Donations from readers like you allow us to do what we do. Please help us continue our work with a monthly or one-time donation.

Donate Today

Subscribe Today

Subscribe to receive daily or weekly MEMRI emails on the topics that most interest you.

Request a Clip

Media, government, and academia can request a MEMRI clip or other MEMRI research, or ask to consult with or interview a MEMRI expert.
Request Clip
Feb 06, 2022
Share Video:

Canadian Islamic Scholar Bilal Philips: During Operation Desert Storm, We Persuaded 3,000 U.S. Troops In Saudi Arabia To Convert To Islam; We Took Them To Watch Beheadings; Some Would Later Use Their Expertise In The Bosnian War (Archival)

#9357 | 09:50
Source: Online Platforms - "Bilal Philips on YouTube"

At the "Peace Conference Scandinavia," which was held in Oslo, Norway in March 2010, Canadian Islamic scholar Dr. Bilal Philips, who currently lives in Qatar, delivered a lecture titled "Da'wa in Desert Storm." Philips, who lived in Saudi Arabia in the early 1990s, recounted his proselytization efforts as part of a group of Muslims who preached Islam to U.S. troops deployed to eastern Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Philips elaborated that he had even taken troops to watch public executions and shari'a law punishments. "Some heads were chopped off, some hands were chopped off," he said. According to Philips, 3,000 U.S. troops converted to Islam as a result of these proselytization efforts, which he said were conducted with the consent of U.S. authorities. He then claimed that some of the converted troops moved to Bosnia after being discharged, and lent their military expertise to the Bosnians in the Bosnian War. A video of the 2010 speech was posted on Bilal Philips' official YouTube account on February 6, 2022. According to the description, Peace Conference Scandinavia was held in Oslo on March 27-29, 2010.

Bilal Philips: "Desert Storm and 'Da'wa in Desert Storm' addresses a historical incident which took place back in 1991, 19 years ago. So it's history. What is represented was the positive side of a negative incident in the history of the Muslim world.  


"The U.S. got together a coalition of Western forces, and itself deposited half a million American soldiers in Saudi Arabia, mainly in the eastern province.


"The troops while preparing for battle or war with Iraq, were looking for ways and means to keep themselves occupied, because the nature of war from the American perspective, when it deposits its troops into any land, then the troops take advantage of the poverty that is in those lands, and they turn segments of the population into dens of prostitution, entertainment, and they deposit, before leaving, a bunch of what they call war babies.


"However, when they came to Saudi Arabia, because Saudi Arabia was not a society which was poor, that could be exploited in that way, the women were not accessible. So, they had to find other ways of keeping troops occupied. So, what that did, what happened from that, is that they were open to uh talks and lectures on Islam.

"The Americans made this possible and an individual by the name of Ali Al-Shahry, who was a sergeant in the Saudi military, he, though he had very little English, used to hang out with the American troops. Staying in their tents, you know, sleeping along with them, chatting, hanging out. For himself, he was learning English and at the same time, trying to give some da'wa to these troops.


"And when he got enough of a group together that showed an interest in wanting to hear something about Islam, with the permission of the American administration, military administration — he came to see me in Riyadh. I was living in Riyadh at the time. And [he] invited me to come and give some talks. So, I went down and began to give lectures and have open forums and discussions with the troops.

"Then the war broke out, so all of that was put on hold, until after the war was over. The war didn't last very long. The Americans then had to process all of these troops out of the country back to the States or back to other bases in different parts of the world. So they chose an area to keep them called Khobar Towers.


"We suggested — myself and some of the other brothers interested in doing da'wa there — suggested that we set up a tent in the middle of all of that, a large tent for da'wa purposes. The American administration accepted it, and we set up this huge tent called... and we put a big sign on it saying: 'Saudi Arabian Cultural Information Tent.' Cultural Information Tent.

"We didn't put on there Islam, because that might scare people, so this was like a cover. Saudi Arabian Cultural Information Tent — large tent. When you first come in, on the left-hand side, we had a huge table with all kinds of books about Saudi Arabia, about the reptiles of Saudi Arabia, the deserts, the history, technology... A variety of bits of pieces of information, very nice books, glossy types, and in the midst of it all we also had little pamphlets on Islam.


"What we did was we took female soldiers, and there were many of them, we took them into Saudi homes... the homes of Saudis who... they studied in the West or whatever. Their wives could speak English, you know, they had some education, etc., and they would enlighten them as to the life of a Muslim woman.


"The tent — though it was originally called the Saudi Arabian Cultural Information Tent — soon the amount of people who were converting to Islam averaged around 20 people a day. In the course of the five and a half months, we had over 3,000 Americans, males and females, accepting Islam.

"So, the tent came to be known as the Conversion Tent. That is the name that they called it commonly, and many of the chaplains — they tried to shut it down. But the American administration felt that this was a means of keeping at least some of the troops occupied, and also they don't end up doing anything crazy... right? As they like to do.


"Then we took groups of them to some of the executions, because from time to time, there were executions. Some hands were cut off, some heads were cut off. And it was interesting, because of course, for many of them they never seen anyone actually be executed... so they went there. Of course, they bought popcorn and they came to watch it, eating their popcorn, and somebody's head was chopped off. But at the same time, you know, they could see from that the impact in the society, because we used to take them into the town to buy gold jewelry.


"Many of them said, 'We could never feel anything like this back home.' They were buying gold and wearing gold chains and rings, and you know, bracelets, all these kinds of things. And [they] said: 'We could never do this back home in Chicago, New York, Washington, LA. You wear this kind of stuff — your hand would be chopped off, and they will take that stuff away from you, you know.'


"Some of the troops who had come back to the U.S., come out of the military, but were specialists. Groups of them went to Bosnia, because by 1993, the Bosnians Muslims were being slaughtered by the Serbs, and they needed people with specialist skills to train them [and] help them in that fight. So, we had two teams from amongst those who accepted Islam, who went to Bosnia and trained the Bosnians, fought alongside them, married Bosnians, and remained in Bosnia.

"So people who had originally come to Arabia with the intention of fighting Muslims in Iraq ended up fighting on behalf of Muslims in Bosnia, and training and living their lives out as Muslims. So, when I think back to Desert Storm, there are many, many lessons that remain to be learned.

"I hope that inshallah that you all will take some of the lessons from this experience, and utilize those lessons, care in Norway. You have a responsibility to share this message with the people here.


"So you should know that you have been chose by Allah to be here, in order to convey the message of Islam to the people of this land. This is what justifies your presence here."

Share this Clip: