VA: Muslim Cadet Balances God and Countries


NORFOLK — “Car-ry co-lors!”

The order echoes in the Norview High School gymnasium. A Naval Junior ROTC cadet, flanked by another with a rifle, pops a Virginia flag into the air.

“No, go back down,” the unit’s executive officer, Zishan Hameed, tells one of the cadets. “As big as that flag is, man, come on. Make some noise.” The underclassmen, soon joined by two others, march around and around the gym, and Zishan follows.

“You’re leaning forward.”

“Pick your knees up.”

“If one person goes fast, all y’all got to go fast.”

Zishan is 16. His voice, even his command voice, sounds more boy than man. His black uniform coat, weighed down by braids, bars and medals, hangs loose over his 5-foot-7-inch frame. A scratchy m ustache sprouts on his upper lip.

Zishan shaves it off for some ROTC events but always grows it back to honor his Pakistani heritage. It’s one way Zishan balances his worlds: that of a first-generation American and that of a gung-ho high school cadet.

He is Muslim, and he’s looking to make a career in the U.S. military, where today’s enemy worships the same god he does.

 


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