What’s one of the coolest honors any Marine could ever ask for? Maybe a seat next to his Commandant? Well, that’s exactly what took place Thursday, June 7th! I had the honor to invite and host the 37th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, General Robert B. Neller at my Mosque in Baltimore (Masjid Bait Us Samad). Here are my introductory remarks just before he (the Commandant) took the stage.
Last week I had one of the coolest times a Veteran could ask for — spend time with other US Military Veterans! I have to say, much of the credit goes to Retired US Marine Corps LtCol Veteran Scott Cooper who once again brought together an extraordinary group of Veterans from all branches of service to serve as “Leaders” under Veterans For American Ideals (VFAI).
The mission has been simple, use our voices as Veterans and our unique platform to bring people together! That’s something I can totally resonate with! But it doesn’t stop there, as “Leaders” with VFAI we work together to fight hate, bigotry and islamaphobia across the Nation. In addition, one of our other missions under VFAI has been to work with legislators on both sides of the aisle to keep the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) front and center staying true to our word and bringing back to the US those Iraqi and Afghani translators who sacrificed there lives working side-by-side with our Armed Forces to support our mission. All in all, it was awesome to have the chance to spend a few days with my fellow Veterans!
Today I had a cool opportunity to join fellow Muslim Veterans from each of the US Armed Forces at Muslim Television Ahmadiyya (MTA) Studios in Silver Spring, Maryland. Yes, the Army, Air Force, Navy and of course, “the few, the proud, the Marines” were all represented! We reflected and shared our unique experiences as Muslim Americans in the Armed Forces. Without a doubt, I can honestly say that each of one of us enjoyed serving and being part of that 1% of the US population that raised its hands to defend this great Nation against “all enemies, foreign and domestic.” We all agreed, it was very “Muslim” of us to have served the Nation we call home.
Today I had the honor to meet the man in charge of Marine Corps University in Quantico, VA - Brigadier General William Bowers. I can say without a doubt, there was immediate synergy as soon as we met each other in his office. General Bowers and I discussed a whole host of issues and challenges that pertain to ever-changing 21st century. All in all, it was a fruitful meeting. I have a feeling we’re going to be working together closely!
Today I spent my time in Washington as part of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s “Day on The Hill” Program. As a persecuted group, the Community has always felt a special responsibility to stand by others facing persecution - whether it be Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists - the list continues. This year we focused mainly on Rohingya Muslims, a community being persecuted to the extent of ethnic cleansing under the watch of the Myanmar Government. It was refreshing to be a part of such a delegation, to say the least!
I spent this Thanksgiving Eve in Trenton, New Jersey. Per usual, I went out with my sign and talked to locals about True Islam, why being a Marine goes hand in hand with being a Muslim, and more. Wishing a very Happy Thanksgving to everyone reading!
This week I headed down to Charlottesville - home of UVA and the recent White Supremacist protest. Despite the cold weather, I was met with a warm welcome from locals, who asked me all sorts of questions!
I visited both North and South Carolina this week! I spent time in Charlotte and Columbia, respectively. While there, I made sure to emphasize that, just like the Propeht Muhammad (sa), my purpose is not to convert anyone, but to spread the message! The people I met in Charlotte and Columbia were receptive to my message of True Islam, asking engaging questions and showing that they too stand on the side of peace!
This week I traveled down south to give a talk at Westminster College in Missouri. This is the 19th state I've visited! While there, I took to the streets of Missouri with my sign and conversed with locals about true Islam!
This Saturday, the youth auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community held a nationwide "Meet a Muslim" day. Our Baltimore chapter took to the streets of the Inner Harbor, and since it was so fitting, I brought out the Muslim Marine sign. It felt good to talk to fellow Baltimoreans about Islam, especially with my Muslim brothers by my side!
This week I hit New England, raising my grand total to 18/50 states visited!
My first stop was Rhode Island on August 13th.
I moved on to New Hampshire the next day.
I finished off the three day tour in Massachusetts.
This week I visited the beautiful state of California & answered questions from locals and tourists on Hollywood Blvd!
This month I hit to road to meet locals in two more states, bringing my grand total to 13 of 50 states. Slowly but surely, I'm getting there!
Here are a few photos of me in Milwaukee on July 12.
The day before that, I headed to downtown Chicago to meet some folks and change some minds. And while in the Windy City, I spoke at the Roosevelt University.
Recently, a news crew from PBS Newshour joined me on a trip into Baltimore's Inner Harbor, where I met passersby on the street with my "I'm a Muslim and a U.S. Marine, Ask Anything" sign. You can watch PBS's video about my work here.
Last week I also had the opportunity to travel to New York City, where I took my sign downtown. A team from BuzzFeed joined me there – watch their video here.
Making these trips to meet real Americans on the ground has been such a rewarding and educational experience. I'm planning to make similar trips to D.C. and Philadelphia shortly – stay tuned for updates!
Earlier this month I spent some time in Houston and Denver, as part of a quasi-tour I'm doing across the country while carrying a sign reading "I'm Muslim and a Marine. Ask anything." Over the past couple of days I had the opportunity to spend some time and spread some love in the beautiful cities of Portland, Oregon...
It was such an amazing experience to meet and interact with you all there. I learned so much, and can only hope you took just as much away from our encounters, too.
I'm back at home on the East Coast now. Insha'Allah – God willing – I plan to hit the downtown Baltimore and New York City this week! If you're in the area then, keep an eye on my Twitter feed. I'll be updating you all with more information there.
For the past week or so I've been doing some traveling around the country. While in Houston and Denver, I decided to take to the streets with a sign reading "I'm a Muslim U.S. Marine. Ask anything." I was joined by my good friend Harris Zafar, the author of Demystifying Islam.
You can watch a live Periscope of our work in Houston here.
You can watch a live Periscope of our work in Denver here.
This was totally unlike anything I've done before, whether it's here in Baltimore or virtually via Periscope. I've been so moved by the reactions and responses of the people I meet on the ground that I'm considering branching out for a full U.S. tour. (I spoke about that a little on my interview with NPR today – you can listen to that here.) So if you're interested in collaborating with me in your city, university, place of worship or organization, please reach out to me. Let's work together.