"Every Muslim is a feminist": Muslim-American vet explains why he's marching for women's rights

Nate Terani, a first-generation Iranian, Muslim-American and military veteran, is as feminist as they come.

So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Terani will march among the ranks at the Women's March in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.

The march — now a global movement — is an impassioned response to the inauguration of President Donald Trump, a figure who's earned himself a reputation as a misogynist who encourages sexual assault.

"As a Muslim-American who believes in fundamental equality and as a veteran who took an oath to defend the Constitution, it is important to be present on the ground," 39-year-old Terani said of the march from his home in Tucson, Arizona, in an interview with Mic. He spoke while he packed for his trip to D.C.

Terani protests Trump's presidential candidacy
Source: Nate Terani

Despite a narrative in the West that Islam is inherently oppressive towards women, Terani emphasized being a Muslim is not incongruous with being a feminist — in fact, given equality is axiomatic to Islam, Terani contends "every Muslim is a feminist."

"The prophet Muhammad's last sermon was about the equality of women," he said.

"If you look at Islam for what it really is, you'll see that one of the fundamental tenets is the inherent equality of all human beings; that's why you'll often see Muslims railing against things like slavery," Terani added. 

"If you look at Islam for what it really is, you'll see that one of the fundamental tenets is the inherent equality of all human beings."

With 82% of Americans refusing to identify as "feminists," a Vox poll in April 2015 found, the chances of finding a self-described feminist are already slim. Factor in the Muslim-American and veteran identities and Terani is subverting expectations. 

He was the first Muslim-American to become a member of the highly prestigious United States Navy Ceremonial Guard, known also as the presidential honor guard, Terani explained, before working at the Defense Intelligence Agency. 

Terani and his Presidential Honor Guard platoon during a Pentagon ceremony with Sen. John McCain
Source: Nate Terani

Since leaving the military in 2006, Terani has devoted himself to social and political causes, working with Veterans for Peace and its offshoot, Veterans Challenge Islamophobia.

And demonstration has become a customary outlet for Terani's advocacy. He protested a Trump rally in March, for example, where he was armed with a sign that read: "Vets to Trump: End Hate Speech Against Muslims."

Terani (second from the left) protests Trump, imploring him to end hate speech against Muslims.
Source: Nate Terani

Defending Islam and gender equality has remained at the forefront of his political engagement.

Raised by a single mother, a former athlete who represented Iran in the 1972 Olympics whom Terani calls his "best friend," Terani surmises this may have been a "subconscious motivator" in his prioritizing women's rights.

"It is wholly abhorrent to me for someone who ran for president, or for anyone, to invite bigotry, sexism and misogyny — and to denigrate one half of the human race," he said of Trump. 

"I also think it's important for people to know that Muslims are showing up in Washington to try and dispel the false narratives out there."

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Natasha Noman

Natasha is a News Staff Writer covering global affairs. She previously reported on regional affairs from Pakistan. Natasha is based in New York and can be reached at natasha@mic.com.

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