As an American soldier stationed in Iraq, with my National Guard unit, I read with interest Paul Sperry's article "Closing the Book on Koran Abuse.”
Sperry ends the article with this summary statement: "So the bad guys behind barbed wire can be religious—but not our soldiers guarding them. That in mind, it's hard to see how genuinely offended the Muslim population could be down there at Gitmo, and by extension Afghanistan and Pakistan. For the most part, we catered to their religious needs, ironically nourishing the very source for their murderous hatred that got them locked up in the first place."
Sperry's article mentions a Muslim chaplain who ministered to the Guantanamo detainees.
It's a small world after all.
In September of 2004, my National Guard unit was at "Fort XYZ," preparing to deploy to Iraq. One day, our brigade's NCOs and officers were assembled in an auditorium, and this very same chaplain lectured us on the subject of Islam. The presentation was valuable insofar as it presented the basics of the Muslim religion.
What was more notable though, is what was omitted.
The chaplain never mentioned dhimmitude, the inferior legal status of non-Muslims in an Islamic society. Nor did he tell us about the abysmal lack of religious freedom in the Muslim world. He never mentioned the concepts of Dar al-Islam vs. Dar al-Harb: "the World of Islam vs. the World of War."
He did mention Islamic Shari'a law, but without getting into details. He didn't mention that, according to Shari'a law, "apostasy" from Islam merits the death penalty. The chaplain did mention the Koran, although you can't really discuss Islam without mentioning it. But only a few unobtrusive Koranic verses were cited, while none of the many verses calling for violence against infidels was uttered (nearly everyone in the audience, by the way, would have been classified as an infidel). The chaplain assured us that jihad had nothing to do with violence. He taught us instead that jihad refers to "self-improvement." The military is determined to convince its personnel that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. Nothing.
In short, it was a pleasant chat that avoided the difficult questions, such as, "When will a Muslim country allow Christian chaplains to speak to their soldiers?"
As Sperrry points out in his article, American troops have been instructed to hide their own faith and religious beliefs from Iraqis. Guidebooks for soldiers go so far as to tell us not to even discuss religion in conversations with Iraqis. So is freedom of religion not a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom? Here in Iraq, I've already been part of conversations with Iraqis mentioning both Islam and Christianity. So far no riots have ensued.
On the one hand we're told that Islam is a tolerant peaceful religion, and on the other hand that we must be very careful never to test that notion by actually discussing any religion other than their own. So which is it?
The obsession of not offending Muslims goes so far as to place restrictions on mail sent to U.S. servicemen. The "Postal Restrictions for Middle Eastern Countries" include prohibitions against sending soldiers pork or alcohol. Neither is such a big deal. After all, plenty of pork is served in U.S. cafeterias, and alcohol is prohibited by other military regulations, anyway. However, another Postal Restriction reads: "Any matter containing religious materials contrary to Islamic faith or depicting nude or seminude persons, pornographic or sexual items are prohibited." Naturally, any Christian literature must be considered as “contrary to Islamic faith” since Islam rejects the fundamental Christian doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, any Christian doctrine could be considered "contrary to Islamic faith."
Notice, also, how this religious material is equated with pornography.
On at least one occasion, the father of a deployed National Guardsman was forbidden by his local post office from sending Christian literature to his son in Kuwait. Ironically, when the Kuwaiti embassy was contacted, a spokesman said that Kuwait did not restrict American servicemen from receiving material "contrary to the Islamic faith." Kuwait doesn't have a great record on religious freedom when it comes to dealing with its own citizens. Nevertheless, Kuwait's postal regulations grant U.S. soldiers and their families more freedom than the U.S. government does.
Ironic, isn't it?
Allan Wall is currently serving with his National Guard unit in Iraq. The views presented in this article do not necessarily represent those of the Bush Administration, the Department of Defense or any other government agency. Allan's "Memo from Mesopotamia" column can be found at http://www.vdare.com/awall/index.htm.