What is the stand of the Muslim military men who are working for the American army with regard to participating in the American attacks against Afghanistan, especially as the party, which they are supposed to fight against is Muslim? This is not a supposed question but a question occupying the minds of about 15,000 American-Muslim military men. Their first guide or imam Mohammed Abdel-Rasheed sent a message whose subject became the discussion topic among some Muslim scholars. In this message, he asked about their legal stand with regard to this situation. He mentioned in his message that the American attacks had three aims:
1- taking revenge on those who are thought to have taken part in executing and financing the suicide attacks of September 11 against civil and military targets in New York and Washington.
2- wiping out those who resorted to Afghanistan and other countries as well as making all governments afraid to accept such people into their countries, giving them the chance to practice the different arts of fighting.
3- restoring the dignity and respect of the USA, in its capacity as the one great power in the world.
He added that if the Muslim military men refused to participate in the American military attacks against Afghanistan, they would have no other choice but resigning-something that would affect them greatly in view of the status quo. He asked whether it was legal for any one of them who has the chance to move to another position, which has nothing to do with the direct fighting, to ask to be moved to that position.
This is the first time for American Muslims to find themselves in such a situation; those who are living on giving fatwas in the West were and still are concentrating on the juristic treatment of the daily life aspects that face the Muslims, who became citizens in a society where a non-Muslim majority lives and whose laws and traditions have nothing to do with Islam. It never occurred to the minds of those scholars that the Muslim citizens of these countries might find themselves obliged to fight their Muslim brothers in other countries. That is why they have never thought of discussing such a topic.
After being appointed as the first guide of Muslim military men in the Pentagon, "Al-Magala" magazine interviewed Mohammed Abdel Rasheed in its issue for January 23, 1994. He was asked about his opinion concerning the American forces’ interference in the affairs of Islamic countries. His answer was, "We are military men not politicians. Obeying orders is an essential part of military work. But I hope that the relationships between America and the Islamic countries will always good. I pray to God every day that we may not be obliged one day to fight our Muslim brothers, who unfortunately kill each other in civil wars."
The problem did not surface at the time of the second Gulf war, when the American forces fought as part of the coalition that was formed to liberate Kuwait from the Iraqi occupation. The problem maybe did not surface because the number of Muslim military men who were fighting with the American forces was relatively small (It was said that about 5,000 American soldiers joined Islam while in the Gulf) or maybe because the aim of the war was to liberate a Muslim country from the unjust attack of another Muslim country.
In spite of the fact that the problem is very clear this time, its solution on the legal level was there; after the war with Vietnam, the American courts, because of the refusal of some soldiers to join the war, agreed to enforce what it called "Conscientious Objection." According to this principle, if a military man has religious reasons preventing him from joining the fighting, he could be excused and charged with doing any other services, such as, medical services.
North Europe Fatwa Council sent the message of Mohammed Abdel-Rasheed to Sheikh Youssef Al-Qaradawi, Counselor Tareq Al-Bishri and Dr. Selim Al-Awa to give their opinion on it. Their answer was as follows.
The duty of all Muslims is that they should be one hand against those who terrify and kill secure and innocent people. The Muslim military men in the American army should declare their commitment to such a duty before their colleagues and leaders. It is in the nature of this declaration to show the reality of Islam whose image is distorted in the Western media.
Muslim [military men] should participate in finding the real executers of the attacks and referring them to a just trail to be given the just punishment for their killing of innocent people. However, the real problem that faces them as Muslims when fighting with other Muslims is that in fighting it is difficult and even impossible to distinguish between the real criminals and innocent people.
The prophet said in one of his hadiths, "If two Muslims fought each other, the killer and the killed will go to hell." This hadith speaks about the Muslim who can take his own decision to join the fighting or refuse to join it. It has nothing to do with the Muslim who is a solider in the army of a country to which he should be loyal and who should obey the orders given to him, otherwise his loyalty may be suspected.
The aggravated situation which this hadith put American-Muslim men in is either to be taken away or to be forgiven if compared with the many problems that would face the American-Muslim military men if their loyalty to the country in which they are citizens came to be suspected. As for the difficulty of distinguishing between real criminals and innocent people while fighting, it may also be taken away if the Muslim’s aim of the fighting is to enforce justice and put an end to injustice.
Still, if any of the American-Muslim military men has the chance to move to another position that has nothing to do with the direct fighting, it would be better to ask to be moved to that position. However, if such a request would make his loyalty a subject of suspicion, he should not mention it.
In short, there is no harm if the American-Muslim military men participate in the excepted attacks against those who are believed to be terrorists or host terrorists.