Sgt. 1st Class Naida Hosan, a U.S. soldier who has served in Iraq was harassed by her fellow soldiers to such an extent that she not only decided to change her name but she also thought of committing suicide once.
The reason why she was being harassed is because her name ‘Naida Hosan’ sounds and appears quite Islamic. At least to her colleagues it did. They tormented her with anti-Muslim slurs and would taunt her by calling her ‘Sgt. Hussein’, despite of knowing the fact that Naida Hosan is a Catholic and not a Muslim.
According to Hosan, her tolerance level went so down that she decided and later changed her name to Naida Christian Nova to make it obvious that she wasn’t a Muslim. But it didn’t help. Her problems worsened as she was often called a Muslim sympathizer. Nova’s complaints were ignored by the Army after which she confided in a friend who later filed an affidavit.
Nova’s father, Roy Hosein, was born in an Indian-Muslim emigrant family in Trinidad. He later converted to Christianity after he married Nova’s mother. According to the soldier, her father ‘Americanised’ the family name to avoid discrimination.
The soldier has also admitted that before 9/11 attacks, she never faced any problem or harassment because of her last name. After the attacks, she had to explain that she was a Christian and not a Muslim.
Matters took an ugly turn in 2007, when a co-worker told Nova and others a very racist anti-Muslim joke to which Nova objected. A supervisor told her to stop making trouble after listening to her objections. She filed a complaint with the Army’s Equal Opportunity Branch after which she was removed from her job and commanded to have a mental evaluation.
She was deployed with a unit in Afghanistan shortly after the incident when burnt copies of the Holy Quran were found outside the U.S. operated prisons in the country. When Nova discovered that several members of her unit were doing the same she reported to a superior who instead told her not to bring her religion to work. Although she had changed her name before she came to Afghanistan, the discriminatory attitude towards her continued.
Nova was eventually removed from her designation in Afghanistan and sent back to her old unit. With the help of her lawyer, Mark Waple, she filed a formal complaint with the Army's Inspector General in October last year. She also checked into a hospital for medical treatment since she started having suicidal thoughts.
Learning about her complaint and hospitalization, Nova was involuntarily discharged from her military career on the basis of ‘ineffective leadership.’ She then filed a lawsuit in a federal court seeking justice and help to prevent her forced discharge. It was when the Army re-enlisted her and her harassment came to an end.
Nova was tortured for believing in what was right and just. In fact she was harassed just for having a name that hinted Islamic association. This proves how much anti-Muslim hatred has infiltrated the U.S. military institutions and how the administrative system lacks justice or even basic support for soldiers being discriminated against. Nova’s struggle is a reminder of just this and it remains to be seen if the Army takes effective steps to prevent such cases in future.
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