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Report: British Soldiers Using Models of Mosques for Target Practice

While a military spokesman denied the structures were meant to be mosques, he defended the use of props 'that replicate the environment [soldiers] will be deployed to.'

The British military has been using models of mosques as targets in shooting practice, a UK newspaper reported on Thursday.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, "seven replica mosques were erected" at Catterick Garrison, a major British Army base in North Yorkshire, "to prepare soldiers for combat in Afghanistan."

Some of the mosques have single domes and others have double domes, and appear to be targets for six firing ranges around 100 meters away, in full view of the main road.

The chairman of the local Bradford Council for Mosques (BCM) accused the British military of using the mosques as a "symbol of danger."

The cutouts were first spotted from a nearby road.

"We came to know about the structures because a passerby saw them from the road and felt that they resembled mosques," Ishtiaq Ahmed of the BMC told the Daily Mail.

Upon visiting the site on Wednesday, Ahmed said they discovered the structures were, indeed, cutouts of mosques.

"We saw soldiers on the firing range yesterday and we were very shocked and angered and also confused as to why the British Army would do something like this -- it seems like a very silly thing to do," he said.

Anyone looking at it will think about mosques and Muslims and think about them in a negative way. The shape of the structures, the green color of the dome -- symbolizes an Islamic place of worship. What angers me very much is that we are conditioning the young British to say that mosques are a place where you are going to find danger and a place to target and that is really disturbing.

Ironically, Ahmed said the BCM has been trying to work with the British Military "to help them recruit more soldiers from the Muslim community."

The Ministry of Defense, for its part, denies the structures were meant to resemble mosques, describing them as "generic Eastern buildings" and denying that they were used for target practice.

'We Hunt People For Jesus'

Defenders of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the broader fight against "Islamic extremism," often characterize the enemy as a group of religious fanatics bent on destroying Judeo-Christian civilization. Yet Muslims around the world have watched as soldiers deployed in Western-led wars have not only bombed real mosques and desecrated holy symbols with callous consistency, but have gone so far as to suggest they are on a mission to convert Muslims to Christianity -- inevitably casting the wars as a clash of religions.

There are many examples:

-- In May 2008, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Hammond, commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad, was forced to apologize to Iraqis on behalf of a U.S. soldier who used a copy of the Qur'an as target practice. In a letter of apology, the unidentified soldier, who was redeployed to the U.S., called shooting the holy book "shortsighted, very reckless and irresponsible," but said, "in my heart [the actions] were not malicious."

-- Earlier that year, hundreds of Afghan villagers protested in Helmand province after British soldiers reportedly threw copies of the Qu'ran on the floor during a raid in search of Taliban fighters. "The villagers told them that there were no Taliban hiding in the villages and swore by copies of the Qu'ran they had in their hands," a protester named Ghulam Mohammad told the Daily Mail. "The British soldiers threw away the Qu'ran and began searching the houses."

-- In January of this year, ABC News reported that the U.S. military was using military weaponry inscribed with passages from the New Testament, despite the fact that "U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan" -- a rule meant "to prevent criticism that the U.S. [is] embarked on a religious 'Crusade' in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents."