|5 years ago :: Sep 03, 2010 - 11:06PM #1|
Ok. I've kept my thoughts to myself on this matter, perhaps for too long. It's been quite awhile since the last time I've posted anything, so perhaps I ought to include a little background, so that y'all can understand from where I draw my feelings/thoughts/opinions from.
This past August, I celebrated the 5th anniversary of my enlistment. I currently serve as a medic in the Missouri Army National Guard, and am also a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I deployed to Southern Iraq for the better part of 2008.
When I went over, I really didn't know what to think. Between the news media (whom I most certainly don't trust), and my own experiences with the Muslims I've met over the years, I chose to arrive at no preconcieved notions about the manner of people I would encounter. Owing mostly to the fact that the Muslims I've known personally were all good people.
I deployed with a medical unit, to FOB Bucca, which was located in southern Iraq (a little north of the port city of Um Qasr). The thing about Bucca was that it happened to house a Theater Internment Facility (TIF for short).
This facility was one of a few places where detainees were kept until such time as they could be safely released (should they turn out to have been one of the 1/4 of them who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time). The others wouldn't be released, as that would pose a danger to both coalition forces, and the Iraqi people.
During my time there, I learned a lot. About my craft as a medic, as well as about myself and my faith. I found myself face-to-face with cold-blooded killers, and was required to provide them with medical care.
When I first learned that I was assigned to provide health care to detainees, I was more than a little upset. Being a firm believer in the death penalty for murderers (among other equally horrible offenses) , I had some issues with providing health care to people who'd killed many of my brothers and sisters in arms. ( I would like to note that I did my job, to the best of my abilities, despite my misgivings, and saved quite a few lives)
Over the months I spent there, I had occasion to change my tune, on a few levels. Though my opinion regarding the death penalty hasn't changed, my thoughts regarding many of the detainees did.
I learned that many of the detainees, a full quarter, were either in the wrong place at the wrong time or had been falsely accused by someone already in the TIF. I learned that many of the detainees were not only illiterate, but were from very rural areas, making them prime targets for extremist groups looking for canon fodder.
While there, I learned that a program had been developed to teach the basics to the detainees. They learned to read/write in Arabic, math, biology, civics, and religion from moderate local Imams.
It was during this time that I met and spoke with one of the teachers. I don't remember his name, but I think it was Sa'ad. By trade, he was a lawyer. However, he not only chose to switch gears, but he chose to become a teacher, specifically at Bucca. This is his story.
The year before, he'd been engaged to be married. As is the custom in Iraq, he gave his fiance money so that she could go down to the market, and buy something for herself. While she was there, a suicide-murderer killed her and about a dozen others.
He told me that he spent the following three months in the bottle. When the fog cleared, he heard that our people were looking for teachers, and decided to apply. He said that the reason he chose to take such a route, teaching people who might have even helped kill his fiance, was to help keep others from suffering like he did. He figured if he helped one of the detainees turn themselves around, then his job was done. Ultimately, I'd like to believe he achieved this goal.
Among the Iraqis I dealt with, there were also Iraqi Correctional Officers, who worked alongside American guards in keep watch over the detainees. About two months in, I was transferred to the clinic that took care of the Iraqi Correctional Officers (ICO for short), and spent the next 5 months assigned there. During my time there, I was responsible for the well-being of 1,000 people. They were all Muslim, and they all treated me and mine with respect.
I went from day to day, treating one patient after another. Offering encouragement and advice where it was needed. Of course, I also handed out my fair share of ass-chewings as well. One of the ICO's was carried into my clinic one day, severely dehydrated, by two of his buddies. It turned out he was drinking less than half a liter of water a day. In the desert, this isn't a good thing. I still believe that he'd have died if he'd waited another day.
After learning what had happened, and how he got into the condition he was in (it was Ramadan, and he worked the day shift), I took the time out to chew out his buddies through the intepreter, for not noticing sooner that their buddy was in such bad shape. Of course, while I was chewing them out, my 'terp informed me that he was a step ahead of me, and was chewing them out while I'd been starting an IV on my patient. I wound up giving him 2 1/2 liters of fluid, and he was still in pretty bad shape.
One night, several months in, one of the ICO Lt.s came in, and gifted me a copy of the Qu'ran in English. I knew what he meant behind it. He was inviting me to become a Muslim. I was very touched by the gesture, and felt that the least I could do was read the book. I found it very enlightening, and also credit it as being part of what helped me to strengthen my own faith.
Basically, my tour in Iraq taught me a lot about myself, and my craft as a medic. While I was there I saw the best and worst in humanity.
That being said, I don't believe that Muslims are out to turn the world Muslim. I've heard many Christians level horrible accusations against Muslims. However, if we as Christians were to look at the history of our own faith objectively, we'd see an interesting story.
The history of Christendom is rife with stories of ethnic cleansing, genocide, and many other acts that are now considered crimes against humanity. Over the course of the last 2,000 years, millions upon millions of people have been slaughtered, disenfranchised, and/or persecuted...all in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Yet, some feel the need to degrade people from another faith, accusing them of basically mirroring our own history. It's basically the pot calling the kettle black.
So, now we're faced with a situation that's really interesting. Someone wants to build an Islamic Center at ground zero. When I first heard of this, I had mized feelings. But, after some consideration, I think it might not be a bad idea.
Here's why I feel this way. 1) Counted among some of the victims of 9-11 were people of the Muslim faith. The people who died that day weren't all Christians. Rescue workers, and office workers alike. Not just a band of madmen bent on mayhem. Are they not allowed to be honored like the rest of the dead, just because they happened to be Muslim? 2) I think that it would be an amazing sign of reconciliation, if such a thing were allowed, and it leads me to my final point. 3) Imagine the media coup that building an Islamic center, or better yet, an interfaith center, would bring about. Maybe something geared towards highlighting the similarities and common origins of our two faiths. It would really hurt the terrorists efforts to recruit, given that their effort centers around the mistaken belief that America hates Islam. This is what they teach their recruits. That America, the Great Satan, hates all Muslims and seeks to either convert or kill them all.
|5 years ago :: Sep 04, 2010 - 1:22AM #2|
Your post could be correctly titled "My thoughts" but certainly not "nothing more." I found it extremely interesting and was very impressed by your story. You show a great deal of enlightenment and compassion. I hope everyone here reads your words. Doing so could go a long way in overcoming some of the mindless hate some have for others based simply on their religion. Thank you for sharing.
"The circumstances of the world are continually changing, and the opinions of man change also; and as government is for the living, and not for the dead, it is the living only that has any right in it." -- Thomas Paine: Rights of Man (1791)
|5 years ago :: Sep 04, 2010 - 6:50PM #3|
It would be really wonderful if you could get this published as an op-ed piece in your local newspaper. I don't know where you live or what the reception would be, but I'd like to encourage you to get this published, if you're comfortable with it.