A Gitmo Guard Turns Muslim: 3-27-09

Bill's 'Faith Matters' Weblog
March 26, 2009

He seems to be the only guard to do so, but other stories may emerge as the full story of what has happened at Gitmo over the last several years finally gets told, albeit in in pieces.

What I concluded after reading the story of guard Terry Holdbrooks is that there isn't much to conclude from it. That is, I don't see it as in any way a conversion story with universal implications. Rather, Holdbrooks comes across as someone with a rocky youth who was, in many ways, drifting and searching for something that made sense for him. I suspect that, had the prisoners to whom he was speaking as he guarded them, been, say, Jehovah's Witnesses or Branch Davidians or Hindus or Buddhists, he might well have been drawn to one of those faiths. (The photo here of Holdbrooks was taken by Matt Slaby-Luceo for Newsweek.)

I'm not suggesting that he found nothing unique or helpful to him in Islam. Clearly he did. But the circumstances were so different from those of most people who embrace a religion for the first time or convert to a new one that I'm not at all sure Islam can view this as a great victory.

I suppose in some ways conversion is always highly individualistic -- except when one is swept up in a larger historical movement, such as when the Emperor Constantine moved to make Christianity to official religion of the Roman Empire. And certainly in the Holdbrooks case, it was one man making a decision for himself.


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