A Muslim Became a Christian US Soldier. Mikey Weinstein Isn’t Happy.
Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, self-described defender of religious freedom in the US military, returned to rare form yesterday and excoriated the US military because it published a story about a US Soldier — and she’s a Christian.
In what is likely an intentional Public Affairs and recruiting effort, the military has long had a practice of publishing personal interest stories on its troops. While there are many “average Americans” profiled, there are also many stories about US troops with relatively unique and significant experiences. There are many stories about growing up in impoverished or oppressive countries, living in fear or struggle before coming to America, and wanting to “give back” to the country they feel has given them so much.
About a week ago, the US Army published such a story about US Army SPC Zahraa ‘Katya’ Frelund, who, as an Iraqi teenager in 2009, ran away from what she knew and into the arms of US troops on a US Army base in Baghdad. The Army Captain she met there told her
if she would spend some time on base working for the unit as an interpreter, helping gather information, she could stay until they could get her to America.
“And that’s why I love the U.S. Army so much,” Frelund said, choking up at the memory. “If the captain had said ‘I’m sorry, I feel for you, I know you came this far, but I can’t help you; you have to go back,’ I would be dead or in a sex house.”
Frelund’s personal characterization of the culture she experienced is apparently one of the things with which Weinstein takes issue. The second is her retelling of her faith story:
Frelund gained a new purpose for her life during her time on Camp Liberty. When a new friend invited Frelund to come to an on-post church service with her, Frelund scoffed.
“I was Muslim at the time; I didn’t even want to go,” she said. “But my friend teased me – she knew I liked blue eyes, and she said many of the men at church have blue eyes; maybe I’ll find a husband.”
Immediately, it became clear to her it was about much more than that.
“When we got there, I felt so calm, so peaceful and when the chaplain started talking, he talked about the shepherd,” Frelund said, struggling to hold back tears. “The shepherd had 100 sheep, but when he lost the one, he left the 99 to go find it…”
“And I was just like, ‘he’s talking about me! I’m the one! I’m the lost sheep! And he’s come to find me!’” she said.
Frelund said when she returned to her room, Jesus appeared to her, hand outstretched — and that’s when she knew. Her conversion from Islam to Christianity has shaped her life since, she said, and continues to shape it and provide direction now.
The article is much longer, but that’s the “controversial” section of Frelund’s life story. Note that there is no coercion, no endorsement, and no promotion. The Army is just letting her tell her story, and it’s a fairly matter-of-fact retelling of her experiences as a young woman before she became a US Army Soldier.
And Mikey does not like this young woman’s “lived experience.”
As a result, the MRFF staff witnessed another episode of Mikey’s Mad Libs as he peppered his vitriol with more adjectives than an online thesaurus:
MRFF has received dozens of sincere complaints from furious U.S. military members who are Muslims in reaction to [this] truly OUTRAGEOUS “news” article…
This “news” article is quite obviously both hideously and blatantly Islamophobic and simultaneously a wretched yet clear example of fundamentalist Christian supremacy, domination, and exclusivism.
What a particularly horrid example of anti-Muslim bigotry and prejudice this “news” article has engendered whilst concomitantly elevating Christianity to an unconstitutional level of unrivaled triumphalism and victory!…
The “news” article vomits enough evidence on its own, sir.
Not only that, but according to one Mikey Weinstein, this “news” article – to borrow his air quotes – by SGT Liane Hatch of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division, doesn’t just break the law, it “clearly” violates the US Constitution.
This “news” article is also clearly violative of the No Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution…
“Clearly,” Mikey Weinstein has a weak grasp on the truth (and likely reality). If a person has a traumatic personal experience as part of their life story, neither they nor their story are “bigoted” simply because of that past. A person’s life experiences do not violate the US Constitution. Absolutely nothing in Frelund’s story indicates that either she or her “lived experience” is Islamophobic, wretched, horrid, anti-Muslim, or prejudiced, nor does it (or can it) violate the Constitution. Mikey made that up out of whole cloth.
Shockingly, Mikey Weinstein is also somehow able to discern that Frelund is a “fundamentalist Christian”, despite the fact she declares nothing about her Christian beliefs except that Jesus appeared to her and she’s a “believer in Mary, mother of Jesus.” Frankly, that doesn’t sound like a typical conversion experience for a “fundamentalist Christian.”
In short, there appears to be essentially nothing remotely truthful about Weinstein’s accusation regarding Frelund’s retelling of her life story. In fact, if you look closely, most of Weinstein’s accusation seems to be the same as his generic vitriol any time any US servicemember talks about (or even just mentions) their Christian faith.
Finally, Weinstein continues his copy-paste vendetta when he claims that, were the situation reversed (had Frelund left a hard life as a Christian to become a Muslim), there would have been “blood in there [sic] streets.”
Of course, the situation has been reversed in the past, and in even more dramatic fashion. SPC Frelund was a young, civilian, non-US citizen when she says she became a Christian, but the US military has published a variety of personal interest stories about uniformed US troops changing their faiths from Christianity to Islam.
So, Mikey, where’s the evidence of those “torrents of blood in there [sic] streets” you were talking about?
Christianity has been portrayed negatively in other personal interest stories published by the military in the past. Remember the story of SrA Nelson? His portrayal of his ‘pray the gay away’ conservative Christian parents wasn’t exactly flattering, and yet the Air Force published his story without so much as a disclaimer — and Mikey didn’t seem to mind.
And that brings up an interesting point. It appears that unlike the vast majority of personal interest stories, Frelund’s was published with a disclaimer. Initially, it simply said it was her “first person account”:
A few days later (but still well before Weinstein complained), the note was changed to add:
The Soldier’s views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Army.
Apparently, someone must have given them a hint that people didn’t like SPC Frelund’s life story. But why is her story deserving of a “disclaimer” while Nelson’s isn’t?
We know the answer to that, of course. SPC Frelund says she’s a Christian, and it remains acceptable to stigmatize and attack Christians today. Had she converted to Islam, or positively described any other faith practice, Weinstein would almost certainly have ignored her story, as he ignored the stories of all the other troops who related their conversion experiences to Islam. (Weinstein’s organization did make a half-hearted statement…once.) Had she converted herself into a man, Weinstein likewise would have left her alone.
But say you became a Christian, and you are, without qualification, exhibiting “fundamentalist Christian supremacy, domination, and exclusivism,” according to Mikey Weinstein.
If, like Mikey Weinstein, you dismiss the “lived experiences” of a woman who was publicly slapped by her mother and almost gang raped, and you say her story is one of a “supremacist” not because of anything she did or said but because of the religion of those who abused her, you’re part of the problem.
That’s low even for you, Mikey.