Muslims in the Military: The Few, the Proud, the Welcome

03MUSLIMGI1-web-master768When Donald J. Trump said last fall that he would consider making Muslims in the United States carry special identification cards, Tayyib Rashid reached into his wallet and pulled out his military ID, then posted a picture of it online, adding:

“Hey @realDonaldTrump, I’m an American Muslim and I already carry a special ID badge. Where’s yours?”

Now, Mr. Rashid, who served five years in the Marine Corps infantry, deploying three times, has been outraged again by Mr. Trump.

This time it is because of the Republican presidential candidate’s disparaging comments about Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of an Army captain killed by a car bomb in Iraq in 2004, who criticized Mr. Trump’s proposed policies toward Muslims at the Democratic National Convention.

The episode “brought tears to my eyes,” Mr. Rashid said. “These are people who sacrificed their own child, their own blood.”

But, he said, his anger is tempered by his own experience in the military, where people were overwhelmingly accepting and supportive.

“I experienced nothing but love and camaraderie from all the Marines I served with,” said Mr. Rashid, who joined the Marines in 1997. “I was often the first Muslim many of them had ever met, but there was no racism, no bigotry. It doesn’t really matter your faith: We were all Marines first.”

Still, as Mr. Rashid acknowledges, Muslims in the military face numerous challenges. For one, 15 years of war in Muslim countries has made serving in the military a cultural minefield. Among some non-Muslim soldiers, Islam itself, not extremism, is often seen as the problem.

In interviews, Muslim soldiers said they had all encountered at one time or another what one called “knucklehead” comments equating them with terrorists. Things got worse after 13 people were killed at Fort Hood in 2009 by a Muslim Army psychiatrist who said America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were wars against all Muslims.



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