US Soldier, Family Convert to Islam in Germany

The Stars and Stripes covers the story of US Army SGT Chris and Cristina Tarantino, who were “reared Catholic” but recently converted to Islam.

She started to wonder what happened after death, she said, and how to best live life on earth.

She was spending time with her older sister, who had converted to Islam after marrying a Palestinian, and she sought her sister’s guidance.

Her sister’s answers about Islam made sense to Cristina and gave her some serenity, she said.

SGT Tarantino converted after his wife, before he deployed a second time.  The response of his comrades?

He decided not to hide it.

“I went to Kuwait and bought a prayer rug and started praying right there,” he said. “I saw it wasn’t the end of the world to say I was a Muslim.”

While Cristina Tarantino has received some odd looks at the Commissary,

her husband has never had a problem with acceptance. Soldiers in his unit, the 72nd Signal Battalion rear detachment, know he’s a Muslim. “I’d stop for prayer. I’d talk to them about Islam because it’s my chance to do a good deed,” he said.

“At first, they were – “What?” “You are?” “Really?”’ he said. After, they’d say, “Sgt. Tarantino, it’s prayer time.’ They were respectful,” he said.

(Notably, no one from Michael Weinstein’s MRFF has complained about Tarantino sharing his faith while on duty and in uniform…)

In fact, the only “bad reaction” he got was from another Muslim Soldier who shushed him when he greeted him in Arabic.

The story of their conversion is interesting both in the religious and cultural aspects.  For example, in noting their backgrounds the article implies they converted from Catholicism to Islam, and says

The Tarantinos say converting to Islam has given them new purpose, meaning and guidance in their lives. The adults have given up music and alcohol. The children have given up the tooth fairy and Santa.

Of course, the tooth fairy and Santa are as relevant to Christianity as they are to Islam, though some people may not pay attention to the “finer details” of their religious beliefs. In fact, Tarantino expressed some discomfort on some of the finer details of Islam, as well:

Chris gets a little uncomfortable when the discussion gets around to the afterlife, the promise to men of multiple virgins, and the possibility of his taking more wives in the future.

The notable part of the article is the non-event his conversion was to the Army and his comrades. In fact, when you think about it, why is an individual’s personal change in religious choice newsworthy for the Stars and Stripes at all? It has nothing to do with the official, institutional US military.  Tarantino and his family live in a country (and are from a country) where they can convert to whatever they feel like — something criminal in some parts of the world.

The only story is the non-story:  Despite conspiracy theories to the contrary, Tarantino’s story demonstrates the US military supports the religious freedom of its members to participate in the religious beliefs of their choosing.

Worth mentioning, but also routine.