Jameel Matin
8 min readSep 12, 2016

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9/11 paved the future for this former Muslim Marine

Taken in 2012

My immediate thoughts go to the victims, families, and heroes of this day 15 years ago.

This is why I, a Muslim, decided to join the Marines. It’s complicated, but more or less due to 9/11. It led me to Islam, which led me to the Marine Corps, and ultimately led me out of Islam. To paint a picture in your mind’s eye, 9/11 happened at a time in my life when I was extremely impressionable. In 2001, I was a 15-year-old freshman looking up to 18-year-old seniors as they were disbursing news about 9/11. Back then, we didn’t have the internet fully accessible.

I remember observing and soaking in information about the event as much as possible because it struck another curiosity boner of mine. One memory I have is how people, all of a sudden, were talking about the religion of Islam. I thought, “Hey, that’s my religion, don’t talk shit about it.”

They were saying things like “Muslims attacked us.”

9/11 Impacted me because I did not want the faith I grew up in to be tied to something heinous. I immediately began investigating my faith to account if it had any parallels with the people who attacked my country. This was my priority.

On one side, people were claiming that the religion of Islam directly influenced terrorism.

Another group was saying terrorists were not Muslims at all.

I grew up a practicing Muslim, so you can imagine what a conundrum this was for me. In essence, I was taught to talk to this invisible deity several times a day in my head, whom I called Allah since birth.

I was taught not to be “homies” with Allah,

But instead, to love Him more than my parents, treat Him with utmost respect and kindness as if he was a “judge” in a courtroom. I was taught how to please Him during prayer.

One way was to have a slight bend at the waist, have a round back maybe 20 degrees, arms crossed to show Allah I was humble and meek. During prayer, I continually focused on pleasing Him by reciting the same prayers repeatedly again in Arabic as eloquently as possible.

My favorite cyclic portion of prayer as a kid was when I would reach for the ground, sit down, and then prostrate to where all my limbs and brown face touched the ground. This is the position I would have my heart to heart “talks” with God.

I think it was because this was the only portion of the Islamic prayer that allowed me to pray in my native tongue and not in Arabic. My family had taught me all this before learning my ABC’s.

9/11 changed my perspective on Islam. People’s reactions and misinterpretation of Islam lead me to want to find out what Islam was really about.

The Islam I grew up in was full of smiles, hugs, and love of God.

I was thirsty to drink out of the fountain of Truth and figure out this puzzle of do I belong to a religious organization that includes people who chop other people’s heads off?

Around the time I was in 10th grade, I wholeheartedly accepted Islam as the Truth after my investigation.

I read in Islam, if you genuinely want to “test” if God is real, you gently ask Him with an open heart.

God says, “if you walk towards me, I will run to you.” Some interpret that He manifests Himself to you through signs, visions, and dreams as proof.

So I went to my local mosque for the most desired time to attend. According to God, the prayer Maghrib is His most desired time to chat. Maghrib is the second to last prayer of the day, which is immediately after sunset.

I remember I wept like a godamn baby asking if “He” was real. I could sense through my peripheral other people were looking at me. Now I think about it, the thought which probably went through people’s minds was perhaps like,

“jesus christ, that fat kid is going through some shit.”

Most people who attended Maghrib prayer at my mosque didn’t weep during worship. Although on rare occasions when someone important comes to visit, or something crazy happened in the community, most of the extra-religious folks would ball their eyes out. It’s a sight to see and a great feeling to be part of something so cohesive in a world so divided.

Although I knew God was real in my heart, I wanted some type of “proof.”

The same week, I saw a dream of the self-claimed prophet I grew up admiring. This self-proclaimed prophet claimed to be sent by God as the second coming of Jesus.

He said he could prove it using resources such as the Old Testament, Bible, Quran, and Siri. Kidding about Siri. I read everything I could about his efforts. All of it made sense, and I had felt “the spirit of Islam,” “Holy Ghost” or what I like to call now, “the kool-aid” enter my body.

I was utterly convinced that Islam was the summit of all religions.

Seeing millions of people with different backgrounds coming to gather as one in Mecca was a sign of truth for me.

The Marine Corps sent me to Mecca to perform Hajj. The holy pilgrimage in Islam.

I was very much in love with it. I also fell in love with my Islamic community. It’s is full of educated, passionate people who seem to care about helping humanity by eradicating hunger and trying to establish world peace through monopolizing people’s hearts to love God. It hurt me to see people paint Islam anything other than what I grew into. I tried hard to show my network of people from work and school that Islam isn’t such a terrible religion, and it can unify all of humanity. I wanted to share Islam with everyone because I wanted them to have the same blessings I was receiving.

I asked myself, “how am I as a Muslim going to make a an impact.”

Was I going to be the one who sits back and continue to watch everything unfold? Or was I going to be the one who stands up and take action? Fight those who are truly destroying my faith and country.

The thought crossed my mind,

“maybe I can go fight these assholes.”

If I were going to fight terrorists, I figured I try being part of the most elite military fighting force this world has seen — The United States Marine Corps.

Rah.

Naturally, whenever I came to crossroads in life, I asked God for guidance. I “told” God the situation. Here I had to battle what to do after high school. Should I try to become a Marine and fight terrorists? Or become a missionary? Earlier I mentioned God likes to expose Himself through dreams and signs.

Later in the week…

I dreamt I was wearing the coveted Marines dress blues uniform at my mosque. WTF! How in the hell is some brown fat dude in Diamond Bar “receiving the call” to join the Marines through a dream?

I couldn’t believe it! God had once again given me direction, but the fact that I recognized how difficult this journey was going to be for me did not matter. Well, maybe a little bit. At the time of viewing this dream, I weighed over 320 lbs.

FML.

Fast forward a year later

Under the auspices of my Senior Drill Instructor, I graduated from Third Battalion, India Company, platoon 3209 — Instilling the spirit of the Marine Corps into my soul.

The Marine Corps drill instructors instilled significant motivation in me; I felt I could have won the war by myself. I was ready to deploy and slay.

Less than a year later, I had my first Marine Corps deployment. I was 100% Infantryman. 100% Muslim. 100% 19-years-old. 100% horny. Now I think about it,

being horny was technically a sin according to Islam. Furthermore, I probably displeased God A LOT.

The Marine Corps sent me to conduct security force operations in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Guantanamo is arguably known as the most controversial prison in the world due to Americans torturing Muslims. Imagine being a U.S. Marine deploying directly to where members of your military are allegedly abusing members of your faith.

Once there, I noticed how Americans treated the inmates. Much to my surprise, we were extremely hospitable toward their needs. For example, every time it was time for prayer, we refrained from entering or exiting the facility because it would make a slight noise, which could disturb their moment of worship.

Scuba diving with members of my platoon in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In retrospect, I feel like the religion of Islam did have a lot to do with 9/11. The people who did those acts prayed to the same God I did, they read from the same Holy Quran I did. We just understood Islam differently. I still think Islam as a whole has excellent benefits, but I also think it has built-in paths that can navigate one to carry out evil.

After 9/11 occurred, I had the urge to take action. That action led me to Islam, which led me to my Marine Corps. I wanted revenge and bring justice to people who thought it was ok to kill innocent people.

9/11 made me realize that Americans have different definitions of what it MEANS to be an American, and I love that. But the sooner humans realize everyone is equal to one another,

Muslims are equal to non-Muslims, and Marines are equal to non-Marines; the sooner we are to a world where 9/11’s doesn’t happen.

I took full advantage of the Marine Corps’ educational benefits, which afforded me an education. The education I received paved me out of Islam, Which impacted the relationship with my Islamic community in an interesting way.

I took a philosophy class during college and realized,

“How can anyone be so sure of the unsure?”

As a Muslim, I was 100% convinced of life after death and I was also convinced of the approaching Judgement day. I was incredibly certain of the uncertainty. Imagine someone coming up to you to preach about their certainty about your life before you were born? My position is, how can anyone know?

I no longer chat with that deity in my mind, known as Allah. Although I am certain, He is receiving pleasure from billions of other people, which is fine. I am happy that other people are happy. Regardless of what faith or what I believe in now, 9/11 shaped the future of my life. I really hope it wasn’t an inside job.

Salaam

“A sharpshooter killed a top ISIS executioner and three other jihadists with a single bullet from nearly a mile away — just seconds before the fiend was set to burn 12 hostages alive with a flamethrower, according to a new report.”

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