Islamic faith, Christian world

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Airman 1st Class Ashley Avecilla, 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs photographer, looks out the window as she prepares for her “Introduction to Islam” class, which was held in the base community center at 5:30 p.m. Mar. 2. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Airman 1st Class Ashley Avecilla, 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs photographer, looks out the window as she prepares for her “Introduction to Islam” class, which was held in the base community center at 5:30 p.m. Mar. 2. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Airman 1st Class Ashley Avecilla, 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs photographer, teaches a group of Airmen the basics of Islam during her “Introduction to Islam” class, which was held in the base community center at 5:30 p.m. Mar. 2. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Airman 1st Class Ashley Avecilla, 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs photographer, teaches a group of Airmen the basics of Islam during her “Introduction to Islam” class, which was held in the base community center at 5:30 p.m. Mar. 2. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Airman 1st Class Ashley Avecilla, 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs photographer, teaches a group of Airmen the basics of Islam during her “Introduction to Islam” class, which was held in the base community center at 5:30 p.m. Mar. 2. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Airman 1st Class Ashley Avecilla, 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs photographer, teaches a group of Airmen the basics of Islam during her “Introduction to Islam” class, which was held in the base community center at 5:30 p.m. Mar. 2. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- The Islamic faith is known as the second largest religion in the world. One Minot Airman, despite mounting odds, holds strong to her faith while living in a primarily-Christian community.

"Islam simply means, 'one who submits to God,'" said Airman 1st Class Ashley Avecilla, 5th Bomb Wing public affairs photographer. "It's not difficult to practice my faith, but it is disappointing I'm one of so few Muslims on base."

Currently, there are about 10 Muslims living and working as a Team Minot wingman.

"These are the folks who have proclaimed their faith," said Capt. Eddie Rubero, 5th Bomb Wing protestant chaplain. "There may be many others here, but haven't contacted us about their faith yet."

But for Airman Avecilla, proclaiming her faith and teaching others about what it truly means to be a Muslim in today's world is her number one priority, aside from the mission.

"I think it's important for people to understand the Islamic faith," she said. "There are a lot of misconceptions based on the acts of radical Islamic terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban."

Osama bin Laden, leader of the Al-Qaeda terrorist group, and his confidant, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, have made it difficult for peaceful Muslims, such as Airman Avecilla.

"When I first started wearing hijab [clothing with only face, hands and feet showing], it made me uncomfortable," said Airman Avecilla. "People would stop what they were doing and stare at me as I walked by."

"It's just rather amusing now," she added. "But I have been accused of being an Arab before. People should really understand that Islam is not solely an Arab religion and should have an open mind."

Airman Avecilla started teaching a series of classes geared toward educating Minot Airmen about the religion of Islam. The first class was held Mar. 3 at 5:30 p.m. in the base community center. The class was a basic introduction to the beliefs and practices of Islam.

"The class was very informative," said Airman 1st Class Nicholas Clum, 5th Operations Support Squadron aviation resource manager and student at the class. "I come from a Christian background and the class has given me a greater understanding of what it means to be Muslim."

The base chaplain's office facilitated Airman Avecilla with whatever resources she required to teach the class.

"We provided her with any tools and materials she needed," Captain Rubero said. "Ashley [Airman Avecilla] asked for several copies of the Islamic holy book, the Q'aran, and we have done what we can to make it happen for her."

"Ashley has opened the door and made the big step," he added. "I think it's a great thing providing religious services to the Muslims on this base. It's something they've been looking for."

For Minot Muslims to gather and worship God with others of their same faith, the closest mosque is in Fargo, N.D. Captain Rubero said the chaplain's office would provide a meeting place in one of the old chapel's multi-purpose rooms if there was enough interest.

"My religion is extremely important to me," said Airman Avecilla. "Islam puts greater emphasis on what you do and you must pray and give thanks for it all."