U.S. Navy Muslim Chaplain Ministers to Prisoners in Cuba

August 9, 2002

Source: The San Diego Union-Tribune

On August 9, 2002, The San Diego Union-Tribune featured an article on Navy chaplain Abuhena Saif-ul-Islam, the Muslim Chaplain at Camp Pendleton who recently served in Cuba administering to prisoners from the War on Terrorism. He explained that much of his work focused on "the sheer mechanics involved in accommodating that many Muslims in one place...    Menus had to be planned that would fit with the religious dietary restrictions... He recorded a call to prayer so the faithful could be cued electronically for their five daily prayers...  He set up culturally sensitive funeral arrangements, just in case a detainee died... As a chaplain, his job was not to debate but to comfort.  Sometimes, however, if they brought up religion, he made sure they knew where he stood.  'If you bring in Islam to justify that (violence), then you bring in me and I don't agree with it,' he would tell them...  None of them, at least to his face, defended the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11... But Saif-ul-Islam also was there to minister to the troops who guarded the captives.    'The main thing was to maintain the balance between the troops and the detainees,' he said.  'I was the chaplain for both... the balance between the two was unique and challenging'... He listened to their angst and encouraged them to vent.  But he cautioned them that as Americans, they must be tolerant.  It is part of their country's character... He [also] talked about how much he loves the military...    'This is a unique place that proves we can live together, work together,' he said.  'More than any other place, it enjoys its diversity.  The freedom of religion in the military, I think, supersedes any other workplace.'"