There is a common notion that “if there is heaven in this world it is in Switzerland” then similarly there is also a notion that “if there is hell in this world then it is in Guantanamo Bay Prison.”
I may sound filmy but it is somewhat true. Guantanamo Bay is the worst prison in this world and it is notorious for its inhumane and Berber treatment of prisoners who are mostly Muslims.
But in this same spoiled land of cruelty, the good flower of faith bloomed. The Prison Guard of the detention camp converted to Islam after observing the strong faith of Muslims locked here.
Terry Holdbrooks Jr was a US Military Personnel who was appointed as the guard of the Guantanamo Bay prison- a military prisoner detention camp located at the southeastern point of Cuba during 2003-2004.
Initially, as Terry describes in his book ‘Traitor’ he was trained by the military officers with anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim sentiments and made him believe that he is witnessing the persecution of filthy humans who are of no use.
Like other soldiers, Terry also believed in it and put it into action. But soon his self-consciousness shattered his beliefs because whatever he was taught was contrary to the truth.
He witnessed so-called ‘filthy humans’ praying daily, having strong faith in God, reciting the Holy Qur’an, never getting disappointed in their situations; remaining steadfast in their beliefs.
Terry was under much agony after observing these things. The torture done to the prisoners was very brutal and inhumane and Terry himself was a part of it.
He used to take prisoners to the torture room every then and now and it would go on for 24 hours. The prisoners were made to crawl and locked in a box for hours and days. They were stripped nude and beaten badly. The list goes on to so many torture plans.
Terry while witnessing these things always had questions to ask. He was astonished by the Muslim’s faith but he wanted to know what made them strong.
“How can you wake up in Guantanamo and smile?” Holdbrooks asked them. “How can you believe there’s a God who cares about you?”
They would reply, Allah. One of the former detainees and Terry’s mentor in Islam describes it as follows: “Allah was testing my ‘deen’ (faith). When else would have I have five years away from all responsibilities when the only thing I had was my Quran, and I could read it and learn Arabic and mental discipline?
Terry describes them as great souls and bigger men. Terry mentions when he was recruited for the military he was fully brainwashed by his officers. When he reported on the job, he was astonished to find out who terrorists were.
He saw a 12-year-old terrorist and an eighty-year-old bomber being held as captives. Most of the people locked there were normal human beings and common Muslims.
Terry used to talk to them individually about religion, ethics, philosophy, and other things that both of them liked. While he interacted and learned Islam from the prisoners, his fellow soldiers exhorted him not to cheat his people.
Terry who was convinced by the time started reading about Islam online and reading the Qur’an gifted by one of the prisoners who was a chef in England.
After three months of intense study and conversation, one-night Holdbrooks told the detainee that he wanted to become Muslim.
Initially, the prisoners advised him not to convert because it will demand him to leave drinking and drugs. Terry was convinced so slowly he left all the drugs and alcohol and started to recover.
“Every little step I took toward Islam, Islam was taking more steps toward me,” Holdbrooks said.
On one December night in 2003, he said the Shahada which was written on a card given to him by one of the detainees. He read from a card on which the detainee had transliterated into English syllables the Arabic words for, “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.”
Terry was discharged earlier from the service where his seniors gave him leave stating that he suffered from a personality disorder. He was sent back to America.
By the end of 2008, he found himself wondering, “When was I happy?” The answer, he realized, surprised him: When he was in Guantanamo – because there he was being a good Muslim.
Terry since then had been a good Muslim and published his book named ‘Traitor’ which describes his journey and justifies that he isn’t a traitor.