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No, for Christ’s sake!
Interpreting the war on terror as a crusade has led to a simmering religous extremism in the US military, which needs to be curbed

When the US ex-President George W. Bush tagged his War on terrorism as a new Crusade, little did he know that his words were being taken too literally by audiences in his own nation as well as across the world. On September 16, 2001 at South Lawn of the White House, Bush said during a press conference, “This is a new kind of evil. And we understand. And the American people are beginning to understand. This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while. And the American people must be patient. I’m going to be patient.”

This statement of his obviously stoked a huge controversy, since it was taken in the religious context, and did not go well with Islamic countries across the world. Franklin Graham (American Christian evangelist and president and CEO of international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse) took it further, as he made an anti-Islamic comment (just after 9/11) and referred to Islam as “a very evil and wicked religion”. Further, on April 18, 2003, he made an statement that true Islam cannot be practiced in the US as the country criminalizes beating your wife, killing your children, committing adultery, et al. Recently a video obtained by al Jazeera (and advocated by the Huffingtonpost) revealed how military officials at Bagram were urging US soldiers to evangelize in the Muslim country. The video also exposed how US military forces in Afghanistan were asked by top chaplain to “hunt people for Jesus” and spread Christianity in Afghanistan. Evidences also reveal that the soldiers stationed at Afghanistan were given bibles translated into Pashto and Dari – the dominant languages of Afghanistan. Even air force cadets in the US were taught to proselytize.

When it comes to religious diplomacy, nothing can beat the Boykin saga. Lieutenant General William G. Boykin – retired Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and a key person during military operations in Grenada, Somalia and Iraq, openly framed the War on Terror in religious terms (obviously anti-Islamic) during a show on NBC News on October 15, 2003. The heights of audacity got breached when it was found that The Soldier’s Bible contained the words of Lt. Gen. William Boykin (in inspirational words from military leaders), where he said of his battle against a Muslim warlord in Somalia, “I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.”
A scan through media reports over the past few years provides disturbing evidences of unethical behaviour by the US army towards non-Christian soldiers. Among many incidents that came to light about harassment of non-Christians, army specialist Zachari Klawonn’s experience is a case in point. He recently filed a lawsuit alleging that that the Army has not followed through on its promises to address problems even after filing more than 20 complaints of harassment for being Muslim. A media report carried out by the Washington Post (November 12, 2005) wrote about the role of private missionary groups who where training cadets to evangelize their peers. In September 2007, a military watchdog organization, Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) joined decorated medic Justin Chalker in filing a lawsuit against Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; charging the Pentagon of forcing the soldier to embrace evangelical Christianity. Neither the Pentagon nor the country’s defence official raised any interjection against scriptures found on US weapons. It was only recently that, after an international outcry, a Michigan-based arms company stopped embossing references to New Testament Scriptures on rifle sights that it sells the military. The Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington referred to biblical references in the weapon as violation of the nation’s values and feared that the blaze of religious extremism may creep into the US military.

With a half Muslim and half Christian president at the helm, things were expected to change to a large extent. On one hand, President Obama is holding meetings and soft peddling with Islamic countries in an attempt to undo the Bush administration’s legacy of anti-Islamic rhetoric that had antagonized many Arab and Asian nations with substantial Muslim populations. But on the other hand, he seems to be quite neutral and indifferent on matters of evangelical military culture which aims to Christianize the US army. Experts fear that this indifferent attitude would give space to these extremists to sow seeds of religious extremism among army men. If the US is really keen on tacking religious extremism in south Asia then it can’t afford to ignore a similar simmering sentiment back home. This is that kind of war where using the same weapons as your enemy would prove counter-productive. For the more friends the US has, the better it is. That conversion makes far more sense than the religious one.

By:- Sray Agarwal

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