MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- With a coming deployment nearly certain to include operations in predominately Muslim countries, Marines and Sailors of the 26 Marine Expeditionary Unit attended an Islamic culture brief Feb. 28 designed to broaden the Marine's understanding of the culture and prepare them for situations they could encounter abroad.
The brief was conducted at the Gen. John A. Lejeune Education Center by Daniel Ali, a renowned author and native Iraqi Kurd who converted to Christianity after migrating to America several years ago.
Ali focused on explaining the mindsets and background that define Islamic culture and thinking.
"Any training that deals with cross-culture topics is valuable," said Maj. Robert S. Ferguson, 26 MEU Intelligence Officer. "We win the war one heart and mind at a time, and understanding the Islamic culture will go a long way to achieving that goal."
During the brief, Ali discussed topics such as greeting etiquette, Islamic views on education and the recent rapid influx of western culture in the Middle East.
Ali encouraged the troops not to be intimidated by the often passionate and aggressive nature of conversation in Islamic cultures. Instead, he advised them to be sincere and passionate when speaking and greeting. "You can cut straight to a Muslim's heart with a gesture of friendship," he said.
Ali advised the Marines and Sailors not to initiate conversations about religion, but to be resolute and determined if their own religious beliefs are ever questioned by a Muslim.
"Be firm," he said. "Muslims don't respect those with wishy-washy opinions, especially when it comes to faith."
Throughout his talk, Ali continually stressed that, as an American citizen, he felt proud to help those who fight for the freedom of others.
"We are the force bringing freedom to the cradle of civilization," he said. "One day we will look back on this conflict with pride, as the veterans of World Wars I and II did on their achievements."
Following the brief, Ali was presented with a plaque by the MEU commander Lt. Col. James R. Brown III.
The culture brief was conducted as the 26th MEU continues to prepare for the start of the pre-deployment training cycle in June followed by a deployment early next year in support of the Global War on Terrorism.