Sergeant Tayyib Rashid, a former Marine from Chicago, knew he had an important message to share with Donald Trump, but he had no idea his message would turn into a social media movement.
Rashid said Trump "really touched a nerve" when the Republican presidential hopeful called for a mandatory database to track Muslims in the U.S., an idea some have compared to the identification of Jews in Nazi Germany.
“As Muslims, we’re told that loyalty to our nation is part of faith and it was for that reason that I served in the Marine Corps," Rashid said, "and for Trump to say that it just really hit me the wrong way.”
Rashid, whose Twitter handle is @MuslimMarine, tweeted to Trump a photo of his Marine identification card. The caption with the photo read “Hey @realDonaldTrump I’m an American Muslim and I already carry a special ID badge. Where’s yours? #SemperFi #USMC.”
By the weekend, Rashid’s tweet had been seen by thousands and sparked the hashtag #MuslimID, which others used to send Trump photos of their identification cards. As of Monday, the tweet has received 31,000 re-tweets and 41,000 favorites.
“I was hoping that I would get a positive response, but I didn’t expect the magnitude of the response,” Rashid said. “This is just absolutely insane and in a very positive way. It gives me great joy and pleasure to know that my fellow Americans feel the same way as I do about the issue.”
Rashid, 38, was born in Pakistan and moved to the United States with his family when he was 10 years old. The husband and father of three joined the Marines in 1997 and served five years of active duty, with deployments to Saudi Arabia, Germany and Italy. He now works as a human resources executive at a pharmaceutical company called AbbVie.
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Rashid belongs to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a revival movement within Islam that emphasizes non-violence and tolerance of other faiths and has been persecuted in Pakistan for not believing Mohammed was the final prophet.
Rashid said his father, a Muslim missionary, stressed to him at a young age the value of religious freedom.
“He told me, ‘This country [America] is offering you freedom that you did not have in your previous country and with those freedoms comes great responsibility so make sure you take very opportunity to serve,’” Rashid said, noting that his father was a big supporter of his decision to speak out against Trump.
Trump, in response to recent deadly attacks in Paris, said Americans must reassess some of their civil liberties in response to growing threats from ISIS, saying “we are going to have to give up certain privileges that we’ve always had.”
He called for Muslims to be required to register in a national database in the U.S. Trump later clarified that his comment was in response to a question from a reporter, but he did not disavow the prospect of a database.
Rashid said he’s also received numerous messages of support from fellow veterans and those he served with.
“This thing just keeps getting sweeter and sweeter for me personally,” he said. “When you have the support of the veterans, of the people who served this country it doesn’t really get much better than that.”