Who’s Afraid of Aymann Ismail?

How a Muslim Marine Is Changing Minds

And why his strategy troubles me.

This is part of Season 2 of “Who’s Afraid of Aymann Ismail?,” a series featuring Slate’s Aymann Ismail investigating fears about Muslims in America. Watch the entire series.

For a few years, Mansoor Shams has intentionally sought the attention of Islamophobes on street corners in major cities all over the country. He holds a handwritten sign with a simple message: “I’m a Muslim Marine, Ask Me Anything.” He’s taken out billboards and talked to anyone who wants to talk to him. Mansoor is brave, and I thought his strategy was brilliant—but I wondered if it also suggested Muslims have something to prove, or need special credentials to be trusted. Why play to that?

I went to Baltimore to talk to Mansoor about what sparked his campaign, his experiences around the country, and whether he thinks people listen to him because he’s a Marine, or because he’s Muslim. We also met with other Muslim veterans, who told me they’d have to think twice about enlisting under Donald Trump. —Aymann Ismail

This series is written and produced by Aymann Ismail and Jeffrey Bloomer, and edited by Aymann Ismail.

Previously: Why the Far Right Believes Every Muslim—Including Me—Is a Liar