HUNTSVILLE, Alabama - A former Guantanamo guard who embraced Islam during his service in the notorious detention center has praised American Muslims as representing the best example of true Islam.
You can't be afraid to be a Muslim in public, Terry Holdbrooks Jr., 29, was quoted as saying by All Alabama website.He urged the Muslim community in the US to remain united and open to their neighbors.
Tell your neighbors you're Muslim. Invite them into your home. Invite them to visit the masjid to see our secret bomb factories.
The United States is home to a Muslim minority of between six to eight million.
A recent survey by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life said that American Muslims are the most moderate around the world.
The survey, titled The World's Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society, found that US Muslims generally express strong commitment to their faith and tend not to see an inherent conflict between being devout and living in a modern society.
An earlier Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.
Holdbrooks said if Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) were to come back to Earth today, he would find the best examples of Islam in the United States
He added that American Muslims have a responsibility to live their faith so others can see a true example.
Invited to share his experience as a Muslim, Holdbrooks told the story of his conversion to an audience of about 80 people at the Huntsville Islamic Center in Huntsville earlier this week.
The former guard, who worked at Guantanamo in 2003 and 2004, said he was struck by the ability of Muslim detainees to smile despite the long hours of interrogations and abuse.
Coming to Guantanamo as a godless 19-year-old with a love of drinking, hard rock music and tattoos, he embraced Islam in a matter of few months.
The event also hosted Khalil Meek, a co-founder and executive director of the Texas-based Muslim Legal Fund of America.
The non-profit civil rights organization helps pay for legal help for Muslims who are American citizens and who have been accused of vague crimes or placed on no-fly lists and other restrictions under the increasingly broad anti-terrorism provisions.
Leaving the notorious detention center years ago, Holdbrooks is part of a growing number of former Guantanamo guards who are speaking out about horrible conditions there.
The former guard referred to the current hunger strike by more than half of Guantanamo detainees, many of whom were cleared to go home five or six years ago.
They've lost hope. They've decided it's better to die, Holdbrooks said.
One of them is down to 70 pounds.
Holdbrooks published a book titled Traitor? about his experience at Guantanamo earlier this month.
I tell this story and I wrote the book so idiot-simple that anyone could read and understand that the existence of Guantanamo is something to be ashamed of, Holdbrooks said.
I just want to share information with people in depth and then let them make up their mind.
I may have become a Muslim, but I am not a traitor.
The Guantanamo Bay was opened in early 2002 as part of the George W. Bush administration's so-called war on terror, waged shortly after the 9/11 attacks.
The camp is notorious for rights abuses and torture, with many prisoners over the years have committed suicide and gone on extensive hunger strikes.
The detention facility has been widely condemned around the world as a stain on America's human rights record.
Amnesty International once described Guantanamo as a "symbol of abuse and represents a system of detention that is betraying the best US values and undermines international standards."The international rights watchdog also likened it to gulag prisons, the Soviet detention centers notorious for torturing political prisoners and suspects.