Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Guled Kassim on Fort Hood and Muslims in the Military

Guled Kassim, a former candidate for District 19 Delegate, a current candidate for a County Council at-large seat and an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, sent us these remarks about our post on anti-Muslim bigotry in the Washington Post’s comment section.


I think it took some level of nerve on your part to post about how blind anger can transform into a hateful blanket that one can choose to apply over millions of people. I guess if you look hard enough, you can see that applied to any minority community.

I am a Somali-American, a Muslim, and a veteran of the Unites States Marine Corps. I guess with the insanity of folks on the right… I am a potential “inside” bad guy or worse.

But your blog made me think and see if I can add my 2 cents.

First, the pirates. In the past two years, I think I’ve heard every pirate joke that anyone can think of. Really…the funniest are the ones that do the joke in entirely Somali-accented English (which I’ve been told is somewhere between an Arabic and an Eastern European person speaking English). A memorable one had me being related to Captain Jack Sparrow and it fit nicely with me being a Marine and all. I enjoy a good joke – but somehow tying these pirates to the Fort Hood shooting is not even a stretch, it is outright stupid.

The reality of these pirates is only a symptom of a larger problem in much of Africa that is far too complex to pigeonhole as “Islamic Terrorism.” These “pirates” in Somalia could care less about your religion. Folks on the right forget about the small thing called a civil war in Somalia. And they never talk about how in a country with no weapons factories and in the midst of a civil war, that these people are able to get their hands on advanced weaponry and GPS-guided speedboats to head off ships. But thinking isn’t part of convenient labels.

As for Muslims in the military… oh boy. Talking to some of these “non-thinkers” you’d think that being a Muslim and a member of the military is an oxymoron. When one joins the military, he/she takes an oath that says in part, “solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and goes on to say, “I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

Look, I am not a religious expert. Most of us who adhere to one religion or another aren’t experts. The experts are the Priests, Rabbis, Preachers, Imams, etc. They can do the theological discussions etc…. but for me, as a U.S. Marine, the oath was the most serious moment in my entire enlistment – bar none. Not the deployments. Not the various training exercises. And for someone to break that oath – well, it says something about that person individually and not the group of folks that the person belongs to.

I know you’ve all heard of the “band of bothers” concept – but the bond of “brotherhood” is really amazing. I am still close with folks that I served with for only a three-month period from over 13 years ago! Again, for someone to go after folks that they serve with the intent to kill… in essence their brothers/sisters… is a telling mark on that person.

I was at a dinner this past Saturday night (a veterans day dinner at that) and listened as two well-meaning DEMOCRATS sitting at my table argued about the merits of “allowing” Muslims to serve in the military. When I jumped in, I asked if they served in the military and one of them had the gall to say, “I was in the boy scouts so I have some idea of what goes on.” The boy scouts! I wanted to explain to them that I served in the military as a Muslim and about the bond of kinship etc, but I just couldn’t follow up the boy scouts comment.

I guess if I mentioned that I served in the Marine Corps, was deployed and earned medals and awards, they wouldn’t believe me outright!

When I could break in their amazing conversation a few minutes later, I asked if either of them knew a Muslim person or a person who served in the military. Neither knew a veteran or someone currently serving, but one of two had the most memorable line of the night for me when he said that he doesn't know enough about Muslims to make a general comment and said “but my dentist is a Muslim” - which eclipsed the boy scouts comment by the other guy.

So for the price of the dinner, I got good food and entertainment and a lesson... non-thinkers can be Democrats too.