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Uncle Sam wants US Muslims to serve

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However uncertain the progress, the military is intensifying its outreach.

On June 6 – the anniversary of D-Day, he notes – Mr. England helped dedicate a new Islamic prayer center at the Quantico Marine Corps Base near Washington, whose 6,100 marines include about 24 Muslims, according to Lt. Cmdr. Abuhena Saifulislam, a Navy chaplain who serves as their imam.

The Marines also have allowed Muslims in their ranks at Quantico some dispensations to make it easier to practice their religion, says Lieutenant Commander Saifulislam, a US citizen born and raised in Bangladesh. During Ramadan, "they're allowed to have some time off to prepare for their fasting break and not to go to physical training" while fasting, he says.

Muslim troops say misunderstandings and friction with non-Muslims in uniform arise sometimes, but practicing Islam in a military at war with extremists who profess the same faith isn't a burden, they add.

Petty Officer Third Class Nicholas Burgos, a Sunni Muslim training to be a Navy SEAL, or commando, says instructors sometimes goad him by calling him "Osama bin Burgos" or asking if he's training to help the Taliban. But "it's all in good fun," he insists.

"It's all about how much mental stress you can deal with while you're in training," Petty Officer Burgos says. "I just laugh or have a smirk on my face."

His father, Asadullah Burgos, is the part-time imam at the US Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., whose roughly 4,000 cadets include 32 Muslims, 12 of whom are foreign students.

"There's been some insults and some taunting, but it's been handled at the cadet level," Imam Burgos says. "Usually that's due to ignorance."

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