am living in a country where I am amongst more non-muslims than muslims. If I am going to live here, and choose to be seperate from “them”, it should not surprise me when there is an outcry against building an Islamic Center close to the WTC site, because they too see me as “me vs. them”, and fear and loathe me like I fear and loathe them.

      The incredible thing is my is friend holds no animosity towards muslims. He has not joined the Islamophobia bandwagon, although with what happened, I would quite expect that to be the case.

      This is just a critique of myself here, and reading Sr. sensible muslimah’s response, it had me reflecting on myself, so please don’t take this as an attack on anyone here.

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      • Masha’Allah, Suban’Allah! I hope everyone can look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves same questions as you..

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  22. To brother Youssef Chouhoud:

    I apologize for saying “The Muslims there left a better impression”. I overlooked how he said “…the will of you and your fellow muslims is astounding”.

    Of course this is a tense subject and I don’t expect it to be easy for you. And you do have a point that your friend might see Muslims in a better light because of you.

    Never take lightly the death of innocents of Muslims. It pains me to think about that alone. Gain more knowledge of Islam, stay connected to Allah, and be patient. Do what’s right and be the best example of Islam you can be.

    May Allah guide us all and make truth as clear to us as the difference between night and day. Ameen.

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  23. So sad what the muslim ummah is going through. He killed 32 of your brothers! but he’s still your friend. Subhanallah.

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  24. Would it have been different if he killed you blood brothers and sisters or your parents?

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    • You’re right…. :-(
      Imagine someone killing 32 members of your family!!
      May Allah protect us and guide us all. Ameen.

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  25. La hawla Walachia kuata illah billah

    Wallahi I have been to many western countries and met Muslims from first generation to third – but what I find in American Muslims (without generalizing) I find no where else. Your depths cease to amaze me. The fact that such a writer is part of MM says alot and secondly for it then to be published and defended by other MM writers speaks volumes! Truly a sad state of affairs we Muslims are in.

    May Allah guide us all especially the munafiqeen.
    Ws

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  26. There are people at my school who I got along fine with until I find out that they were/are in the military. My emotions over their “friendship” does not cloud my baraa. Their friendship is meaningless if they are going around killing MY family, YOUR family, OUR family because of THEIR war against US.

    If your best friend went on a killing rampage, broke into your house and raped your mother and/or sisters, tortured your baby brothers, and killed all of the males in the house, would you still find it hard to give up your friendship with him?

    When did we start to get so watered down? May Allaah help us and make us gain our ‘izzah and gheerah back, Ameen.

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  27. Calling someone who kills Muslims a friend?
    Making excuses for those who Willfully despite the circumstances kill Muslims?

    He killed Muslims whether it was for his worldy reasons or whatever, It is clear some care less about their brothers and sisters and more about their friends whom are cursed in this life and the next.

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    • What do you call Muslims who kill innocents? Brothers , right?! Shias and Sunnis fight all over, and there is no unity, so this is what happens, when you can’t manage your home, and get rid of the trash and squash the internal fights. Others will do it for you

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      • Your comments are completely irrelevant to the article and what is being discussed.

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        • It was only relevant to you, not to the article. You called Steve a cursed man for what he did, and I posed to you, there are multiple examples within our Ummah that we should worry about and save.. btw its only Muslims that die in Iraq. There are Christian and Jewish Iraqis as well.. so its not a war against “Muslims” – its a war against Iraq.

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          • Steve is a cursed man Allah has cursed him for his deed . If he does not repent he is going to hell for sure.

            But whoever kills a believer intentionally – his recompense is Hell, wherein he will abide eternally, and Allah has become angry with him and has cursed him and has prepared for him a great punishment. [4:93]

            Indeed, those who have tortured the believing men and believing women and then have not repented will have the punishment of Hell, and they will have the punishment of the Burning Fire. [85:10]

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  28. Seriously can’t believe this.

    You know, Hudhayfah (radhiallahu `anhu) once said, “Tribulations will not harm you so long as you are knowledgeable of your religion, indeed a tribulation will only harm you if Truth and Falsehood become obscure to you.”

    … A lot of people on here need to go back to the basics of this Deen. I’m seriously disgusted by the article and some of the attitudes on here. Subhan’Allah, since when have we become so confused on the principles of our own Deen?

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    • ya, it is indeed sad and disgusting. That guy is a terrorist terrorising in iraq.

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    • True…it’s indeed disheartening to see how low many Muslims have gone to…32 Muslims and “we let the issue drop”.. Subhanallah..

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  29. Oh and the war is OURS.

    The Prophet sal-allahu ‘alayhi wa salam said: “The Muslim is a unique Ummah among the whole of mankind:Their Land is ONE, their War is ONE, their Peace is ONE, Their Honour is ONE and their Trust is ONE.” [Relayed by Imam of Ahlus Sunnah - Ahmad ibn Hanbal - rahimahullah]

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    • LOL!! So next time when CNN, Fox, BBC all say that regular Muslims and the terrorists are one and the same, I’ll wholeheartedly agree! We are indeed one and the same!! You can’t pick and choose based on what will support you in your need and turn a blind eye when it doesnt suit your needs.

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  30. Salam aleikom,

    To brother Youssef, the article is very well written and powerful indeed. Jazak Allah for posting it. I find some of comments way out of line here. Please people keep a respectful tone, this is a sensitive issue yes but we should still be able to discuss it without being rude to each other. Subhan Allah, who are we to judge anyone in this dunya?

    May Allah guide us all and forgive us for our shortcomings. Ameen

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  31. Murtad??? Where exactly did the brother say that he ignores the safety of Muslims? Seriously, be careful with what you accuse people of. Noone but ALLAH knows what is in our hearts. Don’t be fast to judge.

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  32. stop assuming things, you demoralizing a “brother” is not right.. and he did not mention he doesn’t care of safety of Muslims.. and when someone opens up, be willing to listen to them, it will be best for everyone..

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  33. Calling a brother murtad like that is just crazy, subhanAllah, that brings NO good to anyone… Brother Youssef did nowhere mention that he doesn’t care for the safety of Muslims. Watch your words, you will be judged on them.

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  34. I thought things couldn’t get any worse at Muslim Matters….

    Where has walaa and Baraa gone?

    The religion is being watered down in front of our eyes and all the so called students of knowledge and scholars remain silent? What is the point of your knowledge? When people can express such major misunderstandings in front of your eyes?

    Where are you Yasir Qadhi? Tawfique Choudary? Yahya Ibrahim?….say something..or don’t you care…?

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  35. عبد الله

    La 7awla wa laa Quwwata illa billaah…

    With all due respect to those that deserve it and without condoning terrorism or violence in any way, this article is a disgrace. The subject of the article is a shameless murderer who even some non-Muslims would probably shun due to the sheer heinousness of his crimes against humanity in Iraq. With the rate of logic of some posters on this forum, any of the clearest most basic fundamental principles of Al-Islaam can be ‘talked away’ with a lot of ranting and roundabout bogus ‘reasoning.’ To all those masaakeen applauding this article, please find some other way to be ‘intellectual’ that doesn’t require searching for the ‘deeper meaning’ of remaining friends with mass murdering terrorists. What’s next? Articles about how while we don’t agree with it, we should respect why idolaters pray to wooden statues? We must stop compromising the fundamentals of our Deen to come off as pseudo-intellectuals. Applauding pieces like this shameful article doesn’t make us look smart or relevant.

    And may Allaah guide me as well as all of us Muslims that have fallen into error.

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    • This is article is nowhere shameful, it is human and it tells a story from a different perspective, one that some people may relate to unlike you. The author happens to be in this situation and chose to share this at MM. So instead of attacking our brother here, try to give some insightful comments instead. I agree with previous comments, what good would it do to cut off all ties with Steve? Brother Youssef doesn’t agree with or accept what Steve is doing. But Allah guides whom He wishes, even kuffar and killers, and who knows how his dawa’ to Steve might affect him in the future?

      May Allah guide us all to the straight path. Ameen

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      • عبد الله

        Ameen to your du3a. The issue is a simple one and like I said it is being made into something so complicated. If we stick to the clear texts we will have the correct understanding in sha Allaah, but if we ‘talk away’ every fundamental principle of Islaam just so it can be said we are intellectual and use flowery language then we will be stagnant. According to the article his ‘dawah to Steve’ involved the author’s ‘friends’ equating this murderer steve’s actions to a video game and the author sitting there awkwardly. Don’t you people have any ‘Izzah for Islaam or any compassion your Muslim brothers and sisters? I doubt anybody here whose childhood friend became a major foot soldier for a Colombian drug cartel would remain ‘friends’ with them.

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  36. Salamualaikum,

    Some of the comments are really disheartening. Not because they “disagree” with me, but because they obviously don’t understand, or haven’t bothered to read, what I “agree” with.

    In no way do I support Steve in what he’s doing. What I support, is him and all other foreign troops leaving Muslim lands – and for the misguided Muslims bent on causing fitna to do the same.

    My friendship with Steve is not as it was – how can it be? But, again, what GOOD would cutting off all ties with him do?? It doesn’t change the way I feel about what he’s doing one bit, yet it does deprive him of his closest Muslim connection. And what of the Muslims that he spoke of in his message?? Shame on them, too, for showing anything but harshness, right?

    Taking this line of reasoning to it’s logical extreme, it’s as if you wish all troops had as much detachment from and hatred toward Muslims as possible.

    Sometimes the choice isn’t between good or bad, but bad or worse – with inshAllah the potential for good. Let’s think a little more critically and not rely on knee-jerk reactions.

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    • it just occurred to me we should not cut ties rather cement and soliidify them with the US army, FBI or any other organization actively engaged in muslim slaughter. Cutting ties would not be good since we would then deprive them of a muslim connection they would have and could make good use of. they are our best friends. history has shown us how well they have treated us and how well they are currently treating us.

      wait a minute, i have an even better idea, why dont we get all muslims abroad to make friends with israel and the US. that muslim connection will be beneficial for them. why don’t the palestinians make friends with an israeli soldier? it will for sure save him from being killed by his gun! We need friends like these! and then our enemies will not exist!

      I didnt know looking past and discarding ideas that I passionately hold on to would make the world look so rosy. What have I been doing all this time!

      (sarcasm)

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    • عبد الله

      w3laykom as salaam wara7matullaah. I don’t support the actions of fitnah-mongers in Iraq nor do I support any kind of violence or terrorism. However in my view, it is not proper to classify the responses of anybody defending the honor of their Muslim brothers and sisters being slaughtered by your ‘friend’ as knee-jerk reactions. Following YOUR line of reasoning to its logical extreme then it’s as if we can’t show enmity to anyone or anything ever in the world. ‘Steve’ is a mass-murderer on the loose, and should be considered accordingly, not receive a ‘pass’ because he’s your ‘friend.’

      سورة آل عمران اية 5

      إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَخْفَىٰ عَلَيْهِ شَيْءٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي السَّمَاءِ

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      • W/Salam,

        I don’t see how leveling unfounded accusations and making dua against me in any way honors the death of our brothers and sisters. These are the knee-jerk reactions I was referring to – not necessarily in reference to your comments, though.

        As for logical extremes, I believe I’m essentially at mine. That is, I don’t claim that my reaction to the circumstances in this account should influence how others deal with analogous situations. I only advocate a nuanced approach – one that doesn’t discount past evils, but considers future good.

        Steve doesn’t get a “pass” in my book. If someone is shooting at you, you shoot back. That’s what he did – though he also put himself in that position. I haven’t at all, in any part of this essay or the subsequent discussion whitewashed this part of the story.

        What he did was not out of malice towards Muslims – again, NOT AN EXCUSE. He has never, nor do I believe will he ever, engage in anything the likes of Haditha or Abu Gharayb. In fact, I believe he is the kind of individual who would have had a hand in preventing such atrocities.

        And so our lines of communication remain open so I can remain one of (perhaps few) voices that remind him of the error of his ways. In the meantime, I hope that our friendship reminds him to take whatever opportunity he can to do some good by the Muslims in Iraq – if not at least prevent some harm from befalling them.

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        • عبد الله

          It is interesting that you say he’s not the type to engage in something the likes of Haditha or Abu Ghurayb but in all actuality he may have done more damage per capita. 32 is an impressive kill count for one person. People may recover from being sexually abused (a3oodhubillaah) but once you’re dead there’s no coming back. When you’re sitting with a ‘friend’ who offhandedly says ‘yeah I’ve killed 32 Muslims’ the proper reaction is more down the lines of ‘Get out of my house you murderer!!’ not lowering your gaze awkwardly and continuing your evening. How can you justify remaining friends with an open and active enemy of Allaah? ِAllaah says يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لا تَتَّخِذُوا الْيَهُودَ وَالنَّصَارَى أَوْلِيَاءَ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ وَمَنْ يَتَوَلَّهُمْ مِنْكُمْ فَإِنَّهُ مِنْهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ and your sitting here trying to justify befriending a mass murderer of Muslims? A man who still actively makes a living slaughtering my brothers and sisters, whose blood is more sacred than the Kaabah?!
          I recommend you read Nawaaqid al-Islam by Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhaab, it’s a very enlightening work and relevant to this topic. And I ask Allaah the Most High to bring peace to Iraq and to protect the Muslims from your friend.

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          • عبد الله

            *corrections*

            ‘once you’re dead there’s no coming back until you are raised up on yaum ul qiyaamah.’

            ‘and you’re sitting here trying to justify’

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  37. Assalam Aleikum.

    Brothers and sisters in Islam.

    Just read articles or get a lecture on AL WALLA WAL BARAA (To Love and Hate for the Sake Of Allah)

    We should not have all these different views.

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  38. Dear author, asalaamualaykum.

    Putting aside all of the emotions that you may be feeling here, let us speak of definite facts:

    We will all die, you, me, all our brothers and sisters in Iraq, and every soldier of every army.

    After the horrors of the punishment of the grave (may Allah save us from this) we will all be resurrected and will stand before Allah and answer for every word and action of this life. A part of the judgement will be dedicated for people who’s rights we may have transgressed AND what complaints they have against us.

    As for Steve and his fellow troops, on that day which determines their eternity- what do you think he will say?
    On that day when your own mother will leave you out of fear for herself, what do you expect your friend will say when he is told to justify the slaughter of 32 Muslims?

    He will point towards you and anyone else he can and blame and he will definitely say that you didn’t even tell him that what he was doing was wrong, so he kept killing because he needed the money, or some other warped reason.

    Now ask yourself about what the Muslims who he has killed and terrorised while ‘on the job’. Will you as a Muslim be able to tell the little girl who’s father was gunned down thatyou met the soldier who killed hef father, but you didn’t express your disgust at him because he was an old friend and it would not have been good Dawah?

    Bro- it is about Jannah and Nar…. Everything else is secondary. Your akhira is why you are here. Don’t let emotions which are at best of times difficult to control distract you from that.

    If you do care for your friend, care for his akhira and advise him of his wrong doings and about the day when we will meet the creator of the heavens and the earth. Advise him why you felt sick at the fact that he has killed people who are as dear to you as the mum, dad and annoying sister you mention in your article, explain this to him and free yourself from being charged with this on that day…

    Many of the ayaat and ahadith have been mentioned in some of the earlier comments about the ummah and it’s rights upon us….

    I am not saying that this action or lack of action will determine your eternal fate, but no one can say that with the way things are at the moment it won’t be a part if your hisaab.

    May Allah bless all 32 Muslims he has killed with martyrdom and enter them with all the other Muslims killed into the highest Jannah.
    May Allah give us the tawfiq to see things with clarity and open our hearts to eachother in the way the ANSAR opened their hearts for the muhaajiroon.

    Ultimately this life is all about paradise or hellfire…. Which one do we choose?

    Your brother in Islam

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    • W/Salam,

      Akhi, I have openly and repeatedly to his face and through this public forum told him exactly what I thought. In no way do I provide him any support in what he is doing, I only support his making amends in whatever small way he can and in (inshAllah) being guided to the straight path.

      I don’t take these issues lightly, despite what some comments on here would lead you to believe.

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  39. jazakallah, hopefully it’ll go through his head this time.

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  40. “I was like all Americans, spoon-fed what I needed to know. I was so dumb that I didn’t grasp that Saddam Hussein had been our boy for years, because he had fought against Iran; that he received weapons from us with which he killed Kurds; and that suddenly he had become a new Hitler who had invaded a defenseless sovereign country. At the time I was also an avowed supporter of Israel. I would have told you then that the Palestinians are a gang of terrorists who want to throw the Jews into the sea.

    That’s why I don’t hate the Israelis: I see myself in them. I also bought into that stuff. I would be happy to meet with the Israeli commandos who boarded the ship. I would like to sit down with them and talk to them respectfully. I would tell them, ‘Considering the circumstances and what you were told, you are doing what you think is right. And you are fighters – I respect that. But I’m sorry, if you move away from the conditioning and the propaganda, if you are honest and fair and know history, you understand what these people are resisting.’ Ehud Barak said himself that if he were a Palestinian, he would join the resistance.”

    After his discharge, [Kenneth] O’Keefe entered college and underwent a conceptual revolution. He went to Hawaii and became a diving instructor, took part in activity to preserve marine life and started to take an interest in the indigenous population and in the “dispossession and land theft” that they were subjected to, as he puts it. In 2001 he renounced his American citizenship. Two months after the September 11, 2001 attacks he left the United States and requested political asylum in Holland.

    Read about Kenneth O’Keefe and his participation in the flotilla to Gaza and encounter with the IDF after having been just another American soldier: http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/magazine/rough-passage-1.315481
    My point here is, there’s hope for people to change into something better. There were people at the time of the Prophet who warred against him then later became Muslims and were great assets to Islam and Muslims.

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  41. Assalam Alaykum,

    Just for a mintue ask if one of those 32 Muslims killed as your Blood brother would you have posted the same?

    Now wake up these our BROTHERs….

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  42. “I believe he sensed my unease, and we let the issue drop.”

    Seriously, people. What issue is more important than the slaughter of innocent Muslims?

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  43. Salaam alaykum Youssef,

    Great piece, does an excellent job illustrating the complexity of reconciling our religious identity and what it calls for with the reality of our daily lives and relationships. The tests we deal with in our lives come in many forms, and the choices we have to make are not always readily obvious.

    With everyone involved in this conflict, be they the leader or the soldier, our side or their side, there is always more than the cardboard cut-out stereotypes. We are all human with limited information, and who is worthy of being forgiven for their ignorance, who is worthy of daw’ah, or who is “selling-out” is beyond me, more often than not.

    The best we can do is ask Allah to guide us to what pleases Him. There are too many factors to juggle, and too many points to consider, and which is relevant and which is not in the grand scale of evaluation, only Allah knows best. It’s in times like these, when we are confused, that we can be grateful for our Creator in being merciful to us by providing us with a means by which we can learn from the one who knows – istikhaara prayer.

    Some might say split from your friend. Others may say it’s good daw’ah, keep it up. A third group might call you out and yell, “Cognitive Dissonance!” It doesn’t matter – in the end, what matters is that whatever decision you take, you take with the intention of pleasing Allah and you make your best effort with the resources available to figure out exactly what that is.

    The rest of us and this is simply background noise. May Allah help you take the best course of action, whatever it may be, and give us both the same as well. Ameen.

    Siraaj

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  44. Dear brother,

    Why don’t you discuss this issue with learned Ustadhs around you? This sort of issue is too grave to be discussed on a public forum. May Allaah keep us steadfast on His deen.

    I feel very sad, my dear brother, for so many reasons and I ask the Most Merciful, The Compassionate to guide us to what truly benefits us in this world and the next.

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  45. I’ll strongly sugest that we disregard abusive/hateful comments as such are known to often emanate from non muslims who wish to spread discord amongst the muslims. So, even if a commentator’s name bears “abdullaah”, you can’t really confirm he is a muslim.

    I need to send this warning as I have seen many people lose their hearts and good behaviour on account of such comments.

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  46. Salamualikum,

    Honestly, I didn’t want to comment any more on this thread, but I’ll end with this.

    If you read the piece again (and I assure you it hasn’t been edited one bit) all I say in terms of Steve’s current situation is that I want him and the other soldiers to leave where they are and, while they remain there, gain some “understanding and perspective.” As far as his prior acts, I rebuke them several times in the piece. Everything else was simply my human account of how we got here.

    To parse my words with a fine comb looking for anything to hold me at fault is really disingenuous. The encounter I write about with Steve was the first time after he had joined the army and I was caught off guard by the level of his involvement. I’m human. Forgive me my shortcomings. As I mentioned in several comments, however, this wasn’t the last time we spoke on this issue and I had told him in no uncertain terms how I felt since the incident.

    Which brings us to my current contact with Steve. All I’ve said is that I haven’t cut off ties so that he maintains his human connection to this deen, so that I speak truth to him about his actions, and so that perhaps he is guided to a wiser path. The level of venom in response to this is truly astounding.

    Many of the comments “disagreeing” with me don’t bring up any actual point I’ve made, but just rail on some tangential matter and direct it at me. Others claim to be giving naseeha, but their manner is patently insincere. And a few, sadly, have thrown around some heavy words as if they were light as a feather. When you wield your self-appointed hammers of nifaaq and ridda, it seems everything appears as a nail.

    Some have disagreed with me with the sincere intention that perhaps I am in error. To those individuals, I appreciate your akhlaq and will take your points into consideration. Others, like the two Sira(ajs [al Sira(a)jayn?] offered perhaps the best advice – to leave it for Allah and seek learned council. For this sentiment, I am grateful. If another path is best, then I pray I am guided towards it.

    In fact, I pray that Allah guides us all to what is best. And may He ease the pain of those who have suffered and continue to suffer from these wars.

    Ameen

    Wasalamualaikum warahmatullah wabarakatu

    —With this, inshAllah comments will close as the salient points have all been discussed and the conversation is regressing into some very unproductive territory—

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