I first published this post in 2009. It seems only more relevant now. Anti-Muslim bias is more prevalent than it ought to be. I appreciate who and what attacked us on Sept. 1, 2001. But, my experience has taught me something a bit different.
I served one year in Iraq as an Army officer. I and many of my comrades could not have survived without the service of hard-working Iraqi Muslims. Since returning home, I have been a little surprised to hear the folks here at home denigrate all Muslims. i find that hard to accept. Some Moslems perhaps, but not all. The Moslems I knew in Iraq were wonderful persons, who, I believe, were made better by their faith. Not all, of course. But, some yes. I knew a few Muslims who displayed a pronounced humility and strong sense of decency. It is no more true to say all Muslims do this or all Muslims do that than it is to say all Christians do this or all Christians do that.
I do comment on the state of Iraq and Afghan vets. It would not be fair to fail to mention the hard-working, devout Muslims I knew and enjoyed when I was there. Those Iraqi interpreters were devoted to improving their country. But, unlike us, the Iraqi interpreters could not leave the violence after a year. They would go home to it everyday. Iraqi interpreters often had to sneak their way home to avoid being discovered as US employees. Those Iraqis serving with us were targeted like the US soldiers. But, unlike us, they could not escape the violence. They were paid well. But, no one risks his/her life time and again for mere money. And, no one risks the lives of their families time and again for mere money.
My former translator, Salma, was captured, tortured and killed. Her only crime was that she worked for us. Other interpreters I knew were targeted in their homes and in their neighborhoods. Almost all of our interpreters were Muslim. None tried to kill me or any US soldier. None of our interpreters ever tried to kill anyone. Indirectly, however, they fought the good fight simply by interpreting for us and providing desperately needed cultural advice. They risked all.
The "bad guys" in Iraq, what we referred to as Anti-Iraq Forces, earnestly sought the names of our interpreters. They hated the interpreters. The extremists viewed the interpreters as collaborators. Ansar Al-Sunna captured Salma in 2006 and killed her. Salma was careful, but not careful enough. They posted a picture of myself with Salma, almost gloating over their uncovering of an interpreter. It is ironic that many in the US denigrate all Muslims, while many of the Muslims I knew in Iraq were forced from their jobs, their families and their country due to threats from the Muslim extremists. But, as Salma would say, salam alaikam, "peace be with you."