By Jamal Naji and Leila Fadel | McClatchy Newspapers
FALLUJAH, Iraq — At the western entrance to the Iraqi city of Fallujah Tuesday, Muamar Anad handed his residence badge to the U.S. Marines guarding the city. They checked to be sure that 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.
In the markets, people crowded around men with the coins, passing them to each other and asking in surprise, "Have you seen this?"
The head of the Sunni endowment in Fallujah, the organization that oversees Sunni places of worship and other religious establishments, demanded that the Marines stop.
"We say to the occupiers to stop this," said Sheikh Mohammed Amin Abdel Hadi. "This can cause strife between the Iraqis and especially between Muslim and Christians . ... Please stop these things and leave our homes because we are Muslims and we live in our homes in peace with other religions."
A spokesman said the U.S. military is investigating.
..."The occupier is repeatedly trespassing on God and his religion," said Omar Delli, 23. "Now the occupier is planting seeds of strife between the Muslims and Christians. We demand the government in Fallujah have a new demonstration to let the occupier know that these things are humiliating Islam and the Quran."