Source: Huffington post
Muslim Americans have served in the U.S. Armed Forces since the days of George Washington. They have fought and died alongside Americans of all religions, races and creeds, yet Islamophobes like Donald Trump continue to question their patriotism.
It’s high time America heard their stories.
An upcoming documentary, titled “Muslim Military Stories,” highlights Muslim Americans who have served in the military in the years since September 11, 2001. Director David Washburn combined two interests he had previously worked on ― veterans and Muslim Americans ― to capture this unique subset of the Armed Forces.
“The thinking was that Muslim American veterans and service members occupy a really powerful space and can speak to issues ― like shared sacrifice, discrimination, religious freedom ― in ways non-Muslims will really tune in to,” Washburn told The Huffington Post.
Case in point, he said, is the Khans’ story, which has dominated much of American news media over the last week since Khizr Khan’s powerful DNC speech about his son, Humayun, and Donald Trump’s unflattering response.
“Through [Muslim veterans’] stories, we witness how the altruistic values we hold are starkly contrasted with the dark tones and fear that others speak of, like Trump,” Washburn said. “The two come together and make such a clear choice, that it can’t be ignored.”
“So with this project,” he added, “I aim to amplify the voices of Muslim Americans vets and service members, so we meet more characters like the Khans.”
Nearly 6,000 Muslims currently serve in the U.S. military, according to the Department of Defense. That number could be much higher, though, taking into account the 400,000 service members who have not reported their faith.
Muslim troops have cause to be wary of coming forward about their faith. The country has witnessed an increasing culture of Islamophobia, spurred on by public figures like Trump who have helped push the needle on mainstream anti-Muslim sentiment.
In November, Trump suggested that Muslims should be registered in a database and carry special identification cards. He has also called for a “complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States.
Sadly, more than half of Americans share Trump’s negative view of Islam. “Muslim Military Stories” aims to aptly address the question: “How can we ask Muslim Americans to fight for freedom abroad while their rights are abused at home?”
Many Republicans and service members denounced Trump’s response to the Khan family and praised the sacrifice of Humayun, who was killed while serving in the Army in Iraq ― but day to day life for Muslims in the military is still complicated.
The military prohibits troops from sporting facial hair (except on a case by case basis) which many Muslim men do to honor the Prophet Muhammad. Then there’s the difficulty of finding halal food in military facilities, and the fact that, according toThe New York Times, only five out of roughly 2,900 Army chaplains are imams.
For Tian Soepangat, a Muslim Navy veteran featured in a clip on the “Muslim Military Stories” website, the uncertainty over how his faith would be received led him to hide it from his fellow sailors for years.