City of Brass

City of Brass


Gitmo guard converts to Islam

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

I find this a fascinating story. Usually you hear about how prison inmates convert, but this is almost exactly backwards, not least because Gitmo is not a prison but more of an oubliette. From the story,

Army specialist Terry Holdbrooks had been a guard at Guantánamo for about six months the night he had his life-altering conversation with detainee 590, a Moroccan also known as “the General.” This was early 2004, about halfway through Holdbrooks’s stint at Guantánamo with the 463rd Military Police Company. Until then, he’d spent most of his day shifts just doing his duty. He’d escort prisoners to interrogations or walk up and down the cellblock making sure they weren’t passing notes. But the midnight shifts were slow. “The only thing you really had to do was mop the center floor,” he says. So Holdbrooks began spending part of the night sitting cross-legged on the ground, talking to detainees through the metal mesh of their cell doors.

He developed a strong relationship with the General, whose real name is Ahmed Errachidi. Their late-night conversations led Holdbrooks to be more skeptical about the prison, he says, and made him think harder about his own life. Soon, Holdbrooks was ordering books on Arabic and Islam. During an evening talk with Errachidi in early 2004, the conversation turned to the shahada, the one-line statement of faith that marks the single requirement for converting to Islam (“There is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet”). Holdbrooks pushed a pen and an index card through the mesh, and asked Errachidi to write out the shahada in English and transliterated Arabic. He then uttered the words aloud and, there on the floor of Guantánamo’s Camp Delta, became a Muslim.

My friend Wajahat Ali will be interviewing Holdbrooks in a couple of weeks, so it will be very interesting to hear his thoughts directly on what motivated him to embrace the faith. I think that Holdbrooks’ conversion is a great argument in favor of “passive da’wah” – as opposed to active forms of da’wah like the Why Islam bus ad campaign which I critiqued earlier.

Related: discussion at Talk Islam about the theological arguments for da’wah



  • Tom

    Wonderful the man can convert without fear of beheading under ‘apostacy’ laws. Freedom of religion is praiseworthy indeed.

  • wileysnakeskins

    It’s pretty obvious this recruit hadn’t any real teaching as to what islam means and that it desires of it’s converts. Did he know the following teachings of the great new faith he clutched to his head, because he didn’t know enough to grip it with his heart:
    Just what kind of mutual interest and mutual respect can we there be with people who profess this?
    Quotes from the Koran:
    –The unbelievers are your inveterate enemy. (4:101)
    – Surely the vilest of animals in Allah’s sight are those who disbelieve. (8.55)
    – Mohammed is God’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another. (48:29).
    – It is unlawful for a believer to kill another believer, accidents excepted. (4:92)
    – Believers, take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends. (5:51)
    – Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God’s religion shall reign supreme. (8:40)
    – Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God’s religion reigns supreme. (2:193)
    – The true believers fight for the cause of God, but the infidels fight for the devil. (4:76)
    – We will put terror into the hearts of the unbelievers. (3:151)
    – I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, strike off the very tips of their fingers. (8:12)
    Quotes from the sayings of mohammed:
    Muhammad said to the Jews: “If you embrace Islam, you will be safe. You should know that the earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle, and I want to expel you from this land. “
    Sahih Bukhari [4:52:176] Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar:
    Allah’s Apostle said, “You (i.e. Muslims) will fight with the Jews till some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will (betray them) saying, ‘O ‘Abdullah (i.e. slave of Allah)! There is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him.’ ”
    Mohammed said, “I have been ordered to fight with the people till they say, “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah..” (otherwise it will not). Vol. 4:196
    Mohammed said, “Whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him.” Vol. 9:57
    Mohammed said, ” No Muslim should be killed for killing a Kafir” (infidel). Vol. 9:50
    Muhammad said:
    Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war, …(Sahih Muslim 4294)
    YUSUF QARADAWI, the spiritual leader of the Muslim brotherhood and the most popular and influential Islamic religious authority in the world today, is on the recommended reading list of local mosques. Among other Islamist-supremacist things, he wrote:
    “Islam came to be followed, not to follow; to be dominant, not subordinate.”
    “Islam came with its complete, comprehensive and eternal sharia (law) for the whole of mankind.”
    ABUL MAUDUDI, the most important and popular Islamic writer of the 20th Century, wrote: “The goal of Islam is to rule the entire world and submit all of mankind to the faith of Islam. Any nation or power that gets in the way of that goal, Islam will fight and destroy.”
    ________________________________________
    The statements about Islam above are from the most highly revered and respected Islamic sources, not from “Islamophobes”!

  • http://www.newsweek.com/id/190357 Farouk

    wileysnakeskins,
    Stop taking text out of context. Read the praragraphs before and after your quotation to get the right meaning.
    Islam is the Riligion of PEACE.
    Islam is the only religion respecting all the prophets of GOD: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad Peace and blessing be upon all of them. Further Islam considers Mary, the virgin, the mother of Jesus, One of the 4 greatest women.

  • Your Name

    this shows the beauty of islam when a prisoner offers paradise wich he believes in to his jailer under degrading inhumane and abusive sitiation.it is a quality wich people should observe…..and take on..

  • Your Name

    To Wiley Snake,
    Are you kidding me. First of all you cut copy and pasted your way to a lot misleading and false info about the Quran and the Hadith. Secondly, the old and new testaments have plenty of violent verses. But you will never put your own faith on trial.
    The mexican drug cartel members are all christians, why don’t you say so? The child molestors in USA are Jews and Christians, but it is never said. Bernie Madoff is a Jewish fellow. You know you should judge your own religion before you judge Islam. You are not all innocent and kind people. It’s just that when the Christian and jewish media reports stories they don’t say the religion of the criminal, only they do when he/she is a Muslim.
    Well Bro, people are catching on. The public is not stupid. That is why every year 20,000 ppl convert to Islam, in The USA alone. The truth is that you are a very scared child. Afraid that ppl will start to pray and fast and spend on the needy, and become chaste and take care of the orphans and widows. You are afraid that society will become free of adultery and rape. You do not want to beleive. Because you would like to continue with your current life of gambling, alcohol, eating pork, commiting fornication, idolatry, adultery, pre marital sex, drug use, and all other things forbidden by God. If you were a Muslim these above things are strictly forbidden, and well you could not live a desent moral life, nor do you want anyone else to. That would mean society would change, and that is what people like you fear about Islam. Sorry to burst your bubble, it is happening as we speak. Yes there are many bad ppl who happen to be Muslim, but hey I am not blind, there also very many bad ppl of Christian, Jewish, and all other faiths.

  • Mexican christian

    “The mexican drug cartel members are all christians, why don’t you say so?”
    This is a startling statement that demonstrates an almost incomprehensible depth of ignorance. Let me clarify for you: The reason that no one here has “said so” is that the Mexican drug cartel members are NOT Christians and would find it laughable that anyone would think so!
    You admit that there are, as you put it, ‘bad people in Islam’ (as in all other religions), so it is reasonable to think you capture the distinction between those who profess a religion and those who actually possess, demonstrate, the reality of that profession. Though the Mexican drug cartel members do NOT even profess to being Christians (and flaunt their childish Satan worship), there are many who DO claim to be Christians and yet demonstrate none of the marks of that belief. Perhaps you are a victim of the ‘group-think’ that perceives blocks of people as Christians based on ethnicity, as those who think all Americans are Christians, all Mexicans are Catholics or all Iraquies are Muslims. Let’s be very clear about this: The term ‘Christian’ refers properly to a follower of Christ, and follower follows. No follow, no follower. The issue here is not what the person may profess, but whether the life he lives and the priorities he shows demonstrate an allegiance to the Person and teachings of Christ.
    So please. If you object to others branding all Muslims as terrorists, don’t show a slavish addiction to no-think, knee-jerk reaction by making statements that not only show your ignorance of Mexico and the Mexican drug cartels but also of an inability to grasp the most basic sense of what the word “christian” means. As Jesus put it, “Not everyone that says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that does the will of my Father which is in Heaven.”

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