"I was advocating for our national values," said former U.S. Army Muslim Chaplain James J. Yee. "My patriotism was under fire."
On Monday, Sept. 22, Yee spoke in the Student Life Center Ballroomabout his experiences as a chaplain at Guantanamo Bay prison camp andhis 76-day imprisonment in a naval brig after being falsely accused ofespionage and of aiding alleged terrorists being held at Guantanamo.
Yee, a graduate of West Point and winner of two Army Commendationmedals, first gained notoriety in 2001 when he began educating hisfellow soldiers about Islam. He also handled numerous national andglobal media requests about his religion.
"Many Americans had questions about Islam after 9/11," Yee said. "[They] cameaway with a better understanding of Islam [after my talks]."
Because of his extensive knowledge of Islam, Yee was asked to serveas a chaplain at Guantanamo Bay. At the prison, he noticed questionableconditions, especially the use of religion "as a weapon to humiliate."He said the voicing of his concerns led to the false accusationsbrought against him.
Senior and co-chair for Vanderbilt University Speakers Committee(VUSC) Nina Wall said the organization chooses speakers based on their"timeliness and political pertinence."
"Mr. Yee fit both of these qualifications," said Wall.
Junior Amearah Elsamadicy, vice-president of the Muslim StudentAssociation, was happy about VUSC's choice of Yee. "This was neededbecause there wasn't a voice to Islam at Impact [last year]," saidElsamadicy.
Students attended Yee's presentation for reasons ranging frominterest in international law to concern about human rights issues.
"I think it's important to know what's going on at Guantanamo," said sophomore Sarah Brand, president of Amnesty International.