Muslim-American veteran defends her faith and her country

seattle muslimMujaahidah Sayfullah is one of thousands of Muslim-American military veterans. But her perspective differs from many. She converted to Islam after serving in the Army and sees the world differently than when she wore a soldier’s uniform.

For Mujaahidah Sayfullah, Veterans Day is a time to express appreciation for those who protect the country and its freedoms.

“I’m very fortunate to have all my limbs,” said Sayfullah, who served in the U.S. Army for six years in the 1990s. “We have a lot of wounded warriors, and I like to acknowledge those who endured a lot more damage than I did.”

“There was no divide because we were all soldiers,” she said. “In the military you become like family, and there are no barriers with regards to race or socio-economic status. The only divide is rank.”

 

Sayfullah is one of thousands of Muslim-American military veterans. Their ranks include the likes of Khalid Lites, a third-generation Army veteran who lives in Shoreline. But Sayfullah’s perspective may differs from others, including the 4,275 Muslims the Pentagon reports are in active duty. She converted to Islam after serving.

She sees the world differently now than when she wore an Army uniform.

She’s been called names by strangers, thrown out of a courtroom for wearing a hijab, or traditional Muslim head scarf, and gotten suspicious looks, she said, at the V.A. hospital.

She grew up “spoiled rotten,” she said, in a Southern Baptist household in Tacoma. Her name was Teressa McCullough. She shocked her family when she enlisted at a recruiting office and shipped out to basic training in South Carolina.

“I just wanted to see the world and serve the country,” she said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SEATTLE TIMES

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He’s faced death threats for being Muslim. Now he’s taking on Trump

636450710448553140--39I2254IMRAAN SIDDIQI, WHO GREW UP IN GEORGIA WITH SOUTHERN MANNERS, IS AN ARIZONA CIVIL-RIGHTS ACTIVIST FIGHTING THE PRESIDENT’S TRAVEL BAN.

Khizr Khan: the patriotic American Muslim who called out Donald Trump

5109It remains a defining image of last year’s US presidential election. Khizr Khan, speaking at the Democratic national convention with his wife, Ghazala, by his side, produced a copy of the constitution from his jacket pocket, held it up for all to see, and offered to lend it to the then Republican candidate Donald Trump. It also remains the most eloquent response to Trump’s bigotry.

Khan, who grew up in a small village in Pakistan, was talking about the sacrifice his son Humayun had made for his country – America. Humayun was killed aged 27 in Iraq 13 years ago, protecting his men from suicide bombers. He is buried at Arlington cemetery, Virginia, alongside so many other war heroes, and was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

“We are honoured to stand here as parents of Captain Humayun Khan and as patriotic American Muslims,” Khan began. He continued: “Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you, have you even read the United States constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law’.” Still addressing Trump, he asked: “Have you ever been to Arlington cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing – and no one.”

FULL ARTICLE WITH VIDEO FROM THE GUARDIAN (UK)

A Muslim American’s Homecoming: Cowboys, Country Music, Chapatis

01homecoming1-superJumboThe conversion took place on Honky-Tonk Row, my baptism a glaze of midsummer Tennessee sweat anointing my forehead. Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon is a tabernacle for line-dancing disciples, and I was in communion with the gyrating congregation.

“Shuffle, shuffle, turn to your left.”

“Right, left, right — there ya go!”

I have a strong respect for choreographed mass dancing; I grew up with the understanding that seminal moments in Bollywood films must be commemorated with synchronized hip shaking. The Wildhorse was a divine revelation — white people, they’re just like us!

There I was, a Yankee of Indian extraction who had always dismissed country music without a second listen, tearing through Nashville’s Lower Broadway — swaying along to cover bands at Tootsie’s and Robert’s Western World and perusing star-spangled cowboy gear at Boot Country.

My visit to the South was long overdue. I’ve lived in five countries on three continents, but the United States has always been the unifying thread; my America is diverse and dynamic and molded by immigrants. But how well did I really know it? Last fall, when I returned from a four-year stint as an expat in South Africa, I deplaned into unfamiliar territory. There was an acrid, unseen fog looming: two weeks later came Election Day.

President Trump began his term with a travel ban on certain Muslim-majority countries; this week he’s expanding that diktat, and in what’s become the hallmark of a turbulent presidency, no one has any clue what’s next. As a Muslim American immigrant, am I just a few 140-character proclamations away from having my citizenship revoked? But fear also sparked curiosity. To me, “Wyoming” sounds foreign and peculiar, spilling lazily off the tongue like a yawn and evoking in my mind the wild terrain someone else might associate with a Zimbabwe or Mozambique. What’s exotic to me isn’t food gilded with turmeric and six-day weddings — it’s grits and rodeos. How much time did I have left to experience them?

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Lower Broadway, Nashville. CreditRobert Rausch for The New York Times

I wondered if, given Mr. Trump’s rhetoric, I would feel like a foreigner in my own home. So I hit the road over the Fourth of July to see how much of an outsider I really was.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

In many ways, Muslim men and women see life in America differently

FT_17.08.03_muslim_men_women_MP_featured.jpgWhile many Muslims express wariness and anxiety about aspects of their lives in theFT_17.08.03_muslim_men_women United States, Muslim women tend to be more pessimistic about their place in U.S. society than Muslim men.

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, more Muslim women than men say it has become more difficult to be Muslim in the U.S. in recent years (57% vs. 43%).

And Muslim women are more divided on their acceptance by society at large than are men. Half (52%) of Muslim women say they have a lot in common with most Americans and 44% view the American people as friendly toward Muslim Americans, compared with two-thirds of Muslim men who say each of these things.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PEW RESEARCH

Reza Aslan Argues: There Is No Divide Between Islam and American Culture

US-POLITICS-TRUMP-PROTESTReligion comes in countless forms, depending either on the soil from which that religion arose or the soil in which it was planted. What we call Christianity in America is not what Guatemalans call Christianity. It’s not what Iraqis call Christianity. What we call Islam in the United States is vastly different from Islam in Iran or Saudi Arabia or Nigeria or Indonesia.

The notion that religion clashes with a culture is a misunderstanding of what religion is, but, more specifically, the idea that Islam clashes with American culture is just foolishness, naiveté, and lies. There is no clash between Islam and American culture. In fact, there is no clash between any religion and any culture because religions are inextricably linked to culture.

Think of it this way: Culture is like a vessel, and religion is like water — it simply takes the shape of whatever vessel you pour it into. And this is why the prosperity gospel — the notion that what Jesus really wants for you is to drive a Bentley — can exist in the United States, and why the liberation gospel — the notion that Jesus was a warrior who fought oppression and poverty — exists in El Salvador. Both versions of Christianity are equally valid. They’re just dependent on the culture of the community to which they belong.

When you look at Islam in the United States what you see is an overwhelmingly moderate version of Islam, but more interestingly what you see is a highly individualistic form of the religion. Islam is a religion that often advantages the community over the individual, but in the United States, where the culture is rooted in radical individualism, you see a radically individualistic Islam forming. An Islam that, in America, is not beholden to traditions or to the consensus of Muslim scholars and Islamic trains of thought that came before — it is an Islam that is innovative. You have a version of Islam that is vibrantly feminist. You have a version of Islam that promotes gay and lesbian spirituality. You have versions of Islam that are quite pluralistic and democratic. And in every one of these cases, what you see is a religion that has married itself fully into culture.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE

Muslim ‘Twoness’: Fearful Of Some, Feared By Others

npr-twoness_wide-2388905bcfc7763435cbd54c9a1cf7e15e00c33b-s800-c85He leaned against the subway doors in a faded denim jacket, camo cargo pants, combat boots and, to top it off, a black ski mask. I wondered if he had a gun. I wondered if he was a white supremacist. I wondered if he had seen my friend and me, with our brown skin and black hair. Our Islamic faith and immigrant parents — could he somehow see that, too?

Was it me, or were his eyes darting up and down the crowded subway car? I yanked on my friend’s sleeve and raised my mouth to his ear.

“We have to get out of here,” I said.

I told him to hop off the train with me at the next stop and get back on, three cars up the platform.

Many of us have grown used to the suspicion. Amid a wave of frightful attacks carried out by extremist Muslims across America and Europe, everyday Muslims fear we’ll suffer reprisals for a violent ideology that we, too, find abhorrent.

It feels as though we’re being tested daily — like anyone who sees us on the street or in the store is deciding our ideology for us. Some have made the painful decision to forgo aspects of their faith in an attempt to ward off assaults. Others are afraid to leave their homes.

I have lived a life praying it wouldn’t come to this. I never wanted to believe that I am threatened because of who I am. But recent events have made me think that I really don’t belong in the land of my birth.

No one has articulated this paradox for me quite as well as the late scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, who called it the “peculiar sensation” of “double-consciousness.” It is “this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others,” Du Bois wrote in The Souls of Black Folk, his seminal work on race in America. It’s a way “of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM NPR