Service by Muslims in the United States military dates back to the American Revolutionary War, where records indicate that there were some Muslims who fought on the revolutionary side.[1]

Muslims have fought in all major United States conflicts, including the War of 1812,[2] the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War.[1] More recently, they have served in the Gulf War, Iraq War, and the War in Afghanistan.

On December 14, 1993, the Army Chief of Chaplains requested that an insignia be created to represent Muslim chaplains, with the design (a crescent) being completed on January 8, 1994.[3]

In 2015 there were approximately 5,896 American Muslims serving in the United States military.[4]

Frocking ceremony for U.S. Navy's first Muslim chaplain, when Navy (rabbi) Chaplain Arnold Resnicoff attaches new shoulder boards with Muslim Chaplain crescent insignia to uniform of Imam Monje Malak Abd al-Muta Noel Jr, 1996
Frocking ceremony for U.S. Navy's first Muslim chaplain, when Navy (rabbi) Chaplain Arnold Resnicoff attaches new shoulder boards with Muslim Chaplain crescent insignia to uniform of Imam Monje Malak Abd al-Muta Noel Jr, 1996

Pre 9/11

The Hospital corpsman Umar Iqbal draws blood from a patient for medical testing in the Intensive Care Unit.
The Hospital corpsman Umar Iqbal draws blood from a patient for medical testing in the Intensive Care Unit.

Muslims have fought and died in World War II and the Vietnam War. Some Muslim Americans served in World War II in North Africa, Europe, and Asia.[5] Additionally, at least 12 Muslims are known to have died in the Vietnam War.[5]

War of 1812

An African slave by the name of Bilali Muhammad defended Georgia's Sapelo Island from British attack during the War of 1812. His group consisted of 80 slaves who were mostly Muslim and were armed with muskets.[6]

Civil War

291 Muslims are known to have fought during the Civil War.[1] Some sources claim that highest ranking Muslim officer during the War was Captain Moses Osman, the son of Robert and Catherine Osman.[1] However, Moses Osman was confirmed in the Zion German Lutheran Church in 1843 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. [7][8]

The most highly ranked Muslim in the War may be Nicholas Said. He came to the United States in 1860 and he found a teaching job in Detroit. In 1863, Said enlisted in the 55th Massachusetts Colored Regiment in the United States Army and rose to the rank of sergeant. He was later granted a transfer to a military hospital, where he gained some knowledge of medicine. His Army records state that he died in Brownsville, Tennessee, in 1882. Another Muslim soldier from the Civil War was Max Hassan, an African who worked for the military as a porter.[9]

After WWII

Abdullah Igram, a Muslim-American WWII veteran, campaigned for Islam to be an option in servicemembers' religious identification. His organization provided additional tags which soldiers were allowed to wear in 1953, and by then dog tags included codes for 'other' and 'prefer not to say'. By the Vietnam War, personnel could use a wide list of spelled out religion names. [10]

Post 9/11

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According to figures released by the Department of Homeland Security, 6,024 Muslim-American troops served in the US military overseas in the ten years after 9/11, with at least 14 being killed in Iraq.[11] In December 2015, 5,896 of the 1.3 million active members of the US military self-identified as Muslim,[4] or roughly 0.45%. Practicing Muslims, in accordance with US military policy, are required shave their beards and are often unable to obtain food which meets their dietary requirements.[12] Muslim American involvement in the US military has come under increased attention after events such as the September 11 attacks terrorist attacks, 2009 Fort Hood shooting, and Khizr Khan 2016 Democratic National Convention speech.

Notable Muslims in the Military

Humayun Khan

Humayun Khan was a Pakistani-American born in the United Arab Emirates on September 9, 1976, to Pakistani parents. After graduating from the University of Virginia in 2000, he joined the U.S. Army's 201st Forward Support Battalion, 1st Infantry Division. Throughout his four years of service, he rose in ranks to become an officer in the U.S. army before being killed by a car bomb June 8, 2004, saving the lives of his fellow soldiers.[13] President Donald Trump’s temporary immigration ban based on a list of terror linked countries (created under the Obama administration) brought Khan's parents, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, into the public spotlight as they addressed Trump at the Democratic National Convention in 2016. Speaking out to defend their son, and others who died in the American military, created an "unexpected and potentially pivotal flash point in the general election" [9]

Colonel Douglas Burpee

Colonel Douglas Burpee is a retired U.S. Marine, having flown helicopters for 27 years. Burpee was born Episcopalian but converted to Islam when he was 19 in the late 1970s while attending the University of Southern California.[14] He was accepted into the Officers Candidates' School in Quantico, VA, after graduation. At the end of his service, Burpee was the highest ranking Muslim in the U.S. Marine Corps.[14]

Muslim American Military Insignia

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Curtis, Edward E. (2010). Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History. ISBN 9781438130408. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  2. ^ Robin Wright (2016-08-15). "Humayun Khan Isn't the Only Muslim American Hero". The New Yorker.
  3. ^ Emerson, William K. (1996), Encyclopedia of United States Army Insignia and Uniforms, University of Oklahoma Press, ISBN 9780806126227, retrieved 22 August 2015
  4. ^ a b "How Many Muslims Are Serving in US Military?". ABC News. 2015-12-09. Retrieved 2016-10-04.
  5. ^ a b University, Craig Considine Sociologist at Rice (2015-04-10). "Saluting Muslim American Patriots | Huffington Post". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-10-07.
  6. ^ Richard Brent Turner (2003). Islam in the African-American Experience. Indiana University Press. p. 33.
  7. ^ Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 691
  8. ^ Osman, William. Letters, Letterbook, and Diary, 1826-1946, 1993-1994, 2003, Illinois History and Lincoln Collections
  9. ^ a b Haberman, Alexander Burns, Maggie; Parker, Ashley (2016-07-31). "Donald Trump's Confrontation With Muslim Soldier's Parents Emerges as Unexpected Flash Point". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-10-04.
  10. ^ Rothman, Lily (2016-08-03). "The Khan Family and American History's Hidden Muslim Soldiers". TIME.
  11. ^ King, Peter (December 7, 2011). "Homegrown Terrorism: The Threat To Military Communities Inside The United States". Majority Investigative Report, Committee on Homeland Security. p. 2. Retrieved July 17, 2022.
  12. ^ Philipps, Dave (2016-08-02). "Muslims in the Military: The Few, the Proud, the Welcome". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-10-07.
  13. ^ "What you need to know about Humayun Khan". Retrieved 2016-10-04.
  14. ^ a b Watanabe, Teresa; Helfand, Duke (2009-11-12). "Service members bridge gap between mosque and military". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2016-11-09.