Troops Told To Refrain From Eating, Drinking In Front Of Muslims
July 31, 2014
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Do not eat or drink in front of Muslims, and learn more about their religion.
That’s the directive that has gone out to active duty military
personnel at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, a
Department of Defense medical and graduate school in Bethesda, Md.
The brigade commander sent an email to military personnel at the
facility last month – just before the start of Ramadan – advising them
to show respect to Muslim colleagues.
“This is a period of great personal restraint and commitment in
addition to renewed focus on worship,” Brigade Commander Col. Kevin
Glasz wrote. “I’d like to encourage you to learn just a little more
about this religion, but more importantly, I’m asking you to be
considerate and do not consume food or drink in front of our Muslim
colleagues; it is a simple, yet respectful action.”
During the month-long period known as Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating or drinking during daylight hours.
The brigade commander also provided a link to a website about Islam, and specifically Ramadan.
Now that raised the ire of some of the officers and doctors
training at the USU, and several of them reached out to me with their
concerns – provided I not disclose their names.
“I respect the intention behind this email, but note that there is
no similar call honoring other faiths,” one Marine told me. “There is
no similar invitation for non-Jewish colleagues to refrain from eating
leavened products during Passover, or non-Christian colleagues to
refrain from eating meat during Lent.”
The entire incident smells of political correctness, the Marine told me.
“Our veterans have sacrificed too much blood, sweat and tears to
have their own rights and freedoms be sacrificed on the altar of
progressive political correctness,” the Marine said.
I contacted USU about the email. I wanted to understand the
brigade commander’s intent. I gave them 20 days to respond, but no one
returned my calls or emails.
Another individual who studies at USU was concerned about the wording of the email.
“It could be construed as an order and one that violates the First
Amendment freedom of everyone who received it,” my source said. “This
is an appalling violation, especially coming on the heels of so many
instances where those of conservative Christian faith in the military
Meanwhile, Navy officials have ordered personnel serving in
Bahrain to dress more conservatively off base, according to a report in
Stars and Stripes. Men were ordered to wear long-sleeved shirts and
women were told to wear blouses that cover their elbows and skirts or
pants that cover the knees.
Stars and Stripes reported that base cultural advisers had spent
several weeks conducting Ramadan briefings to “educate Americans about
the holy month.” Personnel were given briefings on Islam, the lunar
calendar and Ramadan customs.
“It’s customary to say ‘Ramadan Kareem’ during Ramadan,” read a to-do list compiled by NSA Bahrain Public Affairs.
The military’s quest to be culturally sensitive to celebrants of
the Islamic faith stands in stark contrast to its recent crackdown on
public expressions of the Christian faith.
Last Christmas, soldiers at Camp Shelby in Mississippi were told
during a diversity briefing that they could not use the word
“Christmas.” A VA hospital in Texas refused to accept holiday cards from
boys and girls because the cards mentioned “Christmas” or “God bless
you.” And a Nativity scene near a lake on Shaw Air Force Base in South
Carolina was removed after someone complained.
So you might understand why Ron Crews, executive director of the
Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, is a bit surprised by the
Pentagon’s recent behavior.
“There is a good biblical word for this: hypocrisy,” Crews told me.
“Our troops are being told to respect the Muslim Ramadan and
encouraged to say ‘Ramadan Kareem,’ while at the same time they cannot
have a cross on chapels, display a manger scene or say ‘Merry Christmas’
for fear of offending,” Crews said. “There is something wrong with this
He has a good point.
Crews said he completely understands the need for cultural
advisers to inform military personnel about Islam. He said similar
briefings were held prior to Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
“We wanted our folks to know about customs and culture so as not
to offend unnecessarily,” he told me. “Of course we want to respect the
faith of others, but should we be encouraging our folks to participate
in the Muslim faith in this way?”
Why not just treat all religions fairly?
“I think that if there were emails about other faith traditions,
this email wouldn’t have been so offensive,” my source at USU said.
“Islam appears to have a protected status while Christians are
Religious liberty. Now there’s an interesting concept – one enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
The military might want to consider that the next time it tells an
officer to remove a Bible from his desk or tells a cadet to remove a
Bible verse from his whiteboard or hide a cross inside a VA hospital
chapel or tells chaplains they can’t pray in the name of Jesus.
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