The Stars and Stripes ran an article entitled “Some Muslim servicemembers struggle to balance faith and service,” though the article cited only a single former servicemember, former Army SSgt Mohammad A. Hasan. After 9 years of service, with his Islamic faith a non-issue, he said a deployment to Iraq set him apart from his peers:
With a dark complexion and Muslim name, the Bangladesh-born soldier’s loyalty was at times questioned by suspicious troops during his deployment in Iraq, he said.
The article continues to use the plural with reference to “struggling” Muslim Soldiers, though it fails to mention any others. In fact, it quotes both former Navy Continue reading →
Interviewer: …How can you be talking about suffering when the military establishment claims that it is the most open toward minorities toward women, and toward all those who suffer in society in general?
Zachari Klawonn: …The reality is that there is a sense of Islamophobia and there is a big misunderstanding of the Islamic faith and that contributes to people’s negative notions coming into the military. Also the training we get and the information we are subject to constitutes propaganda against Islam.
He also demurred, again, when asked to specify how he had been mistreated:
Interviewer: …Can you give us some examples of the harassment you are talking about, which you experienced personally?
Zachari Klawonn: Sure, I received numerous disrespectful comments and even harassment to my personal property from an array of soldiers, even in some instances from the command itself.
A protest in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan was inspired by a claim that international troops “destroyed copies of the Koran.” NATO said one person was killed–a sniper targeted by coalition forces–while Afghan officials reported six deaths.
A recent Military Religion Question of the Day involved a sermon delivered in Afghanistan by Chaplain (LtCol) Gary Hensley. The question and subsequent answer have already been discussed. The discussion noted that groups used Hensley’s sermon as proof of religious impropriety in the military, though their accusations were demonstrably false.
The relationship of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to this incident, however, requires further illumination. Continue reading →
In May 2009, al Jazeera broadcast a show that included film from a military chapel in Afghanistan. In the sermon, US Army Chaplain (LtCol) Gary Hensley told his congregation they had a responsibility to be a ‘witness for Jesus.’ He said:
The special forces guys—they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down.… Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That’s what we do, that’s our business.
Afghans recently protested an alleged incident in which ‘foreign soldiers’ burned a Quran during a raid. NATO and US force representatives denied that any such incident occurred, instead calling it a Taliban rumor.
Perhaps more interesting were the actions the protestors took. While a few Americans claim that US actions are convincing the Muslim world that Americans are on a Christian ‘crusade,’ the protestors repeated the more common accusation: Continue reading →
The sensitivities of religion, military uniforms, and weapons have frequently made for controversial accusations. A few months ago, al Jazeera used creative cuts in a video of a Chaplain to imply that he was wearing a sidearm. (Though he wasn’t, others in the congregation may very well have been.) When Christian basic trainees were photographed with their weapons during religious services, they were decried as morally equivalent to Islamic suicide bombers.
The apparent accusation is that American servicemembers should not be permitted to intermingle their uniforms, weapons, and religion. Notably, that accusation has been applied only to Christians. Other ideological adherents have been photographed in uniform with their weapons without complaint.
The internet is awash with people calling for court-martial and other repercussions for the soldiers shown on al Jazeera (as discussed previously). Some have even said their actions are evidence of a larger conspiracy, and that they have endangered their fellow troops.
In an apparent response to the claims that it took things out of context, al Jazeera has posted a seven minute unedited video clip of the “Bible study group” in which the local language Bibles were shown. The original video, discussed here, was severely edited and has caused an internet uproar calling for court martial for the Chaplains and discharge for all the military members involved.
The fuller video is somewhat vindicating, and demonstrates that the al Jazeera clip did, in fact, take the Chaplain’s and soldiers’ words out of context. The Chaplain, accused in some places of illegal action, gives very good, very legal advice, and talks about the “hearts and minds” of the Afghani and Muslim culture. He very specifically, and very emphatically, says violating General Order number one is not the “sword they want to fall on.” Continue reading →
As noted at the Huffington Post, al Jazeera has posted a news article and segment (video on YouTube) showing military Chaplains in the Middle East with Bibles in the local language and preaching “conversion.”
While seemingly inflammatory on its face (as evidenced by the outrage in subsequent comments on the websites), the newsreel is actually an “exercise in context.” For example, it highlights this quote, also re-posted in both the al Jazeera and Huffington Post articles:
[T]he chaplains appear to have found a way around the regulation known as General Order Number One.
“Do we know what it means to proselytise?” Captain Emmit Furner, a military chaplain, says to the gathering.
“It is General Order Number One,” an unidentified soldier replies.
But [another soldier] says “you can’t proselytise but you can give gifts.”
The voiceover then continues, and the Huffington article goes on to emphasize the crime of conversion in Afghanistan.
Both ignore the significance of the very next statement by the Chaplain, which is almost obscured by the al Jazeera narrator. Continue reading →