James “Yusuf” Yee is optimistic about the Muslim community’s progress in America, despite what he calls the widespread erosion of civil liberties in the nation.

Yee spoke to an audience of about 250 Tuesday night at the University of Florida. He told the story of his service in the U.S. Army as a Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo Bay, his 76-day detainment and eventual honorable discharge from the service.

“What happened to me was a gross miscarriage of justice,” he said.

Yee, a third-generation Chinese American and graduate of West Point Military Academy, rejoined the Army in January 2001 as a Muslim chaplain.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, he said, Army leaders asked him to field soldiers’ questions about the little-understood religion of Islam.

“I received an extraordinary amount of recognition,” he said. “Perhaps it was this recognition that got me hand-picked, selected, to be the Muslim chaplain in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”

When he arrived in 2002, he said there were about 660 prisoners, all of whom were Muslims. He ministered not only to the detainees, but also to American Muslim servicemen, many of whom were translators.

Because he had unlimited access to the prisoners, he said he learned the methods of interrogation used against them.

“Gitmo’s secret weapon was the use of religion against these prisoners,” he said.


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