As veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have watched with increasing alarm the rise of anti-Islamic rhetoric within the U.S. We've seen attacks on Muslim citizens, intolerance toward religious expression, and even threats of book burning. All this goes against the values we risked our lives to protect.
We have served beside Muslim soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen, as well Muslim translators, who risked their own lives and the lives of their families to help us. For the service members currently deployed, the success of their mission and the safety of their lives depends on a basic respect for, and interaction with, Islamic culture.
Those who would vilify and target Muslims on grounds of their religious belief not only show a deep disrespect for American values, but put American lives at risk. It's easy to burn a Koran when you won't feel the heat.
We speak as infantrymen, truck drivers, medics, artillerymen, supply sergeants, and civil and public affairs officers, professions whose success depends on good relations with a deeply religious Muslim population.
That population sees the American flag we wear on our uniform and judges us, not only by our actions but on the values our citizens uphold. We must be able to point back home to the values we represent. Chief among those values is our courage as a nation to peacefully and openly engage with differences of culture and religion.
What is a squad leader in Kandahar supposed to say to an Afghan woman who asks him why we want to burn her holy book?
When citizens here participate in hateful rhetoric and intolerance toward Muslims, it leaves soldiers over there exposed.
America, you gotta have our back.