Letter to House & Senate Armed Services Committees: Military Training Related to Islam
Senator Carl Levin, Chair Armed Services Committee United States Senate Washington, DC
Senator John McCain, Ranking Member Armed Services Committee United States Senate Washington, DC
Dear Chairman Levin and Ranking Member McCain,
We are dismayed by apparently credible news reports that an instructor at the Joint Forces Staff College was teaching mid-level military officers - until his suspension in late April - that Islam as a religion should be wiped out and the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina should be "destroyed." The elective course on Islam continued through about forty presentations since 2004, until the objections of a student caused the course to be suspended.
The opinions offered by this individual teacher, over and over for eight years, are clearly at odds with U.S. government policy and our country’s core values. The course presented erroneous material about Islam and reinforced dangerous anti-Islamic ideas that could fuel violent extremism against the United States. The idea that such teaching could continue for so many years without adequate oversight and review is shocking, particularly given recent efforts to improve relations with the Muslim world and incorporate greater understanding and attention to religion in U.S. foreign policy.
We are now concerned that news of this course in the international media will increase anti-U.S. sentiment, heighten the risk to U.S. citizens serving or traveling abroad, and support violent religious extremism. Although the course was presented as the opinion of the instructor, the sanctioned teachings of mid-level military officers in a military college will undoubtedly be viewed globally as an action of our government.
We ask you to undertake an investigation of the policies and practices of the Joint Forces Staff College and other training institutions for our armed forces and their officers, with particular regard to instruction related to Islam and the Arab world. We expect that training and education for US military and civilian personnel will help advance better understanding of Islam and promote greater religious tolerance, instead of advancing misunderstanding.
Diane Randall Executive Secretary Friends Committee on National Legislation
CC: Members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees