When Donald Trump made derogatory remarks about Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of an Army captain killed by a car bomb in Iraq in 2004, it sent radioactive waves throughout the Muslim community, especially those in the military. The incident “brought tears to my eyes,” says Tayyib Rashid who served five years in the Marine Corps. “These are people who sacrificed their own child, their own blood.”
Mr. Rashid says his own personal experience in the military is a far different story. “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.”
But Mr. Rashid recognizes that Muslims in the military face unique challenges – with fifteen years of wars in Muslim countries, some non-Muslim soldiers have a difficult time separating the faith from those that have hijacked the religion for extremist purposes. Muslim soldiers say that they have confronted “knucklehead” comments associating them with terrorists
Muslims serve in all branches of the military — as officers, combat troops, interpreters and intelligence gatherers. According to the Pentagon, there are just 3,939 troops that list their faith as Islam, making up a tiny 0.3 percent of the military.
Captain Kassim is of Palestinian descent and says that he’s felt nothing but support from the military since he was a cadet. “The Army minimizes differences and rewards achievement, and I really thrived in that.”