Token Muslim in the Civil Air Patrol?

My son has decided to join the Civil Air Patrol.  I have the membership form ready to go.  Just have to pop it into an envelope with a check for the fee and we’ll be on our way.

The Civil Air Patrol is a civilian “club” associated with the United States Air Force.  I was in it for a while when I was a teenager.  As a military brat already in ROTC in high school, the addition of CAP to my life was seamless.  It’s very militaristic.  Cadets wear uniforms just like the military – blues for dress and BDUs for utilitarian work.  They drill – right face!  left face!  forward march!  They respond with “Yes First Sergeant!” in a bellow when given instructions.  They stand at attention, salute the flag, and strive to earn rank just as their military counterparts do.  I have to admit that I like it and am comfortable with it.  My dad was in the army for twenty years so I grew up surrounded by all the trappings of the military.  Dad went to work every day wearing olive drab (back before camouflage was the standard dress).  I grew up with jets and helicopters flying overhead and field artillery shells dropping in the distance.  I joined JROTC and rose to the rank of Captain and led my own drill team.  I rappelled off a cliff, flew a simulated aircraft at Altus Air Force Base, and have fired everything from handguns to an AR-15.  I have no problems with the fact of the structure of the Civil Air Patrol, but I do have reservations due to its association with the military, so this is kind of an experiment we are starting here.

I should state that I believe that a Muslim cannot serve in the military of the United States.  A Muslim’s first loyalty is to God, and there are too many in the military who believe that the West is in a Crusade against Islam, and a Muslim American soldier might find himself facing a fellow Muslim on the field of combat.  If one Muslim kills another, one or both may be in the Hellfire, and thus this dichotomy would cause the Muslim American to either endanger his soul or his comrades in arms.  It’s an unsolvable problem, and since service in the military is voluntary, the issue is most easily avoided by simply not joining.  I know there are Muslims in the U.S. who have different beliefs, but these are mine and I will raise my kids according to this belief.  They can be “good Americans” as civilians and serve mankind without ever having to don a uniform.

That being said, I’m happy with my son’s interest in CAP and happy with how we have been received so far.  On our first visit, we were greeted by helpful cadets (young people between ages 12 and 20 or so) and senior members.  One of the senior lieutenants made pleasant conversation and even told me she’d been really wanting to get the first Muslim cadet in the unit.  She has an Iranian brother-in-law and several Muslim friends.  No one was put off by my abaya and hijaab, and other parents made small talk with me while we watched our kids fall into formation.  It was an auspicious beginning, and over the month or so we’ve been going I’ve never felt a bit singled ot, or felt that anyone was treating my son any differently than other cadets.

All prospective members have to attend at least three meetings before they are given the paperwork to join.  I have my son’s forms completed now and plan to send it off as soon as I find an envelope.  He’ll be sent learning materials and will be given a uniform.  He’ll continue to attend meetings and will have classes in aeronautics, military etiquette, and physical fitness.  In order to advance in rank, he’ll have to take tests on everything he’s learned, and to drill and do pushups and other exercises.  It’s very structured, and since I know my son is a lot like me, I think he’ll thrive in this type of environment.  I’m looking forward to being there to help him learn and grow, maybe pick up a pilot’s license along the way, and have some good experience to take him into young adulthood.

There may be some challenges along the way related to Islam.  As puberty progresses, he’ll be sprouting chin hair and will have to get a religious exemption to avoid shaving.  When he is engaged in CAP activities, he’ll have to manage his prayers along the way, and fasting during Ramadan.  The vibe I get from the squadron is that these are some dedicated people who are not afraid of diversity, so I’m hopeful we’ll be able to help them learn about us as we learn about the Civil Air Patrol.

I’m pretty sure my son is not the first Muslim in the CAP, but he is the first one for this squadron.  I’ll be keeping track of his growth in the CAP and will be on top of any potential issues, all while trying to stay out of his way since it’s HIS club and not mine.  I hope I have very little to share, actually, and that his membership is fulfilling, educational, and fun.  I know it will be fun for me when I’m reliving my glory days of ROTC and teaching him how to march out in the cul de sac.  How many moms get to be real drill sergeants with their kids?  Atten-shun!  Forward, march!  Right flank, march!

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