Yes, that’s me……………
Anyway, I feel like I was forced into blogging about this, but the BBC produced an article yesterday entitled “Muslim face of the US Marines” with which I am intimately familiar with…
The article was emailed to me by a dear and wonderful sister whom I know (who btw, may end up being my co-host soon…..I know I can’t help it!), however, what she didn’t know at the time was how red (if I could) I turned once I read the article. In her defense, she knew that not only was I a Marine, but I was also a Muslim in the Marine Corps for half of my career in the Corps working for a very prestigious unit in the Marine Corps…well sometimes images speak louder than words:
Anyway, enough about me….about this article and my “intimate” relationship with it….
Well, it just so happens I was present when the pictures were taken for that article. In late April I decided to visit the Islamic Center on Marine Corps Base Quantico, yes you read that right, for Jummah . Now it wasn’t a planned visit, but that particular day I had to go to base medical and while I was there I wanted to take the family to my old unit and the National Marine Corps Museum. So while I was on the base, since it was getting close to Jummah, I decided it would be a blast if I went to the Islamic Center on the base since, there was none when I was active duty. To my surprise and I believe I blogged about this before, there were many Muslim Marines there of every rank, color, and sex. There were also what appeared to be civilians, but who knows, they could have been off duty Marines, either way, I also noticed a BBC reporter at the front of the room taking pictures and recording the “short” service. However, with a baby in my lap and three older boys, I had little time to pay that attention.
Now for why I got red in the face! After the Kutbah (sermon) and prayers, I decided to approach the Imam (Lt. Saifulislam) and “reintroduce” myself. Previously, when I was in the Marine Corps about 4 years ago I met with him when he was stationed at Norfolk Naval Base. I was sent to meet with him so that he could “certify” me as an Islamic Lay Leader for our base and region, since there were none at the time. Long story short, it didn’t work out, primarily because we got into a “heated” debate/discussion concerning Islam and immediately we went from “brothers” to Lt. and Sgt, meaning I had to call him sir, since he was an officer. I came back to Quantico hurt I must admit, because I was rather new to Islam at the time and expected more, but shrugged it off over the years. That experience for the most part, left me with a poor opinion of the Imam.
Now on this particular day, I wanted to speak to him and remind him who I was and actually apologize and let him know what has happened since we last met, congratulate him, and of course plug The American Muslim, 🙂
However, that didn’t quite work out, because he was being very inattentive I felt to our conversation to the point where I felt like I was being ignored. It appeared his attention was more geared toward the BBC reporter then me or other Muslims waiting to address him.
I must admit I was a “little” upset even to this day, because I felt that he was negating his responsibility in the role of the Imam. In my opinion, an Imam is more than a prayer leader, but also a spiritual leader and his primary responsibility is to the Muslims in his congregation. I could have been having all sorts of issues that an Imam should address or even the other brothers and sisters, but instead it appeared that at that particular time he was more concerned with the reporter. To me, this reflects poorly on him as the Imam. I’m probably being a little extreme in my assessment and I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, and that’s why I approached him in the first place, but I guess after several years the only thing that has changed about him, from my vantage point, is his status. I could be just a coincidence that I just have happened to have two poor experiences with him.
While, I’m truly proud of the Corps which I love, efforts to facilitate the needs of it’s Muslim Marines and the Navy for even having Islamic Chaplains in the first place, I must admit that I’m truly concerned about Imam Saifulislam. To put it bluntly, if he’s the “face of Marine Corps Muslims” then in my humble opinion, I pray that this face is not what I experienced but more of a misunderstanding. Sometimes I feel I should go back into the Military just to be certified as a Muslim Chaplain, to change things, because of my beliefs about this particular Chaplain. I pray that this is just my experience and he’s really a different person or he was just having a bad day then and in our first meeting. My experience with the Imam was not good, but it could always just be me.
Overall, I’m proud the Marine Corps is setting the standard on this front just as we do on all other fronts (Hoorah) and I’m happy that we have an Islamic Center and an Imam with the experience of Imam Saifulislam. While I may not personally agree with his personality, the best thing for me to do as a Muslim is to pray for him, the Corps, and of course the Ummah!
***On a side note, those of you who have read this earlier will notice that I change some commentary in this post and this is an edit. I want to thank my dear brother and sister, they know who they are, for reminding me of my faith and love for Islam. In my original draft, I was very angry and mean spirited defaming the Imam in various un-Islamic ways. I allowed the Shaitan into my words and for this I want to apologize to my readers and praise Allah (swt) for allowing two strong mirrors in my life! As Muslims we are supposed to set the example and rise above back-biting and defamation and I had to be reminded of that. It’s one thing to disagree with another believer, it’s another to defame them. I don’t want to be like the other riff raff out there who spews nothing but negativity toward others, just because we don’t like them. I ask that you all make dua for me to help me in this journey and effort.***
On a final note:
There is nothing wrong with expressing one’s disagreement with another openly or criticizing organizations, articles, etc. However, we (I included) must learn to be able to express those disagreements in a way that is peaceful, reasoned, and of course Islamic.
As Salaam Alaikum,