In fact, many say the three speakers at issue are evangelical Christians falsely claiming to be former Muslim terrorists.
Members of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a group suing the federal government to combat what it calls creeping evangelism in the armed forces, told the New York Times it was typical of the Air Force Academy to invite born-again Christians to address cadets on terrorism rather than experts who could teach students about the Middle East.
“This stuff going on at the academy today is part of the endemic evangelical infiltration that continues,” said David Antoon, a 1970 academy graduate and a foundation member.
“What’s troublesome to me is this is pure ideology and it has nothing to do with academics,” Antoon said. “This is the Air Force Academy. It used to be an academic institution of excellence. It has become a political Bible college with the evangelicals holding so much influence with what’s going on there.”
Foundation founder Mikey Weinstein of Albuquerque, an academy graduate, asks in an article published in the Colorado Springs Gazette, “If they (the invited speakers) are indeed terrorists, why are they not being prosecuted, jailed or deported or sent to Guantanamo Bay, or is it because they’ve accepted fundamental Christianity? Or if this is fabricated and it’s a total fraud, why are they being invited to the academy?”
Academic professors and others who have heard the three men speak in the United States and Canada said some of their stories border on the fantastic, like Mr. Saleem’s account of how, as a child, he infiltrated Israel to plant bombs via a network of tunnels underneath the Golan Heights. No such incidents have been reported, the academic experts said. They also question how three middle-aged men who claim they were recruited as teenagers or younger could have been steeped in the violent religious ideology that only became prevalent in the late 1980s.
Prof. Douglas Howard, who teaches the history of the modern Middle East at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., heard Mr. Saleem speak last November at the college and said he thought the three were connected to several major Christian evangelical organizations.
“It was just an old time gospel hour — ‘Jesus can change your life, he changed mine,’ ” Mr. Howard said. “That is mixed in with ‘Watch out America, wake up America, the danger of Islam is here.’ ”
The three will be paid a total of $13,000 for their appearance, some of it from private donors, said Maj. Brett Ashworth, a spokesman for the academy.
Okay, I gotta ask as an American citizen who doesn't happen to be a follower of Mike Huckabee why are my tax dollars being spent on this kind of crap.
It's outrageous that a trio of obvious evangelical snake oil salesmen are speaking at the publicly funded Air Force academy and are allowed to vent their anti-Muslim propaganda to boot.
I don't happen to be a Muslim either, but millions of Americans are and I have to think they have rights, too.
Of course, in the climate we have today maybe they don't.
The Air Force claims despite all the evidence these guys, these speakers, are experts. And they must be because they've been presented as such on the Fox News Channel, The 700 Club, the Pastor John Hagee program, and similar venues.
But maybe I'm being unfair to pick on the Air Force Academy. I mean what are they to do but follow the lead of their bosses who wanted recently to use your money and mine to deliver some nice little "freedom packages" to our soldiers in Iraq.
I'm for freedom.
However, the freedom packages weren't really about freedom. They held Bibles, proselytizing material in English and Arabic and the apocalyptic computer game "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" (derived from the series of post-Rapture novels), in which "soldiers for Christ" hunt down enemies who look suspiciously like U.N. peacekeepers.
The packages were put together by a fundamentalist Christian ministry called Operation Straight Up, or OSU. Headed by former kickboxer Jonathan Spinks, OSU is an official member of the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program. The group has staged a number of Christian-themed shows at military bases, featuring athletes, strongmen and actor-turned-evangelist Stephen Baldwin.
The packages never got sent after the meddlesome, no doubt commie, Arab loving Military Religious Freedom Foundation blew the whistle on the whole shebang.
Now you might think this whole dealie was just a fluke.
It wasn't that long ago, the Los Angeles Times pointed out, Christian Embassy, a group whose expressed purpose is to proselytize to military personnel, diplomats, Capitol Hill staffers and political appointees in a breach of security was allowed to have a film crew to roam the corridors of the Pentagon unescorted while making a promotional video featuring high-ranking officers and political appointees. (Christian Embassy, which holds prayer meetings weekly at the Pentagon, is so entrenched that Air Force Maj. Gen. John J. Catton Jr. said he'd assumed the organization was a "quasi-federal entity.")
Hell, maybe they are.
Last time I checked our military men and women swear and oath to defend the Constitution. You remember that document? It mentions something about Church and State.
In an interview with Tikkun that Weinstein fellow I mentioned above (but forgot to note was assistant general counsel to President Ronald Reagan) said:
"About 12.6 percent of the American public are Dominionist Christians. It’s still a chunk—38 million. And they are represented very well now on all 737 U.S. military instillations that the Pentagon acknowledges that we have. It’s really closer to 1000. In 132 countries around the world, as we garrison the globe."
They are represented in a group called the Officers Christian Fellowship, for the officers, and for the enlisted folks, the Christian Military Fellowship. These groups have a tripartite goal, a goal they believe is much more critically important than the oath they all swore out: to protect, defend, support and serve the constitution of the United States. They are unabashed and unapologetic about it. It’s right on their web site. Goal number one: they want to see a spiritually transformed U.S. military. Goal number two: with ambassadors for Christ in uniform. Let me say that one again, and think back over history. That hasn’t worked out too well in the last 2000 years. Ambassadors for Christ in uniform. At least they didn’t have nuclear weapons and laser guided weapons before. Third, empowered by the Holy Spirit."
They work assiduously up and down the chain of command, using, in fact, the draconian specter of command influence to push this weaponized Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s very digital, one and zero. Either you accept our view or we or our version of Jesus will have to kill you."
There are four specific stenches that are attended to Dominionist Christians, particularly in the military. It’s much like walking into a ditch, or in my native New Mexico we would call it an arroyo, on a hot summer day, and walking upon the diseased corpses of 10,000 swine, and having that malodorous stench invade your nose. The first of the four stenches is virulent anti-Semitism. Virulent. Second, virulent homophobia. The third is virulent misogyny, basically the idea that women should be consigned to collecting food, preparing food, serving food, cleaning up after meals, spreading their legs, getting pregnant, and raising children. The last is the massive subordination of flawed man—you know, when humans pop out of their mothers’ wombs they are of course bearing Original Sin—so therefore, the massive subordination of man’s law, by which they mean the Constitution, to this weaponized Gospel of Jesus Christ."
But then he is one of that tribe that is always causing problems. Oops, I forgot I am one of that tribe, too.
You know what though? We're Americans, too. And it ticks me off when the government that supposedly represents me uses the institutions of government in an attempt to impose a religious world view on its soldiers and on the general population.
And it scares me, when they cozy up with premillenial dispensational reconstructionist dominionist evangelical fundamentalist Christians who as they Weinstein guy said basically believe they have an inalienable right to push the weaponized Gospel of Jesus Christ 24/7 irrespective of any "man’s laws" like the Constitution or the case law that construes it.
It ought to scare you and your next door neighbor, too.
The following is from Military.com.
Muslims Protest Air Force Academy Guest
A Muslim advocacy group is decrying the U.S. Air Force Academy's decision to invite three self-described former terrorists who the group said slam Islam with "hate-filled" rhetoric.
The D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations said one of the speakers, Walid Shoebat, has said that "Islam is the devil."
Shoebat, Kamal Saleem and Zachariah Anani are scheduled to speak Wednesday at the 50th Annual Academy Assembly in Colorado Springs, where the topic of the four-day event is "Dismantling Terrorism."
Shoebat has published an online autobiography describing his journey from membership in the Palestine Liberation Organization to Israeli sympathizer. Saleem also is a former member of the PLO, and Zak Anani describes himself as a former member of several Lebanese terrorist groups. The three appear together regularly.
Maj. Brett Ashworth, an Air Force Academy spokesman, defended the decision, saying the purpose of the event is "to educate future officers and delegates from 50 colleges on the ideology and methodology of terrorists" and the three men could provide valuable insight.
But Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for CAIR, said the men also denounce the Muslim faith.
"Islam is the devil? I mean c'mon!" Hooper said. "And these people are going to talk as experts to cadets who may possibly serve in parts of the Muslim world?"
Saleem, who said he quit the PLO in 1985 after converting to Christianity, said in a telephone interview there are always people who disagree with his views about Islam.
Others, he said, tell him, "Thank you for enlightening us."
Hooper said the three speakers have triggered protests at speaking engagements throughout the country, and he told Air Force academy officials that inviting the men to speak about terrorism would be like "inviting David Duke to speak about race relations."
He said CAIR offered to connect the Air Force with Muslims in Colorado who also could speak at the event to balance the discussion. However, he said he was told the topic was terrorism, not religion.
"The academy assembly has nothing to do with religion or evangelical Christianity for that matter," Ashworth said. "This is not going to be a discussion on Islam. It's a discussion on terrorism."
Religion has been a sensitive topic at the Air Force Academy in the past. A group of cadet graduates had claimed the academy violated their rights, saying evangelical Christian values were forced onto them. They filed a lawsuit, which was dismissed in 2006 after a judge said they couldn't claim their rights were violated because they no longer attended the academy.
An Air Force task force also concluded there was no religious discrimination at the Academy but noted some cadets and staff were insensitive. In February 2006, the Air Force adopted new guidelines cautioning top officers about promoting their religious views.