While serving their country, they find time to pray to Allah at least five times a day.
On Fridays, they recite their Jumah prayers in community worship, whether at the Camp Foster Chapel masjid on Okinawa or at a room set aside for them in the base chapel at Misawa Air Base, Japan.
Like other members of faith groups in the minority among U.S. troops, their numbers at Pacific bases overseas are small. But their religion is center stage in the U.S.-led war against terrorism and Islamic extremism.
Things have changed for Muslim servicemembers since Sept. 11, 2001 — not necessarily for the worse.
They get more questions from mostly curious — but sometimes sarcastic — colleagues about their beliefs, and some have searched their souls for answers on how their faith squares up with military duty in this current war.
But even as some American Muslims continue to report discrimination and other difficulties in the United States since the Sept. 11 attacks, some U.S. Muslim servicemembers in the Pacific said they haven’t experienced any collective backlash.
They said they openly practice their religion without fear of ostracism or discrimination and report few, if any, incidents of unfair treatment.
“It’s never been an issue,” said Keith Cherry, a U.S. Air Force technical sergeant with the 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Misawa Air Base. “I’ve always been forthright about being a Muslim.”
Cherry, 34, from Louisa, Va., recalls how the military reached out to support him after Sept. 11. He was stationed at Langley Air Force Base, Va. After the attacks, his chief enlisted manager, someone who didn’t share Cherry’s faith but often discussed religion with him, called him and said that if Cherry got so much as a bad look, “I needed to route it up to him,” Cherry recalled. “I never got any bad stares or anything.”
“We’ve got protection,” said Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Hafiz Camp, a building administrator for Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron One, First Marine Aircraft Wing, on Okinawa’s Camp Foster, and a practicing Muslim. “We’ve got equal opportunity advisers at each level of the command that closely monitor activities of discrimination. In the civilian world, it’s not that easy. It’s a very serious issue in the military, and it’s not tolerated.” [Link]
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