Ex-Marine, a NH professor, helps tell story of an Afghan refugee, actor and U.S. patriot
Mike Moffett collected his share of stories during the four months he spent touring Afghanistan as a Marine Corps historian in 2010, but it was the story of one person in particular that stayed with him even after he returned home to New Hampshire.
And now we all can read about it.
Moffett, who retired last year as a lieutenant colonel after nearly 30 years in the Marines, the last 21 in the reserves, is the co-author of the book “Fahim Speaks: A Warrior-Actor's Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back,” published by Warriors Publishing Group.
The book is the result of a chance meeting between Moffett and Fahim Fazli in Afghanistan.
“I've never been involved in anything like this,” said Moffett, a professor at New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord. “It's been interesting and a lot of work.”
Moffett and Fazli will launch their book Wednesday, May 30, at the Savannah Chop House in Laguna Niguel, Calif. It is a special day for both of them; in addition to being the traditional date for Memorial Day, it's also the birthday of both Moffett, who will be 57, and Fazli, who will be 46.
Moffett was traveling with the 3rd Battalion of the 4th Marine Regiment in 2010 when he attended an event in Delaram in the southern part of war-torn Afghanistan. The district governor there was throwing a dinner for the battalion's commanding officer. Fazli was seated across the table from Moffett.
Fazli was a contracted interpreter, an Afghan native who wore a military uniform but looked like a native with his long hair and beard.
It's how and why Fazli came to be at that table that fascinated Moffett and led to the two collaborating on the book.
Fazli left Afghanistan in 1983 — escaped is a better way to put it — as a teenager during the Soviet occupation of the country. He ended up in California and eventually became an actor.
He found a niche in Hollywood playing bad guys, specifically terrorists. He's played Saddam Hussein, as well as a member of the Taliban, on television. Off the set, Fazli is quite the opposite, proving to be an American patriot (he became a citizen in 1996) — and that is what struck Moffett.
“He's from an Islamic country, and he's not afraid to show he loves America,” Moffett said. “He's not afraid to condemn intolerance in his native land.”
That American patriotism and his love of his native country led Fazli to sign up as an interpreter. He even requested to be on the front lines and was stationed at Delaram, a forward operating base for the Marines.
Fazli, as Moffett found out, was so successful in bridging the two cultures that the Taliban put a price on his head.
In a series of stories Moffett wrote for the New Hampshire Union Leader while he was in Afghanistan, he detailed his initial encounter with Fazli.
“During the dinner, I conversed with an interpreter, Fahim Fazli, speaker of five languages,” Moffett wrote. “He was born in Afghanistan but had become a refugee during the Soviet occupation.
“He ended up in Southern California and eventually made his way to Hollywood, where he was typecast as a Taliban-like bad guy in movies like ‘The Beast,' ‘Kite Runner,' and ‘Iron Man.' He appeared in similar roles on the television show ‘24' and had been an adviser for ‘Charlie Wilson's War.' I thought he looked familiar.
“He was keeping a journal of sorts and explained that he'd like to turn it into a book. When he learned I had some experience putting words together, he asked for my help. I gave him my card. If Fahim's compelling story gets recorded, then it could end up as a movie where he would finally be a protagonist instead of a bad guy!”
Moffett got together with Fazli later that year when the Granite Stater went to California to interview Marines returning from Afghanistan. They decided to write the book. Moffett pitched the project to Dale Dye, a retired Marine captain, and his wife Julia Dewey Dye, who run Warrior Publishing Group.
Through a series of meetings, interviews and correspondence, the final version was completed earlier this year, and the book was released in March on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
There is also a website for the book: www.fahimspeaks.com.
Email staff reporter Jim Fennell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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