Muslims in the US Marine Corps

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,

RS

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30 Comments

  1. sallam alaikum, im sure you have had a whole host of hate mail or people demanding your head for being a muslim and a marine, hoping to be more diplomatic and on the Prophets advice make excuses for your brother, in other words always asume good of your brother so i would love to hear your point of view, wondering if either you havent read the whole plathora of prophetic teachings and verses of the Quaran explicitly opposing what you do? (can all be quoted if required) please bair in mind i am not an ‘islamic extremest’and consider myself as moderate as possible without comprimising the fundimentals of my religeon

    Reply

  2. As-salaamu Alaikum,

    I’m a new Muslim and also a Marine 🙂 I’m in college now and will be back in the fleet soon. I wonder what life was like for you as a Muslim and a Marine. I haven’t faced this yet, so I wondering some things to watch for or how you were treated. Thank you for time. Semper Fi!

    Reply

  3. Wa Alaikum As Salaam,

    Ramadan Mubarak! Boy M&M’s are growing you know: Muslim Marines! 🙂 Life was fine, I had no problems in the Corps because of my religion, outside a joke here or there, but you can’t really be a Marine if you can’t take a little harmless ribbing every now and then. 🙂

    Reply

  4. hi. i was just wondering, do you think it is haram for muslims to serve the us marines? don’t you think it is up to God to kill the radicals, and not, for example, you, a muslim, to kill other “muslims?” also how do you feel about the quran and the war on iraq?…don’t you think it is illegal and it is against islam? please answer asap.

    Reply

  5. MJ, no I do not think it is haram for Muslims to serve. Everything is based on the intention of the one serving. I have never met a Muslim who joined the military in order to kill other Muslims. As far as God killing the radicals, I pray that God turns their hearts. As a Muslim, how could I ever wish the death of another Muslim? However, if Muslims are killed in the course of something else, Allah (swt) Alone knows best. When it comes down to it terrorists claiming Islam are killing innocent people wholesale, both Muslim and non-Muslim. As Muslims it’s our duty to protect and defend the oppressed and persecuted, even from fellow Muslims. God will ultimately change the condition of a people when they work toward changing it themselves right? So if a Muslim joins the US Military with the intention to serve their country and humanity to help bring about Peace in the world then I don’t see anything wrong.

    Do you suggest we just sit back and do nothing?

    Furthermore, as it relates to Iraq and the Quran, be more specific, I do believe politically, the decision to go to Iraq was illegal, however I believe Allah (swt) will judge those in whoms decision that was made. As for those in the Military who are/were sent to Iraq, as I said formerly, I believe Allah (swt) will judge those serving based on their intention. Many US troops believe they are helping the Iraqi people, that is a noble intention, either way the judgment rests with Allah (swt).

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  6. Hi, I’m a retired Marine Master Sergeant who served 20 years plus in the Marine Corps. After retiring in 1973, I graduated from San Diego State University. Since 1976 I have studied Islam very carefully and do hold it in the highest esteem. My adoped son is a Shia Muslim from Pakistan. He is a very devoted observant, which I respect very much. I am a devoted Roman Catholic, but I also love Islam very much. And I am very proud of our Marines who are Muslim. I just wish I could see more Muslim Marines using their Muslim names. I’m like to see my young little brothers and sisters standing tall and be proud of their religion as well as they are proud to be called US Marines. Please keep up the good work. Salaam!

    Reply

  7. There is no such thing as an “American Muslim”. The Quran clearly demolishes any sense of nationalism as harem. You’re either American or Muslim, it is simply impossible to be BOTH at the same time. Anyone who believes they are such a thing is clearly NOT in line with the teachings of the Prophet Muhammed and therefore, they are NOT muslim. American yes, Muslim no.

    Reply

  8. Mr. Anonymous who used a fake name and email address, obviously you don’t know what your talking about. I’m an American because it’s my nationality, I was born here, and Muslim due to my faith. Do you suggest that I’m either black or American, short or black, etc.?

    Furthermore, please post what Quranic Ayat you are referring to since it is so “clear” somehow I missed it all these years…..:)

    Reply

  9. Salaam Brother

    Its good to know that we have Muslims proudly serving in the US military and hopefully this way we can shut up negative stereotypes about American Muslims not being patriotic and about Muslims in general.
    I also live in Northern VA, currently I am going to NVCC and soon Inshallah I will be transferring to George Mason University and after I get my bachelors degree I plan to become an officer in the Marine Corps.
    Ever since I was a kid it has been a dream of mine to serve in the military and soon inshallah its gonna be a reality!

    Salaam and Semper Fi!!

    Reply

  10. As Salaamu Alaikum Rahmahtuallahi Wa Barakatuh!

    My daughter is 6 weeks into boot camp and she sounds to be doing better than the first couple of weeks. When she mentioned her interest in joining the Marines, I must say I didn’t take her seriously and of course because of our belief system, I thought, how’s that going to work. However, she talked about joining the military band because she was in the Marching Band in high school and was captain, etc.

    Although, she didn’t quality for the band. She chose to continue her pursuit in becoming a marine and specializing in the field of communications. Masha Allah, she has written almost everyday and in every letter her iman appears to have increased and Allahu Alim.

    I’m still torn about the choice she’s made but I love my daughter. Allah is the best of planners, Most Merciful and All Wise.

    Ma Salaamu, Mother of a Semper Fi, NJ

    Reply

  11. I am a young muslim woman and I have interest to join the U.S.A. Military and I’m just scared that someone would try to harass me. My last name makes me stand out I just want people to know that I am an American as well as a muslim.
    I don’t want people to get the wrong idea of why I would want to join up.
    I want to be an American soldier and still be a good representation for Muslim people in america.

    Reply

    1. Dear sister,

      I often hear the very same sentiments from Muslims wanting to enter the US Military. While I cannot guarantee that there will be no “issues” what I can state is that from my experience as well as many other Muslim veterans and active duty that I know of, it’s a rare occurrence. What many people don’t know is that the US Military well at the Marine Corps from my experience, are professional organizations that are superior in my humble opinion in discipline and respect to it’s members than the civilian workforce. I would not let fears of what could happen deter me if I were sincere in my desire to serve.

      Reply

      1. Asalaamu Alaikum brother 🙂

        my name is Tazeem Hussain and i live in Yuba City, California. Let me first just say that you have become a really great inspiration for me 🙂 i am 17 years old and im just starting my senior year in high school. I was thinking about joining the Marines once i graduate but i am really confused. The thought of having killed another muslim is killing me on the inside. I would say that i try to be the best Muslim i can, and i also pray 5 times. I have wanted to be a soldier ever since i was in elementary school. My parents are from Pakistan and i was born here in the U.S., you don’t think that will be a problem for me if i join the Marines will it? It would be great if you could please give me some advice about the marines.

        Wa Alaikum Asalaam,
        Your Brother 🙂

      2. Wa Alaikum Asalaam Tazeem,

        I have been asked this question a million times, but I will state to be brief, that I never had any problems in the United States Marine Corps practicing my religion. I never encountered any outright disrespect and when there were issues they were swiftly resolved. On the issue of killing fellow Muslims the debate is still open when it comes to serving in the US Military. I personally don’t believe there is any conflict because I believe terrorists are outside the fold of Islam the very moment they embrace an ideology and practice that kills innocent men, women, and children both civilian and military many of whom are Muslims. When you would blow up a Masjid, and kill fellow Muslims in prayer, your not within the fold of Islam anymore. Therefore, fighting against that type of terror is fine if you ask me. Unless someone can prove that the policy of the US Government and Military is to deliberately kill Muslims, than I don’t see the problem. Other opinions may vary. Hope this helps.

        Your brother,

        Robert Salaam

      3. This is one of my foundations for joining the US Military. The way I see it, I will be helping innocent brothers and sisters that are being terrorized by those extremists. Their beliefs have no place in Islam

  12. I’m not afraid of people are going to say to me or about me. I just think
    That I don’t want to feel like I’m the only one and recently I found out there were actually
    a lot of muslim people in the u.s. Military.

    Reply

  13. Salam Aleikum

    Thank you so much Robert for Inspiring me. I knew i was not the only muslim that wants to be a Marine. I am 17 in my Senior year and my new brother who is a Mexican American muslim now will join at the same time together. My brother always tells me what im about to do is very Haram and I shouldn’t do it. But I ignore him because he doesnt know what US military fights for. My other brother is a marine vet served in Iraq and I very well want to follow in his footsteps. Thank you so much!!!!

    Reply

    1. Asalaamu Alaikum brother Salah 🙂

      im 17 and in my senior year also 😀
      we can meet up on the days we have Muslim Services during Basic Training 🙂
      it would be good to meet other Muslims.
      And im joining the Army not Marines, i like the High Tech stuff like Land Warrior more better :p
      im going into Airborne/Rangers and then when i hit 20 into Special Forces 🙂

      Reply

  14.   Why would we trust muslims in the Marines when we know they won’t protect Christians in the war against muslims from Iran or Iraq.  We can’t count on them to watch our backs and therefore we need to help them leave our country along with the one that claims to be our president.  I say show me as actions speak louder then words and the muslims haven’t backed any Christians in the US let alone in a war zone.  We know where our so called president stands as he showed his colors when he ripped off our country for more then 8 trillion dollas and still refuses to tell anyone where it went.
    I say lets get rid of all the muslims in the US.  Give them a few months to leave and the ones we find living here after the givin time we can force them to leave by rowboat.
    I’m one scared American and I have good reason to be.

    Reply

    1. A hard line on any Muslims who support terrorists or try to enforce sharia law in a Western country is the right course However, as you can see from this thread Muslim Americans are placing their lives on the line in defence of America and in offence against ISIL because that is an organization which is a common enemy of all religions including those Muslims who do not subscribe to extremism.

      As for Muslims who commit atrocities against Christians and others a pox on them! But what of Muslims being butchered in Mynar by Buddhists? What of Muslims in Iraq and Syria who have protected Christians and other religions? The Kurds were especially notable for this and most of them are Muslims. Personally I am not a fan of the Koran and I think there is much in it which can be used by extremists. On the other hand many Muslims do not subscribe to hatred of infidels and are peaceful or in war against ISIL. Muslims are being tortured and killed by ISIL/ISIS and they are in common cause with the West. It is clear also that there are Muslims in America who have adopted that country and want to prove their loyalty.

      Reply

  15. Jim, your scared of people you barely understand. Just because a group of people attacked our country, your going to blame all Muslims and hate them? Prejeduce much? Okay, I see your logic. Hate all white people too because they some of them kill people in the US. Hate all Blacks because some of them steal. That’s logical fallacy. You cannot blame an entire group of people because the actions of some. It’s dumb, you need to pull your head out of your ass.
    Suncoast Battalion, Bravo Comp. United States Army ROTC.
     
     

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  16. asalaamu alaikum brother,
     
    is it possible to get my past comments deleted from here? ive become really popular on google

    Reply

  17. @ Robert Saleem
    ” On the issue of killing fellow Muslims the debate is still open when it comes to serving in the US Military. I personally don’t believe there is any conflict because I believe terrorists are outside the fold of Islam the very moment they embrace an ideology and practice that kills innocent men, women, and children both civilian and military many of whom are Muslims.”

    How are people in the military innocent? And how is he U.S killing and fighting terrorist? The War in Iraq and Afghanistan has nothing to do with killing terroist. The citizens of those nations fighting and killing U.S soliders are killing their occupiers not innocent miltary men. The terrosit that blew up the world trade center are not from Afghanistan or Iraq, so what’s the point of jioning the miltary to fight people who will obviously fight back their invaders?

    A Muslims should NEVER jion in in an unjust war. Afghanistan and Iraq itself is unjust. Iraqis and Afghansi have the right to kill and fight off their occupiers. That does not make them terrorist at all. the only war a Muslim American can jion is true war that does not go abroad to steal a nations natural resources or expand their empire.

    Reply

  18. My Name is Jamal Abdullah-Johnson and I was the first Ameer of the first Islamic Community of Camp Lejeune , North Carolina. This was the first formally recognized Islamic community in the Marine. We began in 1978. Not much seems to be known or said about us today but I am sure that information is available to those who would like to know.

    Reply

  19. i am very impressed with what you have/are doing…i am also a muslim and i do not believe in hating all people of specific believe just because of what others are doing, terrorist apearantly are killing people of their own too not just people of other believes but appearently some people are too dum to too brainly washed to understand and see this, while at the same time they dont hate all white people for causing slavery which still exist to this day in so many way, let it just be said that they only like people of their own color because in all other ways they hate and do wrongs to who ever is of a darker tone, yet alone because of their believes, this is a free country free to practice what you believe so why would it be a problem if a muslim person joins the army or marine, and if anybody hates on that than u will for sure know that they are fighting your freedom of believe which is racist/ illegal.. another point is just cus your muslim and someone who is vilount is muslim that does not mean that you will stand for his wrong,, but if he is fighting for him freedom of religion and he is being attacked for it than he can defend himself, it kills me how some people here in the us are such heboracts, all they worry about is themselfs, their color and making all only their own believes to be true, wake the fuck up we are all human beings with same hearts and bleed da same way, im a muslim , your a christin, and he is a jew we are all fighting the people with no believe who claim to kill in da name of god and who are killing innocent people, stop judging them by their religion at the end god’s judging is what matters not yours , you do you and take care of the bad people but dont crusify all muslims da way jesus was crusified for bringing a massage to help the people…just remember that will be judged by god and special for all the wrong accusations you make and specialy if its against a rightous person and you dont even know it,,, to the writer of this article,  i wana thank you for serving us and protecting the people, stand strong for what you believe specially in ur believe in allah he will never let you down, and congrats for joining the last reveliations of truth

    Reply

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