MUSLIM FACE OF THE US MARINES
Navy Lieutenant Commander Abuhena Saifulislam welcomes everyone with a broad smile and prefers to be called “Chaplain Saif”.
He is the only Muslim chaplain in the elite US Marine Corps, and one of only two in the US Navy overall.
It is a classic immigrant’s tale. He arrived in America from Bangladesh at the end of the 1980s, with a masters degree in business and every intention to serve Wall Street, not his newly adopted country.
As a boy, he had always been fascinated by movie sequences featuring white naval uniforms of the World War II and the code of honour they represented.
“When my family came to know that the navy was going to accept me, they were thrilled,” he says, talking in his spacious new home, a short commute from Washington DC.
“I am living the American Dream,” he is proud to admit. But his importance as a military role model and ambassador extends way beyond cars, kitchens and new living room suites in suburban Virginia.
There may be more than 100 faiths represented now throughout the armed services, but no relationship is more sensitive than the one between the Pentagon and Islam.