Skip to main content

US Marine drill instructor who abused Muslim recruits sentenced to 10 years

Raheel Siddiqui, one of drill instructor's victims, died at bootcamp last year in incident ruled as suicide
US Marines at burial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery (AFP/file photo)

A drill instructor who abused Muslim US Marine recruits was sentenced to 10 years in jail and dishonourably discharged from the military on Friday.

A prosecutor described Joseph Felix as a "bully" who targeted Muslims recruits and mistreated them physically and verbally.

Raheel Siddiqui, one of Felix’s victims died at Parris Island bootcamp in South Carolina last year. His death was ruled a suicide, but his family challenged that conclusion.

No matter what we do, we cannot bring Raheel back, but we must ensure that justice is served and that those responsible are held to account.

-Debbie Dingell, congresswoman

According to military prosecutor John Norman, Felix "picked out Muslim recruits for special abuse because of their Muslim faith."

"He degraded their religion and put them in industrial appliances," Norman told the jurors, referring to an incident where Felix ordered a Muslim recruit into a large dryer, turned it on and made anti-Muslim remarks to him.

He added that Felix was "drunk on power", and sometimes actual whisky.

Prior to his death, Siddiqui was slapped by instructors and called a “terrorist.”

Last month, Siddiqui’s family sued the US government over the death. The lawsuit said the 20-year-old’s fate was a result of “negligence on multiple levels of command.”

Dawud Walid, the executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Michigan, told Middle East Eye last month that there was an injustice done against Siddiqui.

“I can say as an American Muslim who formerly served in the military that there is a very deep-seated hazing problem in general in the United States military, especially when it comes to people who are different, especially people of colour,” said Walid, who is a US Navy veteran.

US Muslim Marine's family sues government over death at training camp
Read More »

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, who represents Siddiqui’s family’s town of Taylor, Michigan, welcomed the verdict against Felix.

In a statement, she called Siddiqui’s death “a dereliction of duty and a tragedy”

"As the prosecution stated in closing arguments, Sergeant Felix ‘wasn’t making Marines, he was breaking Marines,'" she said.

"No matter what we do, we cannot bring Raheel back, but we must ensure that justice is served and that those responsible are held to account."

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.