VIA| After Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States, Independent Journal reached out to Mohammed Shaker, a 26-year old Army veteran, to discuss his experience serving in the military as a practicing Muslim.
Shaker, a Florida-born Egyptian-American who also spent time in the Middle East growing up, enlisted in 2008 and was deployed to Iraq in the 82nd Airborne as a combat medic, while also using his fluency in Arabic to teach members of the Iraqi military emergency medical training.
Shaker told the Independent Journal that he did not face the prejudice he expected upon joining the military:
“I thought I would be mistreated in the military and a lot of fellow Muslims, Muslim Arabs, have expressed that to me. But I never really felt discriminated against.”
A former Specialist in the Army, Shaker recounted his relationship with Chaplain (Captain) Richard Hill at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he was stationed while serving:
“He would really always come by and made sure that I had what I need taken care of. If I needed a Quran, he would help me find one. When it came to Ramadan, and the other Islamic holidays, he would come to me the day before and ask if I need anything, without me saying anything to anybody because I never really advertised that sort of thing.”
Independent Journal reached out to Hill, a Protestant Chaplain in the United States Army, who emphasized the importance of freedom of religion:
“One of the fundamental truths that the Army Chaplain Corps holds is the right of every faith tradition to worship in the manner most meaningful to them. This is tied to every American’s First Amendment right.”
“If I, as a Christian, protect the rights of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. to worship in their way, then I am also protecting my own right to worship in the way most meaningful to me. One of the best qualities of the military is our ability to work side by side toward a common goal, despite differences in faith, history, political ideology, or anything else.”
According to Department of Defense numbers recently cited by ABC News, there are currently 5,896 members of the military who self-identify as Muslims. This number includes active-duty members, reservists, and National Guard, meaning Muslims make up approximately .28% of the United States military.
But ABC News also notes that 400,000 service members did not declare their faith, which means the .28% statistic is probably higher.
Shaker is a strong supporter of both Senator Rand Paul and his father, former Congressman Ron Paul, as well as an active member of the libertarian group Young Americans for Liberty.
In a recent appearance on CNN to discuss Trump’s Muslim ban, the host asked Shaker if he would still serve in the military under a hypothetical President Trump. He elaborated on his answer to Independent Journal:
“Yeah, my answer is I would definitely serve if Donald Trump was the president. It doesn’t matter who the president is. It could be George Bush, Barack Obama, or Reagan. As long as we’re doing our job, as the military to protect and defend the Constitution, here and abroad, that’s all that really matters to me.”
Shaker added, “Otherwise, it doesn’t really matter who the president is as long as they don’t issue any unconstitutional order, then it doesn’t matter.”