Hasan and the proselytization factor

By Mikey WeinsteinPresident and Founder, Military Religious Freedom Foundation As we turn our collective eyes to the tragedies of Fort … Continued

By Mikey Weinstein
President and Founder, Military Religious Freedom Foundation

As we turn our collective eyes to the tragedies of Fort Hood this week, we mourn the men and women who offered themselves up to serve our country overseas, only to make the ultimate sacrifice in a senseless act of violence back home.

But the shootings at Fort Hood should be an important wake up call to the continuing religious intolerance that has been allowed to blatantly and systemically manifest in our nation’s armed forces. Too often, honorable men and women who have joined our military are comprehensively denigrated and made to feel worthless because, although they wear the same uniform, they do not pray in the “approved” church or to the “correct” God or to no God at all.

Let me be clear, there is absolutely no excuse for the alleged actions of Nidal Malik Hasan. What he did is reprehensible, and goes against everything the American military stands for.

But we must realize that the alleged mistreatment Hasan received in the American military almost certainly played a key role in his disaffection. Reliable reports indicate that fellow soldiers gave him a diaper to wear on his head, mocking Islamic headdresses. His car was keyed by an Iraq veteran because he had an “Allah is Love” bumper sticker, and others suggested he should ride a camel instead.

Unfortunately, Hasan’s alleged mistreatment is not uncommon. Muslims, Jews and other religious minorities in the armed forces are regularly made sport of and subjected to taunts and derisions, and face repeated proselytizing from their fundamentalist Christian peers and superiors. They are made to feel subhuman because they do not pray in Jesus’ name. Amazingly, the same merciless scorn and shame is levied upon non-fundamentalist Christian military members because they are judged by their superiors as not being “Christian enough.”

This problem has been horrifically exacerbated as military and political leaders have painted the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as conflicts between Christianity and Islam. It is a blood libel assessment that paints all Muslims as terrorists, and suggests that no followers of Islam can be loyal Americans, not even the brave soldiers by their side. This vile mentality feeds unbridled fear, bigotry and bloodlust.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) has 18 active cases at Fort Hood involving soldiers who allege they have been subjected to non-stop fundamentalist Christian proselytization. In fact, Fort Hood is one of the worst of the nearly 1,000 U.S. military installations around the world when it comes to the proselytizing of both non-fundamentalist Christian and non-Christian soldiers. Even elementary school students, the children of soldiers, on the base have been subjected to repeated proselytizing.

Both Congress and the Pentagon have largely turned a blind eye to or been explicitly complicit in this expanding internal national security threat. MRFF has over 15,000 cases world wide which more than testify to the veracity of the existence of this dangerous, growing plague.

It is illegal and immoral for non-fundamentalist Christian and non-Christian service members to be treated differently than their colleagues. And it is particularly incumbent on our military leaders to set standards that protect religious minorities and ensure their equal treatment in accordance with the solemn oaths they all swore to support and defend the United States Constitution. Pentagon policies should explicitly forbid prayer in Jesus’ name at mandatory formations on military bases, and all military men and women should be allowed to choose when, where and if to participate in religious observance.

These policies must be fortified with education for our soldiers that teaches religious tolerance and respect. The scope of this education must incorporate both those our servicemen and women will encounter overseas and the men and women who have their backs. All members of the military must see their colleagues as Americans and brothers and sisters in arms first and foremost, and not allow personal religious and cultural differences to get in the way of shared goals.

As we investigate the brutal, inexcusable murders at Fort Hood, we are compelled to assiduously examine how Muslim members of the armed services are treated. All armed forces members deserve to be treated fairly and with respect. When a military member is told by his or her superiors that they lack courage, intelligence, honor, trust, character and integrity because of their chosen religious faith (or no faith), that is no different then telling someone that they are “stupid” because of the color of their skin. America is better than that.

Mikey Weinstein is President and Founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

  • ccnl1

    Hmmm, no one forced these Muslims to join the military. And apparently Mikey Weinstein was never in the US military since if he/she was, she/he would know that there is little time for political correctness/respect when you are at war i.e. recruits are whipped into shape with all kinds of “disrespect”. Mikey please note the following is not being disrespectful but it appears you need a dose of reality:Abraham founder/father of three major religions was either the embellishment of the lives of three different men or aMany of the 1.5 million Conservative Jews and many of their rabbis have relegated Abraham to the myth pile along with most if not all the OT. Current crisis:Realization that the Jews are not god’s chosen people. And before you get too excited, here is an analogous review of the flaws in the history and theology of Christianity: Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a mamzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). Analyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, On Faith panelists) via the NT and related documents have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus’ sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects. continued below:

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    It is very good for me to see Michael WEinstein’s essay on this blog. He is at the forefront of the movement to end religious bigotry (persecution) in the military leveled by the Christian Fundamentalists. Weinstein had a very distinguished military career and served with distinction in the Regan White House. It is these among similar facts of his history that have lead the Christian Right to brand him “the most dangerous man in America, ” as he notes on his web site. I urge everyone to visit Michael Weinstein’s web site, read his biography on Wikipedia, and read his book: “With God on Our Side: One Man’s War Against an Evangelical Coup in America’s Military”I have referenced him and his work on other blogs, and threaders who followed up were glad they had done so.

  • kathylenhardt

    Mike is a graduate of the Air Force Academy so did indeed serve. It was discrimination that he himself endured that fueled his current cause.I usually agree with Mike, but I think he has it backwards this time. I believe it was political correctness gone rampant that allowed this tragedy to occur. According to reports, there were plenty of warning signs that Hasan should not have been in his position. I would prefer to have people offended than people dead.

  • kathylenhardt

    Mike is a graduate of the Air Force Academy so did indeed serve. It was discrimination that he himself endured that fueled his current cause.I usually agree with Mike, but I think he has it backwards this time. I believe it was political correctness gone rampant that allowed this tragedy to occur. According to reports, there were plenty of warning signs that Hasan should not have been in his position. I would prefer to have people offended than people dead.

  • ccnl1

    So maybe Mikey could give us some examples of how he was discriminated against in the military?? Or could it be some embellishments for book fill?? Personally, doing KP and cleaing latrines were very harmful to my psyche. Darn, I should have written a book about that!!!Hopefully, he sent a thank you note (or check) to the USA taxpayers for his free education at the Air Force Academy. Hmmm, did the taxpayers also pay his way through law school??From Wikipedia:”In October 2005, Weinstein sued the United States Air Force for permitting proselytization by evangelical Christian officers. U.S. District Judge James A. Parker, who presided over Weinstein v. U.S. Air Force, dismissed the case, stating, “No Plaintiff claims to have personally experienced any of the things described under “Factual Allegations”… while at the Academy or after leaving the Academy.” “The only fair reading of Plaintiffs’ factual allegations limits them to practices and events at the Academy and policies as they affect persons, other than Plaintiffs, at the Academy.” “Not a single Plaintiff has alleged any personal factual situation that has allegedly impinged on that Plaintiff’s constitutional rights since the Plaintiff left the Academy.”

  • compchiro

    kathylenhardt,”I believe it was political correctness gone rampant that allowed this tragedy to occur. According to reports, there were plenty of warning signs that Hasan should not have been in his position. I would prefer to have people offended than people dead.”Nothing that you said contradicts what he said. Prohibitting harrassment and proselytism is not being politcally correct. It is granting equal rights. Now your statement that Hasan should not have been in his position is correct. And political correctness MAY have been the cause of part of that lost chance to get rid of him or discharge him.

  • justillthennow

    A great essay and to one of the points of this problem. Although each persons actions they must be personally responsible for, it is also the effect of environmental and societal forces that inform and temper ones choices. If there is religious or racial prejudices or persecutions going on in the military, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest it is, then it must be addressed before greater harm comes of it. Racial and religious persecution and bigotry has a deep history in humanity, and has the effect of a deep cleave between peoples and cultures. If there was religious or racial persecutions going on in the case of Maj. Hasan, they may well have affected him directly and deeply, and could have pried at potential emotional or mental instability.I am happy to see this essay, and panelists with this message.

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