Spokesman for Islam Comes Forward in Wake of Fort Hood Killings
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Mikey Weinstein is best known for defending Jews from alleged bigotry in the U.S. military. In the past few days, however, he's been raising questions about whether there's an anti-Muslim bias in the service as well.
Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, says that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's alleged killing of 13 soldiers at Fort Hood is inexcusable and reprehensible. But he believes that it's important to investigate reports of harassment that Hasan said he faced as a Muslim in the military, which might have contributed to his mental state.
"There's enough out there" to look into, said Weinstein. "I'm not excusing him, but did it affect him, or was he just a maniac to begin with?"
Weinstein cited media reports quoting Hasan's family, saying that someone had put a diaper in his car and told him, "That's your headdress," and that a camel was drawn on his car with the words, "Camel jockey, get out!"
Weinstein also provided a letter, with the name withheld, from a Muslim woman and wife of a member of the military, in which she described how her best friend on the base, immediately after the shooting, told her that "Muslims shouldn't even be allowed in the U.S. Army," and that she repeatedly heard things like, "Go back to your country" and "F---ing Muslims," as she shopped at the base commissary.
Weinstein, who spent 10 years in the Air Force as a military attorney, or JAG, said that he also doesn't believe that Hasan's colleagues hesitated to report his changes in behavior because of political correctness. In fact, he claimed, Hasan's superiors would have been sympathetic to hearing such charges because of their strong Christian beliefs.
Weinstein would like to see military leaders make an "unadulterated clarion call" that Americans shouldn't "paint all of Islam with a broad brush," as well as emphasize a "zero tolerance policy" of any religious harassment.
A 1977 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, from where his two sons and daughter-in-law have graduated, Weinstein argues that Jews, Muslims and most members of the military who are not an evangelical Christian face a hostile environment from what he says are "fundamentalist Christians" who dominate the armed forces and are constantly trying to proselytize others.
Others involved in the military say that it's true that there have been occasional issues regarding the treatment of members of minority faiths or the pushing of an evangelical worldview by some officers, but they insist that the problems are nowhere near as extensive or pernicious as Weinstein claims.
One longtime military chaplain, now retired, said that he doesn't doubt the reports of the Muslim woman that Weinstein cites, noting that such comments could be heard in many small towns throughout America.
"It's terrible, but not impossible to believe," said the chaplain, who asked not to be identified.
But the chaplain said he disagreed with Weinstein about Hasan's colleagues, saying that "definitely, people do not want to be perceived as bigots" in the military.
Mainstream Jewish groups have generally declined to comment on the shooting at Fort Hood, waiting for more details on the investigation to become available.
Mark Pelavin, director of the Commission on Interreligious Affairs of Reform Judaism and associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, sent a letter to the Rev. Pat Robertson criticizing the televangelist for declaring in the wake of the attack that Islam is not a religion but "a political system, a violent political system, bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and world domination."
Last weekend, 100 mosques and 100 synagogues participated in joint activities as part of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding's Weekend of Twinning.
Long planned, the timing was fortuitous, said the foundation's president, Rabbi Marc Schneier, because it increased interest, and offered an opportunity for Jews and Muslims to talk about the internal struggle of American Muslims, in addition to relations between Muslims and Jews in the United States.