Imagine that a man who said there should be no freedom of religion for Muslims, that there should be no Mosques in America, and that America is in a religious war that pits America, a "Christian Nation," against Islam was invited to address our men and women in uniform? Well, it's happening.
On Feb 8, retired Lt. Gen. William Boykin has been invited to speak at a prayer breakfast at the Military Academy at West Point. He has said everything I wrote above. Here's a small selection:
"We need to recognize that Islam itself is not just a religion - it is a totalitarian way of life. It's a legal system, sharia law; it's a financial system; it's a moral code; it's a political system; it's a military system. It should not be protected under the First Amendment."
"No mosques in America. Islam is a totalitarian way of life; it's not just a religion."
Americans should "claim empty lots in Jesus' name," so the Muslim community cannot build Mosques there.
"There is no greater threat to America than Islam."
Why is this important, and why is VoteVets.org launching a campaign today, where you can email Army Chief of Staff, General Ray Odierno, asking him to revoke the invitation to Lt. Gen Boykin?
Two reasons: First, because Boykin's comments are inconsistent with Army values -- the very values that are stressed at West Point and other Academies, and constantly reinforced as critical to the success and protection of US Forces in harm's way; and second, because Boykin's statements disrespect the service of the thousands of Muslim-Americans who have fought in uniform for America, and often died for America.
To the first point, Lt. Gen. Boykin's values are inconsistent with current Army doctrine that is taught at the Joint Readiness Training Center, National Training Center and the Combined Arms Center which instructs Army leaders to respect the Muslim culture as a part of counterinsurgency operations. This doctrine is taught there, and throughout the military, for good reason.
General David Petraeus has been a vocal advocate of the need for our society, and especially our armed forces, to build and maintain bridges of trust into the Muslim community in America and abroad. When an extremist in Florida sought to burn a Koran in a media stunt, Gen. Petraeus accurately stated that the act "would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan -- and around the world -- to inflame public opinion and incite violence" and that "Such images could, in fact... put our troopers and civilians in jeopardy and undermine our efforts." The same could be said regarding Lt. Gen. Boykin's comments. Should the Army not reverse its invite to him to speak at West Point, it can only be seen as an endorsement of his comments by the Army.
To the second point, we received a very moving email over the weekend from a veteran from Iraq, who is Muslim. Shahriar Chowdhury, who was with the Army in Iraq from 2003-2004 wrote to us:
As a Muslim-American who served in Iraq as a Platoon Leader, I find it reprehensible that West Point would invite Lt. Gen. Boykin to speak to Cadets at a Prayer Breakfast when he openly calls for a ban on mosques in America, which are protected under the Constitution, and a host of other disturbing comments about Muslims. While I am typing this, I have a cousin who is on Active Duty in the Marines and is proud of his service. What does this say to him? What does this say to the thousands of Muslim-Americans who are serving in the United States military right now?
West Point says they will allow the Lt Gen. Boykin to speak so the Cadets can be exposed to differing views. That is beyond comprehension. Would West Point invite an individual who has denounced Christianity or Judaism the same way General Boykin has done with Islam?
It moved us, and brought the point home. Many graves of veterans and the fallen are marked with a crescent, the symbol of Islam. It is outrageous that these patriots would ever be smeared as anything antithetical to America. But that's what Lt. Gen. Boykin did, and will continue to do.
Lt. Gen. Boykin has a freedom of speech, and of course can spew whatever he wants. But, that doesn't mean that the Army has to grant him a venue to speak. In fact, they should not.
Update: It looks like cadets and faculty members at West Point are beginning to organize in protest. That's something that rarely, if ever, happens.
Update 2: Received an email release from the Forum on Military Chaplaincy protesting Boykin's appearance. It reads, in part:
"A prayer breakfast isn't an academic discussion, where controversial views can be challenged and debated," pointed out Tom Carpenter, former Marine and co-chair of the Forum. "Nor is it an appropriate place to present views, however cloaked, that disrespect those Muslims and gays who are honorably serving in the U.S. military.
"Chaplains are sworn to serve all in the military," said retired Chaplain (Colonel) Paul Dodd, co-chair of the Forum. Dodd served 31 years in the Army Chaplaincy, including a tour as Command Chaplain for the Army Medical Command.
"It sends a poisonous message to have chaplains sponsor someone so strongly associated with speech that condemns one particular religious group."
Final Update: Lt. Gen. Boykin has pulled out of the event.