Basic Cadet Omar Obeidat helps Basic Cadet Mohammed Gallala perform wudu in preparation for evening prayer in Jacks Valley July 22, 2012. Wudu is a Muslim form of ritual purification that consists of washing one's hands, feet, mouth and face before praying or touching the Qur'an. Obeidat is a native of Jordan, and Gallala is a native of Tunisia. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)
Imam Mohamed Jodeh helps Basic Cadet Wasim Soomro perform wudu prior to evening prayers in the Muslim chapel at Jacks Valley July 22, 2012. Wudu is a form of ablution, or ritual purification, that consists of washing one's hands, feet, mouth and face before praying or touching the Qur'an. Jodeh leads Muslim services as part of the Air Force Academy's lay leader program. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)
Imam Mohamed Jodeh leads basic cadets in evening prayer during a Muslim service in Jacks Valley July 22, 2012. While Muslims normally fast during Ramadan, which began July 20, Jodeh instructed the basics not to fast while they underwent Basic Cadet Training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)
Basic cadets kneel during maghrib, or sunset prayers, in Jacks Valley's Muslim chapel July 22, 2012. Islam typically requires five daily prayers, to be done before sunrise, at noon, in the mid-afternoon, just after sunset and before going to bed for the evening. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)
Basic Cadet Mohammed Gallala takes off his boots to prepare for evening prayer in a tent chapel at Jacks Valley after the first full day of Ramadan on July 20, 2012. Approximately 10 basic cadets have regularly attended Muslim services, led by Imam Mohammed Jodeh. Gallala is a native of Tunisia. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)
7/28/2012 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFNS) -- Sunset prayers for a dozen Muslim basic cadets on July 20 began just as they might any other evening: the basic cadets took off their boots and rinsed their faces, hands and feet with water from their canteens. They settled into place in the tent that serves as the Muslim chapel in Jacks Valley: lined up behind Imam Mohamed Jodeh, facing Mecca.
"Allahu ackbar," Jodeh began, reciting the words "God is great" in Arabic. The group continues through the prayer much as they normally would, but this is no normal Ramadan. While most Muslims around the world observe the holiday by fasting between sunrise and sunset, the basic cadets ate before their sunset prayer.
"Ever since my high school started, I've made sure never to miss a single day of Ramadan," said Basic Cadet Mohammed Gallala, a native of Tunisia.
But basic cadets need food during training like an F-16 Fighting Falcon needs JP-8. No good can come from running a basic cadet through the Academy's demanding obstacle courses on an empty stomach.
Jodeh, the liaison between the Academy's Muslim community and the chaplains here, provided the solution: a fatwa, or legal pronouncement, identifying the basic cadets as musafir -- "travelers" -- during the extent of their stay in Jacks Valley.
"A traveler is deferred from fasting, but he has to do those days after Ramadan," Jodeh said. "The basic cadets are traveling because the Academy is not their permanent home, so they have the right to shorter prayers and not fasting."
After a similar sunset prayer on Sunday, Jodeh talked to the basic cadets about the importance of form in prayer.
"In Islam, there is meaning and reason to everything," he explained, illustrating the proper position for one's hands during prayers. "When you salute, how do you do it? It is uniform. We praise Allah the greatest, and we salute al-Qiblah (the direction Muslims face while praying) by raising our hands to the level of our shoulders."
After the service and education, Jodeh spoke with the basic cadets and offered to relay messages to their families, many of whom are overseas. Cadre have also worked with the basic cadets to accommodate prayers during the day, said Basic Cadet Omar Obeidat.
"You have to arrange it with the cadre, and you only get five minutes each time," said Obeidat, a native of Irbid, Jordan, about 50 miles from the Jordanian capital of Amman. "The cadre looked up where Mecca is, and ... they said if you need to pray, just tell us and we'll give you time. It means so much with all this going on that they give us time to practice."
Chaplain (Maj.) Darren Duncan, the chief of the cadet chapel's cadet faith communities branch, said accommodating cadets' religious and spiritual needs helps them develop their character.
"Our byline is developing leaders of character through spiritual formation," Duncan said. "It's religious accommodation for anybody for any holiday: Ramadan, Kwanzaa, Hanukah, any of those. It's about meeting the free exercise of religion."
Upperclass cadets also receive access to normally scheduled religious services, and those in field training can speak with chaplains to schedule services as well, Duncan said.
Ramadan continues through Aug. 18.
8/17/2012 4:38:43 PM ET @JB you are correct in your statement however what is the prevalent threat now What do our enemies that attacked our country all have in common They all strive to kill others while getting to their supposed 72 virgins. Not all muslims are dangerous but some are. We have to be alert to all threats but we can't wear ourselves thin trying to monitor all races and beliefs. We can stay alert but we need to focus on what our true threats are and put more effort towards those.
8/17/2012 9:50:43 AM ET JayZachary you assume because people disagree with your absolute statements that they don't understand. The fact is the war is not against Islam and every practicing Muslim in service doesn't require a special look just for being Muslim. Given the presence of gangs and racial extremists within the ranks it's short sighted and ignorant to turn your sole focus on Muslims within the ranks. Insider enemies come in all shapes and sizes even rapist MTIs who seek to disrupt our force for personal gain... the approach should be holistic not ignorantly segmented. the need for vetting is universal and those who seek to target our force will find ways as long as we keep laser focus on the wrong targets.
8/16/2012 2:46:58 PM ET @Jay sir I support everything you say and I know that you have an open eye and are alert to the very real danger of an insider enemy. We took an oath to defend against all enemies foreign and DOMESTIC. Some people overlook that integral part of the oath of enlistment.
8/9/2012 12:30:01 PM ET I've got to say that I'm not surprise the good chaplain doesn't mention Christmas as one of the holidays when he lists several. ABC anything but Christ has become so pervasive I guess it's even in made it to the chaplains. The chaplain corps has lost or is about to lose it's saltiness, Matthew 5:13, to the point where we wonder why we have them.
CMSgt Timothy Servati, Keesler AFB MS
8/2/2012 5:12:52 PM ET Really guys I did not attack or insult anyone. But I'll try againAll I can say is I am extremely thankful I never had to work for you Jay. I see your posts on here and am baffled by your tunnel visioned view of the world. @ Thankful - My vision of the world and the Air Force was shaped by an old Chief not an E-9 of which there are too many these days. He started out as an Army door gunner in Vietnam. It was also shaped by years of playing in the sand and interaction with the people that live over there. And no one that ever worked with me had any problems except for the malcontents and the wanna be gang banger I ran out of my Air Force. Hey Jay isn't it a Christian church that pickets soldiers' funerals@ JB - I haven't seen any Westboro type idiots in the ranks lately have you And I certainly haven't seen any westboro types shooting up bases either.Nice to know you're retired... @ JB - And glad to be retired. After all I'm not the one stuck on base with
Jay SMSgt ret, DC
8/2/2012 3:08:36 PM ET Editor's note: This comment was rejected because it did not meet the comment rules. Please review the comment rules, which can be found just above the comment submission form.
Jay SMSgt ret, DC
8/2/2012 11:51:54 AM ET All I can say is I am extremely thankful I never had to work for you Jay. I see your posts on here and am baffled by your tunnel visioned view of the world.
8/1/2012 4:10:02 PM ET Hey Jay, isn't it a Christian church that pickets soldiers' funerals? You can't just label everyone generically because it's convenient. Considering the gangs we bust in the military, supremecist infultration of the ranks, I think it's short sited to brant ALL muslims as suspicious within the ranks. Nice to know you're retired...
8/1/2012 2:53:35 PM ET Jay, the key word in your statement is extremist. An extremist of any religious background is a serious concern, but assuming ALL Muslims are extremists is dangerous territory on which to tread.
Don Branum, Air Force Academy
8/1/2012 11:49:57 AM ET @Jay: I do not believe anyone is trying to ban anything. Maybe if you believers would learn to respect one another there wouldn't be so many seemingly hate filled people around America. As Jon Stewart said, "You've confused the war on your religion with not always getting everything you want. It's called being part of a society." As for the aritcle, I am glad they found a way for the cadets to still honor their faith while still completing their required training.
Michael McCoy, Tyndall AFB FL
8/1/2012 8:20:00 AM ET When oh when will we as a species abandon all of these ridiculous ancient superstitions.
Greg Arious, SWA
7/31/2012 9:01:07 PM ET Don Mike and JK the FBI is currently investigating well over 100 cases of muslim extremists that have joined the various military branches. And these are the only cases they have made public.Wake up.
Jay SMSgt ret, DC
7/31/2012 10:48:58 AM ET Jay, I personally photographed last year's performance of Handel's Messiah at the Cadet Chapel -- which, by the way, the basic cadets have consistently filled every week of BCT. Religious diversity is alive and well in all its forms at the Air Force Academy, I assure you.
Don Branum, Air Force Academy
7/31/2012 10:11:07 AM ET Jay, how do we thoroughly vet and monitor the 2,200 white male cadets who like superhero movies? Use your cranium before stereotyping.
7/31/2012 9:25:23 AM ET Jay, I don't think the AF is keeping anyone from partaking in Christian holy days or rites. I'm fairly sure prostelitizing open group prayer in mixed audiences are not holy days or rites. Do I think the AF is trying too hard to show our muslim ties ? Yes, but I also think we care too much to talk about gay pride or anything that diverts from the Airmen First concept. To that end, you can ditch the vetting and Ft. Hood nonsense... .
7/30/2012 5:59:47 PM ET Jerry the 14th Amendment has long been held by the Supreme Court to extend the Bill of Rights to the various States. As for the Air Force the clause Congress shall make no law is held to apply to the entire US Federal Government including all of its agencies.
Ret MSgt, St Paul MN
7/30/2012 4:49:45 PM ET This is a great example of people doing the right thing. glad to hear it's gettting the attention it deserves.
7/30/2012 12:11:51 PM ET Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. As long as the constitution is being observed every thing is fine. The question is can any other agency or organization establish a religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof. The Constitution only limits Congress from passing laws establishing a religion or denying the right of free exercise.
7/30/2012 10:46:36 AM ET Funny the Air Force is going out of it's way to ban any and all references to the Chritian God but still allows cadets to partake in Ramadan. Don't they have other things they should be concentraing on Maybe the Academy schedule is not as full as it should be. I for one hope these kids are being thoroughly vetted and their activities and associations monitored. Don't need another Fort Hood happening anywhere.