CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
Imam Asim Hafiz, an Islamic religious advisor with the British Ministry of Defence, visited British and American leaders aboard Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan Jan. 26, 2014 to discuss the religious environment and its impact in Afghanistan.
Though Imam Hafiz spoke with high-ranking officials during his visit, he made time to highlight the diversity of the armed forces by sitting down to talk with American Muslim Marines currently deployed to Afghanistan.
“The visit was very humbling,” said Capt. Julius Oreiro, Regional Logistics Support Command maintenance advisor, Regional Command (Southwest), and a Salinas, Calif., native. “I know there are other Muslims in the military, even though our presence isn’t known too well. Just being able to understand and know that our military itself is well diverse, it allows me to have faith in our military.”
The Marines, as well as Imam Hafiz, were glad to have had the chance to sit and talk with one another.
“It was really wonderful to meet Muslims who serve in the U.S. Marine Corps,” said Imam Hafiz. “Faith doesn’t have a uniform, and automatically because I shared a faith with them they connected with me and they were happy to pray with me. I felt honored to be asked to come and visit by the U.S. Marine Corps.”
The sense of community and fellowship between everyone held spirits high during and after the gathering.
“Anytime you meet another Muslim it’s exciting,” said Master Sgt. Anetra Cargile, spectrum management officer, RC(SW), and a Pasadena, Texas, native. “It’s like meeting someone from your hometown, ‘Oh yeah, you’re from there also?’ It’s almost like you’re family, you have that mutual connection. You’re both close to God in the same way; you both understand the same thing. It lifted my day.”
Imam Hafiz spent his time in southwestern Afghanistan speaking with leaders about the importance of the religious environment, encouraging them to connect and engage with positive religious leaders of Afghanistan who also focus on faith as a means to bring peace and stability to a war-torn country and its people.
“I feel that my job is about bringing communities together," said Imam Hafiz. "It’s about promoting the understanding of faith. I see faith as a means to bring about peace, stability, reconciliation and reintegration in Afghanistan. I sort of want to challenge the view on both sides that faith is something that is not a cause of war, it’s a route to peace.”