On Saturday afternoon, in the 209th commencement at a historic campus dotted with monuments to famous generals, Faraz Bala will graduate from West Point.

The Snohomish man is a rare Muslim in his class of 900 cadets, whose four years at the U.S. Military Academy overlapped with the war in Iraq.

His father, Marysville restaurant owner Shabbir Bala, thinks the government unnecessarily targets American followers of Islam. In the fight against terrorism, the elder Bala said, “the people you really want on your side is a Muslim.”

But Faraz Bala — a 22-year-old distance runner who enjoys snowboarding, bowling, cliff jumping and watching foreign films — views himself as “just a normal guy like all the rest of my classmates,” not the face of Islam in the military.

That sentiment is embodied in one of his sayings: “I’m an American, I’m a soldier, and I just happen to be a Muslim.”


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