Sealed: US Navy bans targets of Muslim women in training facilities

US Navy photo shows a Navy SEAL platoon as they perform a land warfare demonstration at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek - Fort Story, Virginia. (AFP Photo/US NAVY/Robert Fluegel)
The Navy SEALs will no longer practice on a target depicting a Muslim woman brandishing a gun at their training facility in Fort Story, VA, after the practice drew criticism, and issues of stereotyping in the military surfaced once again.

The story unraveled after a photo depicting the target was published by The Virginian-Pilot. The photo shows a cardboard cutout of a woman wearing a hijab and pointing a gun; there are verses of the Koran, the sacred Islamic text, hanging on the wall behind her.

This caused outrage among members of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who immediately sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, expressing their grave concern.

"Using a Muslim woman wearing a religious head scarf with [verses from the] koran behind her as a target for our nation’s military personnel is offensive and sends a negative and counterproductive message to trainees and to the Muslim-majority nations to which they may be deployed,” the letter said.

It went on to say that this “is yet another example of why the Department of Defense needs to fix what appears to be an ongoing problem by consulting credible scholars and experts to review all training and training materials related to Islam or Muslims.”

The Pentagon’s response was quick. Lieutenant David Lloyd, who oversees some SEAL teams training in Virginia Beach, told reporters that the Navy has “removed this particular target and Arabic writing in question from the range in the near-term, and will explore other options for future training.”

But while most chose to focus on how smoothly and quickly the incident was dealt with, many believe this isolated incident is just the tip of the iceberg, and is indicative of religious stereotyping in the military.

Jason Ditz, a news editor at antiwar.com, told RT that “the issue of stereotyping is very real in the US, and the military is just adding fuel to the fire”.

“In the context of the Pentagon having just been caught allowing Lt. Col Matthew Dooley to teach a course openly advocating genocide against the world's Muslims suggests that the military is simply not taking the very serious issues of bias seriously enough,” Ditz explained.

And with statements like “Islam must change or we will facilitate its self-destruction” present in Dooley’s ‘training’ materials, or the NYPD secretly spying on Muslims all over the entire northeast, it’s not hard to see why the roughly three million Muslims living in the United States are very concerned.

But it’s not just the attitude towards Muslims within the US that is a problem.

Ditz believes that such tactics could drastically affect the troops heading out to theatre in Muslim-majority nations.

“We've seen in the past that the military has used its own training as an excuse when war-crimes are committed. The 1988 downing of an Iranian passenger airliner was blamed on training which caused the warship's crew to assume any plane they saw was a target,” Ditz told RT.

“The US military has enough problems not killing innocent people without its own training reinforcing that behavior,” the antiwar.com editor added.

His words are backed up by sad facts. Just recently, the US operation in Afghanistan suffered major blows after Staff Sergeant Robert Bales massacred 17 civilians in Kandahar, troops burned copies of the Koran at their base in Bagram and videos were posted online of US Marines urinating on corpses of Taliban soldiers.

The military may no longer use targets showing Muslim women with guns at just one training base. Unfortunately, in the army’s reality, it’s nothing more than a drop in the ocean – and the very real danger of using religious profiling remains.

­Katerina Azarova, RT