I get several newsletters from organizations that I normally disagree with. I do so in order to make sure that I have not missed anything in regards to evidence or reasonings that would change my mind. Most of the time they don’t, but they do provide interesting, entertaining, frustrating, and annoying readings at times – often at the same time. Not to mention the feeling of smug superiority that I often in reading their material (plan to work on that little fault of mine someday)
This particular one that I am about to go over was sent to me by the Middle East Forum – a conservative American think tank founded by Daniel Pipes that “promotes American interests in the Middle East and protects Western values from Middle Eastern threats”.
A week ago they sent me an article by Raymond Ibrahim that was published in FrontPageMagazine.com titled “The Pentagon’s Bow to Islamic Extremism’. In reading it I saw plenty of red flags that this article may not be totally reliable. It presented only a few facts that were then skewered for all they were worth. And instead of my usual sigh of annoyance and resignation I, instead, thought – Wow, what a wonderful exercise in skeptical thought this would make.
And so here it is, an exercise in skeptical thought. I will be posting the complete article as it was sent to me, with breaks in it for me to comment on specific passages.
The Pentagon’s Bow to Islamic Extremism
by Raymond Ibrahim
February 12, 2014
“Caving to pressure from Muslim groups, the Pentagon has relaxed uniform rules to allow Islamic beards, turbans and hijabs. It’s a major win for political correctness and a big loss for military unit cohesion,” said a recent report.
First paragraph and already so many issues. The first one that struck me was the sentence – “Islamic beards, turbans, and hijabs”.
Religions that require men to have beards – Many varieties of Orthodox Judaism, Sikhism, Rastafarians. So, it is not just Muslims who will benefit from this, although you would not know it from the wording.
Turbans – Sikhs also are required to wear turbans. Many Rastafarians do too. For that matter, many Muslims do not wear turbans; just look at photos of Palestinians, Egyptians, Afghans, and so forth. But, again, from the wording you would think that only the Muslims wear turbans and that all of them wear this headgear.
Hijabs – this is the one item that is correct, and it is feminine attire. However, what was overlooked here is how many Muslim women do not wear the hijab.
Of course, I was now interested in actually reading the Pentagon report on this topic. And I thought it was good of them to provide a link to it. However, that link was not to a report but to another article in the Investors.com about this same topic that also decried McDonald’s changing standards in caving to Shariah Law too. Not sure how a site meant for investments can be considered a reliable or authoritative source – but it sure does look good having a link in nice colored letters spelling out “recent report”. Makes it look all think tanky and such.
First two learnings from this:
1) Beware of articles that overly generalize and yet at the same time focus on only part of the story.
2) Beware of articles with links that look good, but only look good.
Of course, now I was interested in what the Pentagon had actually done and said. So, I looked into it and quickly found these two articles from Military Times – a much more relevant source than an investment site – “Wide Variety of Faiths Led to New Policy to Accommodate Them” and “Religious Exemptions for Troops Easier to Request Under New Rules”.
Some interesting facts here that are not mentioned in the article;
First, this change was brought about because of a Sikh request to be allowed to wear his turban. Not a Muslim, a Sikh.
Second, until now, there was no military wide policy for determing exemptions to uniform and grooming regulations due to religious reasons. This has now set one.
Third, religious exemptions are not automatic. They are considered on a case by case basis and, if they run counter to that service’s regulations, have to be approved by that service’s three star personnel chief. If they do not run counter to established regulations then they can be approved by unit commanders. Further, a soldier’s exemption is not for always. Anytime a soldier moves to a different job or deploys, they have to re-apply for the exemption.
Fourth, several factors are considered in making a decision to allow a religious exemption or not. I think the “Wide Variety…” article stated it nicely.
“The new policy states that military departments will accommodate religious requests of service members unless they have an adverse effect on military readiness, mission accomplishment, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline,” says Navy Lt. Cdr. Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman.
Rules can be bent, but they can’t be broken. The bottom line, Christensen said, is that accomplishing the mission at hand comes first. Always.
That means a shave if facial hair prevents the proper fit of a gas mask, leaving behind a religious garment interferes with a flak jacket, or delaying prayer when a patrol must be run.”
So, one paragraph in and already this article is totally discredited. The change was not prompted by “pressure from Muslim groups” but from a wide variety of different religious groups and people, with the proximate cause being a request from a Sikh.
Also, from the first paragraph, and indeed the rest of the article, you would not know that this is an exemption process and one that is not automatically given. Nor would you know that the unit mission takes priority. In fact, from this paragraph, and the rest of the words that follow in this article, you would think the exact opposite. I am guessing that they realized this since they provided a worthless link instead of one leading to a site providing good specific information on what had changed and why. This was no accidental error.
So, since this article has already been discredited as being based on incomplete, misleading, and very biased information, then why read the rest of it? For myself, it is interesting to see where they go with it; which is, as you might already have expected, in a totally Islam bashing and basically Islamophobic direction.
This new relaxation of rules for Muslims comes at a time when the FBI is tracking more than 100 suspected jihadi-infiltrators of the U.S. military. Just last month, Craig Benedict Baxam, a former Army soldier and convert to Islam, was sentenced to seven years in prison due to his al-Qaeda/jihadi activities. Also last month, Mozaffar Khazaee, an Iranian-American working for the Defense Department, was arrested for sending secret documents to America’s enemy, Iran.
———————————————————————————————————————–It would be nice if they would cite sources for their claims. However, I did find a NPR report on this.
The reason the FBI is investigating is due the Fort Hood murders by Major Hasan that took the military by surprise even though there were warning signs. Now, of these 100 suspects, only about 12 are serious enough to continue investigating. Something this article neglects to mention.
It also fails to mention is that these investigations involve not just military members but their family and also military contractors. You are talking about a huge number of people being investigated in which only 12 warrant more serious follow ups. A problem, yes. But not an out of control and huge one.
Further, the FBI also investigates for white supremacist and neo-nazi groups links. Yet I see nothing here about the dangers of these groups despite the fact that most of the incidents of American domestic terrorism have been by militias and other such groups. They mention Braxton’s military service, although his crime was committed after leaving the military. From the wording you would think he had “infiltrated” the military and was working from inside. He was not.
In order to continue avoiding providing a proper context for this story, they also do not mention the military members who join domestic militia groups that have been known to engage in domestic terrorism. Nor do they mention the anarchist group in Georgia with not only ex members of the military but active duty soldiers. Here is a CBS newstory about this.
(AP) LUDOWICI, Ga.- Four Army soldiers based in southeast Georgia killed a former comrade and his girlfriend to protect an anarchist militia group they formed that stockpiled assault weapons and plotted a range of anti-government attacks, prosecutors told a judge Monday.
Prosecutors in rural Long County, near the sprawling Army post Fort Stewart, said the militia group composed of active duty and former U.S. military members spent at least $87,000 buying guns and bomb components and was serious enough to kill two people – former soldier Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Tiffany York – by shooting them in the woods last December in order to keep its plans secret.
“This domestic terrorist organization did not simply plan and talk,” prosecutor Isabel Pauley told a Superior Court judge. “Prior to the murders in this case, the group took action. Evidence shows the group possessed the knowledge, means and motive to carry out their plans.”
In other words, this article is being very selective in what information it presents. It does not give you all the information nor the context needed for an honest understanding of what is happening.
According to a Pentagon spokesperson, the new religious accommodations—to allow Islamic beards, turbans, and hijabs—which took effect very recently, would “reduce both the instances and perception of discrimination among those whose religious expressions are less familiar to the command.”
The report concludes that, “Making special accommodations for Islam will only attract more Muslims into the military at a time when two recent terror cases highlight the ongoing danger of Muslims in uniform.”
But it’s worse than that; for not only will it attract “more Muslims,” it will attract precisely the wrong kinds of Muslims, AKA, “Islamists,” “radicals,” etc.
This is easily demonstrated by connecting the dots and understanding that Muslims who adhere to visible, non-problematic aspects of Islam—growing beards and donning hijabs—often indicate their adherence to non-visible, problematic aspects of Islam.
Consider it this way: Why do some Muslim men wear the prescribed beard and why do some Muslim women wear the prescribed hijab? Most Muslims would say they do so because Islam’s prophet Muhammad commanded them to (whether via the Koran or Hadith).
Regarding the Muslim beard, Muhammad wanted his followers to look different from “infidels,” namely Christians and Jews, so he ordered his followers to “trim closely the moustache and grow the beard.” Accordingly, all Sunni schools of law maintain that it is forbidden—a “major sin“—for men to shave their beards (unless, of course, it is part of a stratagem against the infidel, in which case it is permissible).
The question begs itself: If such Muslims meticulously follow the minor, “outer” things of Islam simply because their prophet made some utterances concerning them in the Hadith, logically speaking, does that not indicate that they also follow, or at the very least accept as legitimate, the major, “inner” themes Muhammad constantly emphasized in both the Koran and Hadith—such as enmity for and deceit of the infidel, and, when capable, perpetual jihad?
My, such concerns for allowing Muslims to serve in their military (they are American citizens and thus it is their military, just as it is mine and any other American’s). And for not allowing the wrong sort of Muslim into the Military, as if judging by their beards or lack of them is a way to figuring this out.
To show the grave flaws in this sort of thinking consider the following. Major Nidal Hasan. No beard. The Boston bombers, neither of them had a beard. In fact, if you look at the 2013 FBI Most Wanted Terrorists List, of the nine men listed, three did not have beards. None of them are wearing turbans.
In fact, none of them are American, which means that they would be very unlikely to be able to enlist in the military.
Looking at Wikipedia for the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list gives a longer one, a listing of 22, of which most are not wearing turbans and nine have no beards. There is only one American on this list, making the 21 others unlikely to be able to enlist in the US military.
I mentioned earlier that the FBI also investigates for ties to white supremacist groups and neo-nazi groups. The FBI has discovered and stopped many more attacks on Americans by these groups than by Muslim citizens. Does this mean that we should now be concerned about attracting whites to the military? Perhaps we need to go to an all black, Hispanic, and Asian military.
I thought it might be interesting to look at the FBI’s list of Most Wanted Domestic Terrorists. None of them were Muslim. All of their terrorist acts were done in the name or anarchy or ecology. Seems that most of the terrorist acts committed by Muslims were committed by non-Americans. Muslims who are American citizens, by the evidence, are not very likely to engage in terrorist acts. Which means that this whole article is doing them a grave disservice, insulting their patriotism, their honor, their morals.
As for the verses and themes emphasized in the Koran and Hadith, since they did not provide any specific verses or references for this, let me just say that these are often taken out of context and ignores other verses within those works. Here is a blog I did on this “Response to a Faulty Document About Islam” – my apologies for some formatting issues on this blog, I was having some issues with wordpress that day and decided what I had was readable enough (by the way, I am much better at this now – thank goodness!).
Even in the Islamic world this connection between visible indicators of Islamic piety and jihadi tendencies are well known. Back in 2011, when Islamists were dominating Egypt’s politics, secularist talk show host Amr Adib of Cairo Today mocked the then calls for a “million man beard” march with his trademark sarcasm: “This is a great endeavor! After all, a man with a beard can never be a thug, can never rape a woman in the street, can never set a church on fire, can never fight and quarrel, can never steal, and can never be dishonest!”
His sarcasm was not missed on his Egyptian viewership which knew quite well that it is precisely those Muslims who most closely follow the minutia of Muhammad—for example, by growing a beard—that are most prone to violence, deceit, and anti-infidel sentiments, all of which were also advocated by Islam’s prophet.
Speaking more seriously, Adib had added that this issue is not about growing a beard, but rather, “once you grow your beard, you give proof of your commitment and fealty to everything in Islam.”
Similarly, after Egypt’s June 30 Revolution ousted the Muslim Brotherhood, “overt signs of piety [beards and hijabs] have become all it takes to attract suspicion from security forces at Cairo checkpoints and vigilantes looking to attack Islamists.” Clubs and restaurants banned entrance to those wearing precisely these two “overt signs of piety.”
While Egyptians instinctively understand how fealty to the Muslim beard evinces fealty, or at least acceptance, to all those other problematic things Muhammad commanded, even in fuzzy Western op-eds, the connection sometimes peeks out. Consider the following excerpt from a New York Times piece titled “Behold the Mighty Beard, a Badge of Piety and Religious Belonging”:
[A]ll over the Muslim world, the full beard has come to connote piety and spiritual fervor…. Of course, the beard is only a sign of righteousness. It is no guarantor, as Mr. Zulfiqar [a Muslim interviewee] reminds us: “I recall one gentleman who came back from a trip to Pakistan and remarked to me, ‘I learned one thing: the longer the beard, the bigger the crook.’ His anticipation was people with big beards would be really honest, but he kept meeting people lying to him.”
The italicized portion speaks for itself. Whereas the Muslim beard ostensibly represents religious piety, some people, mostly Westerners, are shocked to find that those who wear it are often “crooks” and “liars.”
In Islam, however, outer signs of religiosity on the one hand, and corruption and deceit on the other, are quite compatible. After all, the same source—Islam’s prophet Muhammad, as recorded in the Hadith—that tells Muslims to grow a beard also advocates deception, the plundering of infidels, the keeping of sex slaves, adult “breast feeding,” and all sorts of other practices antithetical to Western notions of piety if not decency.
There are so many over generalizations and falsehoods about Islam and Muslims within this article that, since my main focus is the Pentagon policy, I am not taking the time to show them all wrong. But, as a representative example, lets just do one – the adult breast feeding. This article claims that “Muhammad, as recorded in the Hadith” tells Muslims breast feed adults. The link provided goes to another article by the same author as this one. Amazingly though, this article actually provided a link to a BBC article on this subject.
Yes, there was one cleric who issued a fatwa saying women should breastfeed men- as a way of breaking down the segregation of the sexes. However, his fatwa was immediate denounced by most other Muslims and clerics and he later retracted it as an error in judgment and reasoning on his part. I wonder, if this author and this think tank take the proclamations of the Westboro Church pastor as being definitive for all of Christianity.
The other statements and claims made about Islam are similarly flawed. They are the product of a mind more concerned with casting Muslims and Islam in the worst light possible, even if misleading statements and lies have to be used to do so.
Incidentally, it’s the same with the hijab, or cloak that some Muslim women wear, also on Muhammad’s command. One reformed Islamic jihadi from Egypt accurately observes that “the proliferation of the hijab is strongly correlated with increased terrorism…. Terrorism became much more frequent in such societies as Indonesia, Egypt, Algeria, and the U.K. after the hijab became prevalent among Muslim women living in those communities.”
And so, at a time when the U.S. should at the very least be wary of those who openly wear their Islamic radicalism around their face and head—beards for males, hijabs for females—the U.S. Pentagon (of all places) is embracing them in “celebration of multiculturalism.” Wear loyalty to the U.S. is most needed, the Pentagon embraces those who show that their loyalty is elsewhere (among other things, the beard and hijab are meant to separate “pure believers” from “impure infidels”).
Of course, none of this is surprising considering that the Pentagon also considers Evangelical Christians and Catholics as “extremists” on a par with al-Qaeda.
This skeptical exercise has gone on long enough and that last claim is deserving of a blog in and of itself – one which I have no plans for doing currently.
Raymond Ibrahim, author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (Regnery, April, 2013) is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum
So, what does my skeptical analysis of this piece show? As I wrote earlier – this article is nothing but a smear on the morals and patriotism of Americans who are Muslim. It is a smear and attack on good Muslims of all nationalities. It is slanted, bigoted, and biased. It seemingly deliberately ignores many facts about what the Pentagon is doing, about Islam, about terrorism, and about Muslims. In addition, it presents what few accurate facts it has in a biased and prejudiced way, an alarmist way that creates unnecessary and immoral turmoil and division. It is nothing more than a bigoted hate piece. It is a dangerous shame that it has cloaked itself with the reputation of a “Think Tank” status so as to wear a respectability it does not in any way deserve. And that is why skeptical thinking is so valuable – it is not the obvious hate groups that are the main problem, but rather, those who wear a disguise.