LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Capt. Jason Merchant, the company commander of Company A, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Ironman from Dysart, Iowa, hands out cards Dec. (click for more)
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Spc. Lauren Hyman of Texarkana, Texas, armored vehicle driver for the 64th Military Police Company based at Combat Oupost Fortress, says hello to an (click for more)
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Taylor Gingrich, an infantry officer from Cedar Falls, Iowa, with Task Force Ironman, draws a smile from an Afghan boy as Gingrich (click for more)
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Spc. Brian Stowe, a human resources specialist from Elkmont, Ala., with Task Force Knighthawk, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, sings a ballad he wrote and (click for more)
PAKTYA, Afghanistan – Servicemembers defend the wall after an improvised explosive device detonates on Forward Operating Base Lightning Dec. 5. (click for more)
KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan and French military chiefs conduct a briefing before deployment during a security operation. Afghan National Security Forces and French Task Force Richelieu conducted Operation Montevideo (click for more)
PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Phil Compton, Doty, Wash., Panjshir PRT engineer, and PRT local Afghan engineer Abid Wardak check the structural integrity of the retaining (click for more)
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – An Afghan family looks at their new family member after she was delivered by the Polish Army medical team at Forward Operating Base Warrior Jan. 3. (click for more)
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, maneuver through Sabari District during patrols to disrupt insurgent activity in the (click for more)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Sgt. Shawn Fouste, Decatur, Ill., noncommissioned officer in charge of the Freedom Restoration Center with the 455th Expeditionary Wing, Task Force Med, plays with (click for more)
Sept. 11, 2001: As an exchange student in Thailand, I sat in my host-family’s living room watching the destruction of the twin towers.
August 2006: While attending the University of California, Sacramento, and majoring in religious studies, I converted to Islam.
Dec. 11, 2007: I began my first day of U.S. Air Force basic military training.
Oct. 19, 2010: I traveled to Afghanistan for my first deployment.
Although Islam is the second-largest religion in the world and in the U.S., Islam seems to stay a constant mystery.
Many people may believe that being a Muslim in the U.S. military is a rarity. Many people may also believe I receive harassment from my military peers. The reality is I am not the only Muslim in the U.S Military.
Americans may not realize that the military is made up of a very diverse pool of individuals from various backgrounds and religions. According to official figures in 2009, approximately 3,500 Muslims serve in the U.S. military. Servicemembers may put any religious preference on their dog tags as long as it is an officially recognized religion.
Meals-Ready-to-Eat, more commonly known as MREs, are available in kosher and halal, food prepared according to Judaic and Islamic law. Most military installations provide a variety of religious services and some servicemembers receive cultural and religious briefings before deploying. Also, both active-duty and veteran military members put together online support groups for specific religious denominations.
This diversity throughout the military almost forces servicemembers to respect a variety of cultures and religions. Without this religious tolerance, the military work environment would be very uncomfortable and very little would be accomplished.
You may have the misconception that as a Muslim it is easier for me to embrace my faith here in Afghanistan. However, this is not the case. As a practicing Muslim, having earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies with a minor in Middle East and Islamic studies, in some aspects identifying with Islam in Afghanistan is more difficult.
I am currently located in a very rural part of Afghanistan and faced with so-called Islamic beliefs that are in actuality deeply rooted cultural, tribal beliefs. Also, the area’s literacy rate is so low that a majority of Afghans are unable to read the Quran, Islam’s sacred book, let alone receive a formal Islamic education.
Unfortunately, the lack of Islamic knowledge within the Muslim population itself helps support the spread of Islamic stereotypes that fuel Islamophobia within the U.S and around the world.
As a Muslim convert it has been an advantage to study Islam without the influences of Islamic cultures. The fact that I was born and raised in the U.S. as a Christian has, in my opinion, given me the ability to freely interact between the two extremes of Islamic and American culture, and ultimately given me great advantages and understanding.
It is my wish that one day those who are not in the military will be able to understand and accept Muslims as the military has accepted me.
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|Afghan forces, TF Bastogne continue operations in Sherzad District|
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces and Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Task Force Bastogne, continued operations in the Sherzad District Jan. 8 clearing the village of Toto of insurgent fighters to reinforce a foundation of security in the area.
|TF Iron eliminates insurgent IED team|
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Soldiers form Task Force Iron Rakkasan and members of the Afghan Uniformed police, using the Precision Threat Detection System blimp at Forward Operating Base Andar, identified a group of insurgents with weapons and explosives Jan. 3.
|TF Iron Rakkasan uses PTDS to prevent highway robbery|
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Recently, Soldiers from Task Force Iron Rakkasan watched a member of the Afghan Uniformed Police conduct an illegal checkpoint on the route between Ghazni and Sharana. Using the camera system on the Persistent Threat Detection System, Soldiers observed a man standing in the road collecting money from vehicles. The practice is common by insurgents who fund their attacks by taking money from locals.
|Joint operation helps clear Sherzad of insurgent activity|
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces and Soldiers from Task Force Bastogne began operations in the Sherzad District Dec. 23.