Report: British Soldiers Using Models of Mosques for Target Practice
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The Bible-inscribed weaponry "allows the Mujahedeen, the Taliban, al Qaeda and the insurrectionists and jihadists to claim they're being shot by Jesus rifles," Michael Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation told ABC.
-- In 2004, during the first battle of Fallujah -- known as the City of Mosques -- the U.S. bombed a mosque using hellfire missiles, killing some 40 people. "Worshippers had gathered for afternoon prayers," according to the Associated Press, which reported that makeshift "hospitals were set up in private homes to treat the wounded and prepare the dead for burial."
-- During the second battle of Fallujah, in November 2004, after U.S. Marines stormed a different mosque, one soldier was caught on video shooting an unarmed injured prisoner at point blank range, leading to an investigation.
-- In May 2009, Al Jazeera captured damning footage of the chief of U.S. military chaplains in Afghanistan exhorting U.S. soldiers "to be witnesses" for Jesus. "The special forces guys -- they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus," Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley told soldiers at Bagram Air Base. "Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That's what we do, that's our business."
The report also revealed Bibles translated into Pashto, apparently for distribution to locals. "I … want to praise God because my church collected some money to get Bibles for Afghanistan," one soldier, Sergeant Jon Watt, said on tape.
-- In another notorious series of incidents, Army Maj. Gen. William Boykin, an evangelical Christian, declared the supremacy of Christianity over Islam. "In October 2003, Boykin was revealed to have gone on several anti-Muslim rants, in public speeches, many of which he delivered in military uniform," Jeremy Scahill wrote last May. "Since January 2002, Boykin had spoken at 23 religious-oriented events, wearing his uniform at all but two."
Among Boykin's statements, he said he knew the U.S. would prevail over a Muslim adversary in Somalia because "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." Boykin also charged that Islamic radicals want to destroy America "because we're a Christian nation" that "will never abandon Israel." Our "spiritual enemy," Boykin declared, "will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus."
-- Last spring, an article in GQ reported that cover sheets adorning top-secret intelligence briefings at the Pentagon under Donald Rumsfeld featured Bible verses atop military imagery, "and were delivered by Rumsfeld himself to the White House" to President Bush, "who referred to America's war on terror as a 'crusade.'" (An example of the Bible verses: "Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed," printed over an image of a soldier in Iraq.)
-- Then there are the numerous reports out of Guantanamo Bay that military guards shredded copies of the Qu'ran and flushed them down the toilet, an allegation that sparked violent, global outrage after being published in Newsweek in 2005. The Pentagon pressured the magazine to retract the allegation, but acknowledged what reporter Michael Isikoff described as "five confirmed instances of [Qu'ranic] misconduct," among them, a copy that was urinated on, a copy that was defaced with an obscenity, as well as "Qu'rans being kicked" and "stepped on."
'We Have No Intention of Offending Religious Sensibilities'
Given this history -- not to mention the photographs published in the Daily Mail -- it is hard to take at face value the Ministry of Defense's claim that the mosque-like models were never intended as shooting targets. The Bradford Council for Mosques has called on the British military to "remove the structures without delay and apologize to the Muslim community."