By Shelby Brown—

U of L’s Engage Lead Serve Board hosted “The Muslim Marine” Mansoor Shams March 21. Shams travels across the country to speak his time in the U.S. Marine Corps as an American Muslim.

“You have a man before you, before your very eyes claiming Islam, claiming American, claiming U.S. Marine all at the same time. How can this be?” Shams asked.

Islamic faith impacted Sham’s four years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“I served this country because it was the most natural thing for me to do,” he said. “Loyalty to my country of residence is a part of my faith. It’s actually taught by Islam.”

Shams addressed Donald Trump and ISIS, making the distinction from Islam.

“You may have heard the phrase #notmypresident,” he said. “That is not my stance at all. That is not how Islam as a religion commands me to operate. The Holy Quran teaches us something quite different: to not create disorder, to obey people in authority above you, even when you disagree.”

Shams says that one person or group will not define his America. He believes the same logic should be applied to ISIS.

“This is where the dilemma begins, which shouldn’t really be a dilemma but it is,” he said. “Ruthless killers, murderers killing innocents … creating havoc. Whether it’s a Muslim or not. ISIS has killed more Muslims than any other faith group, that is a fact.”

Shams still speaks a message of hope.

“I know it’s rough out there,” he said speaking to the Muslims in the audience, “If you’re a Muslim man, my ask is that you don’t shave your beard. And if you’re a Muslim woman wearing your hijab, don’t take off your hijab. There’s no need to be afraid. Do not let them tell you that you are not an American.”

Director of Veteran’s Affairs on ELSB Induja Nimma organized the event.

“I went to the mayor’s immigration rally and I understood that the tide was switching,” Nimma said. “Something that I thought that would be a really cool thing to bring together would be the veterans side and the Muslim side. I’m personally not a Muslim, but it’s nice to see the two converge together.”

Muhammad Babar also spoke at the event. He outlined Muslim participation in history dating back to the War of 1812.

“Why 240 years later, we are still wondering on this question: that if Muslim Americans or Islam belongs if America?” Babar asked. “What does Shams have to stand on the corner of streets with a sign? I’m counting on you because my generation has dropped the ball.”

Photo by Shelby Brown/ The Louisville Cardinal