At the western entrance to the Iraqi city of Fallujah on Tuesday, Muamar Anad handed his residence badge to the U.S. Marines guarding the city. They checked to be sure he was a city resident, and when they were done, Anad said, a Marine slipped a coin out of his pocket and put it in his hand.
Out of fear, he accepted it, Anad said. When he was inside the city, the college student said, he looked at one side of the coin. "Where will you spend eternity?" it asked.
He flipped it over, and on the other side it read, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16."
"They are trying to convert us to Christianity," said Anad, a Sunni Muslim like most residents of this city in Anbar province. At home, he told his story, and his relatives echoed their disapproval: They'd been given the coins, too, he said.
"Iraq is investigating a report that U.S. military personnel in Fallujah handed-out material that is religious and evangelical in nature," said Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, a U.S. military spokesman, in a statement e-mailed to McClatchy Newspapers. "Local commanders are investigating since the military prohibits proselytizing any religion, faith or practices."
Fallujah, the scene of a bloody U.S. offensive against Sunni insurgents in 2004, has calmed and grown less hostile to U.S. troops since residents turned against al-Qaida in Iraq.
Now residents of the city are abuzz that some Americans who they consider occupiers are also acting as Christian missionaries. Residents said some Marines at the western entrance to their city have been passing out the coins for two days in what they call a "humiliating" attempt to convert them to Christianity.