Professor Offended by SEAL Training Targets of Islamic Women

Omid Safi, a Professor of Islamic Studies at UNC Chapel Hill, took issue with a recent story about Navy SEAL training and the realistic mock-ups they use — which included mosques and paper targets of hijab-wearing women.  From the original article:

When you’re a Navy SEAL on the front lines of urban combat, the bad guys might be anywhere: inside an elementary school classroom, behind a soda machine at the bus station, cowering next to a hospital-room bed.
They might even hide in the bathroom.
Anything is possible, which is why the Navy special warfare community is excited about the $11.5 million training range …

Scenarios include a mosque, bank, post office, market and residential compound. In one section, nine chairs painted in primary hues sit behind desks in an elementary school classroom. Other rooms are more sinister, like a torture chamber accessed through a bus station wall.

The design decisions were not arbitrary:

Many of the details were taken from actual raids over the past decade, said Capt. Tim Szymanski, the commodore of Naval Special Warfare Group Two.

Safi takes issue with the accompanying photo, which seems to show a paper target of a woman in a hijab clearly pointing a weapon.  He claims the military does not have

…enough concern to know that they are taking target practice shooting at Muslim women.

Yeah, we are not at war with Islam, they keep telling us.
We just train our most skilled soldiers to kill Muslim women.
God have mercy on us.

Actually, the military is training its SEALs to kill people who are a threat — unless Safi believes pointing a weapon is a characteristic of being Muslim.  Whether that person is a white male or hijab-wearing woman is irrelevant.  The article makes clear the intent of the training scenarios is the otherwise benign nature of the threat.

Safi apparently never saw the recruiting scene from the original Men in Black.  He continues:

It’s not so much that this looks bad.
This is bad. It’s rotten to the core.

Can the folks in charge at the NAVY not see how this contributes to the dehumanizing of Muslims, not just Muslim women, not just Muslim civilians, but all Muslims?

His ALL CAPS notwithstanding, “this” doesn’t contribute to the dehumanizing of “all Muslims” or anyone else, for that matter.  What his reaction contributes to is the narrative that some Muslims (and those looking to malign the US military’s treatment of Islam) will criticize virtually everything the US military does with regard to its treatment of anything remotely related to Islam — even if that treatment is confined to extremism or those engaged in violence against the US military.

Members of the US military — particularly those in the special forces fields — have faced a wide variety of adversaries over the past several years.  Based on that history, it is not unreasonable to have them see a cardboard cutout of a woman in a hijab and be forced to discern whether or not she is a threat — and then react appropriately.

CAIR, however, apparently agreed with Safi.  They reportedly complained to the Navy, and the SEALs decided not to use the target after all.  One of the commanders explained — demonstrating how the target may have made an interesting photo for the prior news article, but was taken out of context [emphasis added]:

Capt. Tim Szymanski, the commodore of Naval Special Warfare Group 2…said SEALs must differentiate in a split second between civilian bystanders and potential enemies, and noted other cardboard cut-outs on the range would show people holding animals, not weapons.

CAIR’s Ibrahim Hooper apparently thought this target of the female shooter was so mesmerizing it would cause wanton killing by the US military:

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Islamic group, said it’s important that military units not be trained to see Muslims as enemies, even if they are fighting in Afghanistan or other Muslim-majority nations.

“There are all kinds of people all over the world trying to do us harm. Why would you use this particular image in training people how to kill?” Hooper asked.

No kidding? If Hooper can prove that all the targets are all Muslims, and the trainees on that course deploy to non-Islamic parts of the world, then he might have a valid complaint.  The truth, however, is that training is tailored for every unit and every deployment. 

That doesn’t matter to CAIR, of course.  The fact that Navy SEALs have been miraculously successful to this point in their uniquely challenging missions can’t have anything to do with the training they’ve done to this point — which Hooper hasn’t seen — can it?  Why haven’t the SEALs been out murdering Muslims, if Hooper is right?  Hooper continued:

“It creates the impression, we believe, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, that you should view Muslim women in headscarves with hostility and suspicion.”

That’s moronic.  It creates the impression that Muslim women in headscarves pointing weapons at you should be viewed with hostility and suspicion.  The next room over, with a similar image except the woman is holding a pet, creates the impression that Muslim women in headscarves carrying a kitten should not be viewed with hostility and suspicion.  It’s purposeful training on differentiation between threats and non-threats.

Good thing CAIR’s not running military training, or bin Laden might have needed a bullseye on his chest and a signed release in order for the SEALs to shoot him.

Photo credit: Hyunsoo Leo Kim, Virginian-Pilot.