It’s a serious mistake to allow a man who believes in a Christian “jihad” to hold such senior Pentagon policymaking position – NY Times
Additional Reporting By Mustafa Abdel-Halim, IOL Staff
WASHINGTON, October 17 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – A senior U.S. Defense official came under fire Friday, October 17, from inter-faith groups and Muslim advocacy watchdogs after saying the god of Muslims is nothing but an idol, while the defense secretary and top army commander rushed to defend him as having broke no rules.
William Boykin, the new deputy undersecretary of Defense for intelligence, had claimed that Muslims’ God “was an idol,” and that “our spiritual enemy will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus”.
The Interfaith Alliance, a Washington-based group, wrote to U.S. President George Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Thursday, urging that Boykin be reprimanded for his remarks released one or two days earlier.
“The remarks of Gen. Boykin fly in the face of the pleas of the president and violate the basic principles of tolerance and inclusion that are implicit in the culture of this nation, ,” Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the alliance, was quoted by the New York Times as saying.
“Given his discordant views on Islam — as reported in detail — and other religions, can Gen. Boykin serve the U.S. while in the Middle East with the necessary respect and diplomacy? At this point, I would have to say no,” Gaddy stressed.
Lashing out at him, the New York Times said Boykin is in a senior Pentagon policymaking position, and it’s a serious mistake to allow a man who believes in a Christian “jihad” to hold such a job.
For one thing, he has made it clear that he takes his orders not from his army superiors but from God — which is a worrisome line of command, it added.
For another, it is both imprudent and dangerous to have a senior officer guiding the war in Iraq and Afghanistan who believes that Islam is an idolatrous, sacrilegious religion against which we are waging a holy war, warned the daily.
“Putting a man with such extremist views in a critical policy-making position sends entirely the wrong message,” said Awad
The statements drew angry reactions from human rights and civil advocacy groups in the United States and Europe.
“It will not help improve our relations with Muslims at all,” Peter Pelz of the Soul of Europe, a group dedicated to bringing in religious tolerance across the world, told IslamOnline.net.
“This is outrageous,” Pelz said over the phone from London.
For the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the remarks send the wrong signals, at a time Bush was making reassurance the war on terrorism has nothing to do with Islam.
“Putting a man with such extremist views in a critical policy-making position sends entirely the wrong message to a Muslim world that is already skeptical about America’s motives and intentions,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
“Everyone is entitled to their own religious beliefs, no matter how ill-informed or bigoted, but those beliefs should not be allowed to color important decisions that need to be made in the war on terrorism.”
Awad stressed that General Boykin should be reassigned to a position in which he will not be able to harm America’s image or interests.
The CAIR official said Muslims worship the same God as Christians and Jews, adding that Arabic language bibles use the word “Allah” when referring to God.
He quoted the Muslims holy book as stating “Say ye: ‘We believe in God and the revelation given to us and to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between one and another of them and it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves.'”
“Whatever he said was in a private capacity,” Rumsfeld argued
Despite repeated questioning at a briefing on Thursday, Rumsfeld declined to condemn Boykin, refusing to say whether he would take any action or whether he was even reviewing the comments.
“Whatever he said was in a private capacity,” he told reporters.
“We do know that he is an officer that has an outstanding record in the United States armed forces,” Rumsfeld argued.
For his part, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers said “there is a very wide gray area on what the rules permit” but “at first blush, it doesn’t look like any rules were broken.”
Boykin, a highly decorated veteran of U.S. special operations, was elevated in June to his new position with the mandate to reinvigorate the search for A-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader who has eluded U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
He was a commando in the supersecret Delta Force and took part in the failed hostage rescue mission in Iran, the search for drug lord Pablo Escobar in Colombia and the 1993 raid in Mogadishu that ended in the deaths of 18 U.S. soldiers.
Boykin, dressed in his army uniform, had told an Oregon religious group on the third day of his nomination to the new post in June that “radical Islamists” hate the U.S. “because we’re a Christian nation and the enemy is a guy named Satan.”
“Why do they hate us? The answer to that is because we’re a Christian nation. We are hated because we are a nation of believers,” he had said in Florida in January.
“I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol,” Boykin said of a Muslim Somali warlord.
He spoke about how his belief in Christianity has trumped Muslims and other non-Christians in battle.
Casting the war on terrorism in religious terms, he said “our spiritual enemy will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus”.
Boykin has described himself as a warrior in the kingdom of God and invited others to join with him in fighting for the U.S. through repentance, prayer and the exercise of faith in God.
He has praised the leadership of President Bush, whom he extolled as “a man who prays in the Oval Office.”