Muslim Soldier Complains of Mistreatment

The Washington Post has an interesting article on a Muslim American Soldier who is engaged in “battles on friendly ground.”  The article is essentially a superficial re-telling of US Army Spc Zachari Klawonn’s story, even to the point of being dismissive toward two other Muslim Soldiers (Capt. Rhana Kurdi and Sgt. Fahad Kamal) who gave statements supportive of the Army with regard to their faith.

According to the article, Klawonn has filed “complaint after complaint with his commanders.”  (It is unclear if this is inclusive of the “20 complaints” he has filed with the equal opportunity office.)  He believes he has mild depression and has seen a psychologist a half dozen times since joining the Army.  When he enlisted, he was “grilled” by those at his mosque who wanted to know how he could kill Muslims, which was “forbidden.”

Klawonn was allegedly told by superiors that he needed to be careful, because he fit the same profile as Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan–a Muslim soldier disgruntled with the Army, complete with a psychological history and close associates who seem to believe his military service is incompatible with Islam.  While Klawonn may have been understandably upset by the statement, prior decisions to punish superiors who “failed” to prevent Hasan’s massacre of 14 people at Fort Hood has now put all Soldiers on notice that they, too, will be held to account if they don’t address “suspect” incidents.

Klawonn has, by his own admission, complained of actions that are not inherently prejudicial.  (Oddly, he doesn’t indicate how any of his dozens of complaints ended, except to say that “nothing changed.”)  Now, besides Klawonn’s frequent complaints, he has had CAIR write a letter to Secretary of Defense Gates, and it was Klawonn who contacted the Washington Post to get his story publicized–none of which will likely endear him to the Army.

Even so, it is still unclear what Klawonn would have the Army do.  He has complained of threats, slurs, and a “lack of cultural training,” but his own story describes how the Army already has systems in place to address his concerns.  Importantly, some of his complaints aren’t necessarily actionable, despite his personal feelings on the matter.  Without specifics it is difficult to know, but it is likely that Spc Klawonn may have some valid complaints.  It is also likely that he has failed to understand that some things he’s complained about may actually be legitimate actions by the military.  Filing a complaint does not inherently make one right or guarantee a desired outcome.

Klawonn also presents a schizophrenic view of his unit; on one hand, he is so persecuted that he is forced to lodge dozens of complaints and seek redress with the Secretary of Defense.  On the other, his peers praise him as a flawless Soldier and have to be told “what he’s going through.”

As others have alluded, it will be interesting to see if more details are publicized on this story, or if it simply fades into the background.

Interestingly, the article gives Michael Weinstein a few lines to cite unsubstantiated statistics, as well as give quotes from his standard unnamed American troops–though he has previously said one of those same quotes was from a civilian.  Since Weinstein is never challenged to support his accusations, it is impossible to know in which case his statement was wrong.

(For an interesting contrast in attitudes, consider the story of US Air Force 1Lt Ali Jivanjee, a Muslim F-15 fighter pilot who was killed in a February 2008 training accident.  At his memorial, his commander said that Jivanjee took to signing his name “Jihad” because his first and middle names were Ali Akbar, and he was ultimately named “Danny Boy” because “he needed a strong Irish name.”)


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  • Joel,

    JD’s complaint of Klawonn is stereotypically fighter pilot. Klawonn may have valid complaints, but they fail the ‘actionable’ test. Complaints should come with a recommendation on how to fix the complaint. Otherwise it’s ‘quibbling’ or ‘whining.’

  • To the author and “Dealer”,

    Without prooving someone did something “actionable”, it is dificult to remprimand or prosecute them, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t guilty of a crime or harassment.
    Our government passed a series of anti-descrimination laws over the years for a reason;
    Regardless of race, color, creed, gender, religion, etc., we are all Americans. The only native Americans are/were American Indians, and we immigrants disgraced ourselves and our beliefs by killing them and treating them in a racist manner. I question the intelect, integrity, and character of the soldiers who are harassing him. These are not the kind of people, I would trust my life to on the battlefield. They are not (or should not be) representative of the U.S. Army. I would much rather serve with Klawonn, than the others because he seems to be an honorable person, and he seems to be a good soldier. This Klawonn guy looks and speaks like a white man and seems as American as apple pie. The only thing to discriminate against is his religion, which is against the law. Just like the laws of the land, the military should have laws, rules, regulations which protect soldiers from such discrimination. Legitimate or not, his complaints should be taken seriously and investigated to the fullest. I agree completely with going to the press if he is getting no
    response or satisfaction within the military command. Maybe enough American citizens will contact their legislators and other government officials to put heat on the military. I don’t think it’s “quibbling” or “whining” if this guy is genuinely afraid for his well-being. We want him to be focused on his duties and training for any potential deployment, rather than being harassed and fearing violent acts. Hell, this anti-American behavior may drive him to the brink and make him become a violent radical muslim.

  • John,

    I think you missed both mine and JD’s point here. It’s not the actual complaint that is the problem. We both admit that the complaints are likely valid and there is no way for either of us to evaluate that. The problem is the way in which he wanted his complains to be processed.

    It’s good that Klawonn addressed his commander. It’s unclear if he approached the person who did the offense (or for that matter if he even could), or the equal opportunity office on base. It’s not good that he approached the press.

    I don’t care about his religion, just the way that his case made it to the press. As is, I agree with you about the integrity and character of whoever harassed Klawonn, as such actions have no excuse.