By Rosemary Pollock
Story of Mormon Marine Who Smuggled Princess to US to be NBC Movie
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA -- "The Princess &the Marine," set to air on
NBC in February, is the unlikely love story of a an LDS serviceman
and a member of the royal family of Bahrain. This made for Hollywood
real-life story took place when Jason Johnson and Meriam Al-Khalifa
fell in love, crossing religious and international boundries that
made headline news.
The young couple met at a mall in Bahrain, a small country on a group
of islands in the Persian Gulf. Johnson, 25, who had previously
served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
in Texas, was now a member of the United States Marines Corps and
stationed in Bahrain. Meriam Al-Khalifa was a young girl of 19 who
was forbidden by her parents and Muslim law from seeing Johnson. "Our
relationship at the time was based solely on friendship," Johnson
said. "We had no intention of dating or being together," Meriam added.
During brief moments the young couple saw each other only three times
in six months, communicating through surreptitious letters.
Eventually, Johnson forged a military I.D. and with fake orders and a
baggy uniform he smuggled her out of Bahrain on a commercial flight
to America. "Morally, it was right to do what I did," said Johnson.
"The greater of the two was more concern for the well-being of
another human being. Family is eternal. Family is forever. So she is
more important to me," he said.
Meriam applied for political asylum and is currently facing a fifth
hearing before the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Johnson
was court-martialed and demoted by the Marines, but consequently
given an honorable, "humanitarian discharge." "I still love the
Marine Corps very much and believe in what it stands for," he said.
The couple were married in Las Vegas, following her release from jail
where she was detained for illegally entering the United States.
During a recent press conference the couple sat with heads close
together, often leaning in to whisper to one another while assisting
the two actors, Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Marisol Nichols, who are
playing their roles in the upcoming movie. "The media didn't find us.
We chose to got to them because we knew that the American press would
be a great influence in determining the outcome of Meriam's case,"
Johnson said. They are hoping that the movie will further their cause
to prevail at the upcoming INS hearing. "She feels that she [Meriam]
can stand out, even though she's only 19, and help women who are in
situations where they are being abused ......and say, 'Hey, I deserve
better than what I'm getting. My children deserved better than what
they're getting," Johnson said.
Religious differences will be another problem to solve as Meriam is a
Muslim. "I have no intention of changing that," Al-Khalfifa Johnson
says. "We're different when it comes to our religions, but I learned
about his and he learned about mine. It's something that would help
us understand each other's point of view."
"The major concerns between Mormonism and Islam would be our standing
on Christ. They see Christ as a prophet, and we believe he's the son
of God," Johnson added. "The LDS Church has been so supportive and
kind to us, despite the fact that she's Muslim," Johnson said. "We've
had bishops come over to the house and bring us furniture. They have
been such a great help during this whole thing."
The Princess and the U.S. Marine
Deseret News 11Jan01 P2
By Scott Pierce: Deseret News television critic
Story of LDS-Muslim romance set for TV show
Marine Who Brought Bahraini Princess to US is Mormon