There is often a political stigma that there might be a conflict between choosing the Islamic faith and serving in the United States military. Mansoor Shams, a Johns Hopkins Alumnus and U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, aims to interrogate the stigma that continues to perpetuate, a challenge growing slightly more tricky given the President’s recent Executive Order.

Mansoor served four years in the marines, from 2000 to 2004, an honor he wears with pride. In that time, he attained the rank of corporal and received several honors, including meritorious promotion, Marine of the Quarter, and Certificate of Commendation. Mansoor is also a small-business owner, serving as the President of Technology for Eye Deal Systems, a distributor of technology and consumer products and provider of information technology solutions.

A self-appointed ambassador as the “Muslim Marine,” Mansoor’s method of choice for combatting Islamophobia is through one-on-one dialogue with other Americans. Recently, he has been travelling around the country with the goal of reminding the American public that it was our willingness as a culture to welcome people of all religions, culture and ethnicity that makes us an example to the rest of the world.

People questioning his loyalty to the country was an attitude that Mansoor didn’t consider when he joined the U.S. military- after all, loyalty to one’s country is part of the Islamic faith. He strives to educate on common questions people have about his Muslim faith, women’s rights and terrorism, and reminds people that the Muslim world is comprised of 1.6 billion-plus people. It is important to make a conscious effort not to paint everyone with a broad brush.

At a time where anti-Muslim rhetoric from political leaders is growing increasingly common and anti-Muslim hate crimes are at their highest since 9/11, it is important to have as many conversations with people as possible. On February 15, Mansoor Shams is speaking at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) in the first of a series of seminars on understanding American Muslims, a series that hope to highlight the many positive contributions of Muslims across the country. The seminar series is going to be part of a larger initiative exploring the life, successes and challenges of American Muslims.