US Navy Issues Ramadan Guidance in Bahrain
The US Navy is being accused of forcing civilians, Sailors, and their families to comply with Islam during the month of Ramadan. Pamela Geller, a well-known critic of “Islamization” and Islamic extremism, said
Our troops must adhere to the sharia during the Islamic month of Ramadan in Bahrain and other Muslim countries. Subjected to dawah (proselytizing) by a base Islamic cultural adviser at the Naval Support Activity, soldiers are forced to sit through lessons on Islam. No eating, drinking, alcohol, or smoking during the month of Ramadan…
US military are encouraged “to experience Iftar in a Ramadan tent.”
Why anyone who is not a Muslim must stop eating (except in secret) during Ramadan is another example of how Islamic supremacism. Unlike Jewish law which pertains only to Jews, and Canon law which pertains only to Christians, the Sharia asserts its totalitarian authority over non-Muslims.
While her characterization isn’t entirely accurate, it is based on the Navy’s own public statements from the Commander, US Navy 5th Fleet:
As non-Muslim guests in the region, we are not expected to fast during Ramadan, but we are expected to respect the observance by refraining from eating (including chewing gum), drinking (even water), smoking and chewing tobacco in public during daylight hours.
The Navy’s motivation, however, isn’t entirely religious:
In Bahrain during Ramadan, it is illegal to eat, drink, or smoke in public places during daylight hours…A violation of Ramadan observances by a non-Muslim may result in a fine or confinement.
However, the Navy’s guidance does go beyond that required even by local law:
During Ramadan, we adopt a conservative off base clothing policy that conforms to local customs. Wear loose fitting, concealing, neat, and conservative civilian attire in all public places off U.S. Government controlled installations and while transiting to and from base. Woman (over the age of 12) shall wear pants or skirts that cover their knees (even when seated), and sleeved blouses that cover their elbows. Men (over the age of 12) shall wear long trousers and sleeved shirts that cover their elbows.
Though unreported, the US Army recently gave its Soldiers in the Middle East largely the same guidance in the “Soldiers’ Guide to Ramadan.”
It is true that Bahrain is a majority Muslim country, but it is no stranger to Christianity (they’re even building a cathedral).
It is no small irony that NSA Bahrain is the same installation that canceled a children’s Nativity during the annual Christmas tree lighting in 2012 — to appease atheist Jason Torpy’s demand the US military avoid association with a Christian event because it “threaten[ed] US security.” In 2014, the Navy encouraged its members to participate in Islamic celebrations:
U.S. Personnel and their families are encouraged to attend Ramadan events, including evening meals in Ramadan tents as long as we act in a dignified and respectful manner.
Geller said the Navy was forcing Sailors to adhere to Sharia. Others complained that it was a violation of the First Amendment for the US government to require citizens to take such actions. Neither is an accurate characterization of the facts, though the complaints with the Navy’s requirements may be more a venting of frustration about the US military’s seemingly disparate treatment of differing religious views.
Consistent respect for religious liberty is a virtue from which many could benefit. Even in the desert heat, Bahrainis have begun to learn about ice hockey from their American visitors. The American demonstration of the human right of religious liberty — tolerance, but not submission — could probably be a good model as well.
In an interesting contrast, while “cultural sensitivity” dictated that Americans restrict their conduct in Bahrain, US Marines at Camp Leatherneck had no problem publicly celebrating the DoD’s homosexual/transgender “pride,” according to Marine Lt Garth Langley, even in the traditional Muslim majority country.
Related: The US Navy details its extra preparations for Ramadan meals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Also at the Stars and Stripes.