Soldiers Convert to Islam Before Iraq Tour of Duty

The Tehran Times provides a nice “not a lot of people know that” piece with news that there are apparently 35,000 South Korean Muslims (plus 70,000 Muslims of foreign nationality in South Korea). Apparently Turkish soldiers introduced the religion during the Korean War (although there were previously mosques in the Koryo period of 918-1392, according to a Korea Times report posted here). The Tehran Times further reports that 37 South Korean soldiers have decided to convert to Islam as a prelude to being stationed in Iraq – a somewhat greater commitment to fitting in than the Japanese strategy of growing moustaches.

South Korean Muslim soldiers will be interesting contrast to the South Korean Christian missionaries currently descending on the region. A rather anonymous Korean website gives more information (in English) on Islam in South Korea – although its anti-occupation stance seems rather at odds with the idea of South Korean soldiers in Iraq. Much of the general information on (and apologetics for) Islam on this site is pulled from various other sites, and includes at least one essay by Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahab, the eighteenth-century Islamic “Puritan” whose ideology is the official understanding of Islam in Saudi Arabia. Overall, however, the site seems fairly moderate. Other material has been lifted (uncredited) from Muslim Answers, a Florida-based organisation that promotes essays by an American convert, Abu Iman Robert Squires (who has left various religions over the years, including Islam, but has now apparently returned to the faith), and others. Squires’ material pops up on various English-language Islamic websites – he seems to be a conservative Sunni, but not an Islamist.