This morning, Mikey Weinstein spoke eloquently before The Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights on behalf of his foundation, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation as the “voice” for MRFF’’s 261 afflicted Muslim American armed forces members. During the hearing titled “Protecting the Civil Rights of American Muslims”, Mikey made the case that the violations of Muslim Americans’ civil rights in the military are not just an issue of justice, but an imminent threat to our national security requiring immediate redress.
Mikey Weinstein is the President and founder of the MRFF and author of the book, “With God On Our Side,” about the systematic indoctrination of fundamentalist Christianity within the U. S. military. He was described by Harper’s magazine as the “constitutional conscience of the U.S. military.” Mikey’s family has a long and distinguished U.S. military history spanning three consecutive generations of military academy graduates and over 130 years of combined active duty military service in every major combat engagement our country has been in from World War I to the current Global War on Terror and Mikey himself is a 1977 Honor Graduate of the United States Air Force Academy.
The MRFF’s sole mission is protecting the Constitutionally guaranteed civil rights of United States armed forces personnel and veterans, most specifically providing guidance and assistance over unconstitutional religious prejudice and discrimination. 96% of their clients are self-professed Christians, while the other 4% are comprised of a variety of faiths as well as agnostics. The MRFF has been nominated for a Nobel Peace prize for their work this year, as well as receiving two nominations last year.
Mikey opened by introducing the committee to the fact that the MRFF’s Muslim American client caseload dramatically increased immediately after the tragic shootings at Fort Hood. He testified, “The second, third, and fourth attachments to this testimony will describe the wretched abuse of Muslim American U.S. military members…It is at once shocking and disturbing. There is so much abject pain, suffering, degradation, dehumanization, and marginalization to tell that it would take a book, a long book, to do the whole sordid tale of the civil rights abuse of Muslim Americans in uniform true justice.”
He spoke about the rampant anti-Muslim prejudice and discrimination in today’s American military, mentioning specifically the use of derogatory terms such as “towel head,” “raghead,” “camel jockey” or the most universally used term of “Haji” to describe their Muslim American colleagues in uniform by military officers and enlisted personnel, and touched on how “Muslim American members are very often reminded that “the enemy” in the War on Terror is Islam as an entire religion, and, accordingly, that any of its adherents and followers are seriously suspect.”
Weinstein described how Muslim Americans are excluded from the fraternity of the military, saying, “They have been told that, as Muslims, they cannot and will not be allowed into the otherwise impenetrable brotherhood and sisterhood of trust and loyalty of their respective military organizations.”
Getting into the specifics of the types of abuse his clients suffer, Mikey said, “They have been unjustly denied leave time. They have been unjustly discarded in the military’s health care system. They have been unjustly denied rank and choice assignments. They have been unlawfully detained and falsely accused of vile crimes and offenses of moral turpitude. They have been the innocent and helpless victims of scurrilous rumors and ruinous innuendo. They have been unjustly ordered to perform odious and remedial military tasks and chores. They and their loving families have been derided as exemplifying “the enemy amongst us.” They and their families have been assaulted and abused both stateside and abroad.”
Weinsten then detailed the common complaint of the fundamentalist Christian indoctrination of his clients, quoting one of them specifically, “He tells of being ruthlessly indoctrinated, from his first days as a cadet/midshipman at the Academy to his current position as an officer, with the belief America’s military is a Christian military and that its greatest enemy is Islam and its followers.”
Mikey laid out the reasons why these attitudes and prejudices are an imminent national security threat, “It is nothing less than a full-fledged national security threat. There are three acutely relevant reasons why; to wit, (1) its well known existence enrages our Islamic allies both abroad and domestically; (2) it incalculably emboldens our Islamic enemies both abroad and domestically; and, (3) it absolutely demoralizes our own troops and, thus, is a fatally divisive and metastasizing malignancy to the necessity and imperative of good order and discipline in the United States armed forces.”
Crying out for justice and redress, Mikey made a plea on behalf of his clients in closing, “Our fellow Americans of the Muslim faith in the profession of arms cry out for justice and equality. They do not want special treatment under the law; they want equal treatment. They want you, honored United States Senators and honored staff, to know that the United States Constitution does not protect their “civil privileges;” no, it protects their civil rights. He wants you to know that Muslim Americans in the U.S. military are every bit as patriotic and courageous and valuable as their non-Muslim colleagues.”
It is a deep shame that certain pundits and political leaders engage in Muslim bashing and fear-mongering, whether it’s the Mosque terror being exploited or Fox’s attacks on Dearborn, Michigan for its large population of peaceful Muslim Americans. When leaders display such attitudes, they condone and encourage dangerous behaviors while using fear to justify the diminishing and abuse of constitutionally protected rights and freedoms and ultimately threaten all of our safety.
Religious faith is a personal matter, and the very foundation of our country is based upon this freedom. Proselytization and evangelization have no place in the United States military. Not only is such prejudice and indoctrination a radical violation of our service people’s constitutional rights, but it also endangers this country in addition to undermining our military strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a dishonor to everything this country stands for to allow, let alone condone, the abuse of the brave Muslim Americans serving this country.