The Army is drawing heat from pro-Islam and anti-discrimination groups for inviting retired Lt. Gen William G. Boykin to speak at a West Point prayer breakfast in early February. Boykin has come under fire in the past for remarks many have characterized as anti-Muslim.
Under fire for past remarks
Boykin has in the past given speeches at evangelical Christian Churches in which he said that the greatest threat faced in America comes from Islam and Muslims. He has also been quoted as saying that Satan was the nation’s greatest enemy and that God had put George W. Bush in the White House.
Invitation protested by various groups
In response to the invitation, the Pentagon has received petitions from such groups as Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Forum on Military Chaplaincy and VoteVets.org calling for Boykin’s appearance to be dropped from the event.
VoteVets chairman Jon Soltz wrote:
“These remarks are incompatible with the Army values, and a person who is incompatible with Army values should not address the cadets of the United States Military Academy.”
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, told reporters:
“Having a guy like that speak at a respected institution like the U.S. Military Academy gives credibility to his extremist views of hatred toward Muslims.”
West Point defends engagement
West Point’s Lt. Col. Sherri Reed responded to the protests by saying in a statement:
“The National Prayer Breakfast Service will be pluralistic with Christians, Jewish, and Muslim cadets participating. We are comfortable and confident that what retired Lt. Gen. Boykin will share about prayer, soldier care and selfless service, will be in keeping with the broad range of ideas normally considered by our cadets.”
Reed also said that West Point cadets are “purposefully exposed to different perspectives and cultures.”
Nihad Awad, executive director of the CAIR, scoffed at Reed’s characterization of Boykin’s views as an alternative viewpoint:
“I doubt that they would invite a KKK speaker and claim that they want to expose the students to a variety of opinions.”
Refrained from disparaging Islam
The CAIR also attempted to have Boykin’s name removed from the speaking roster at a prayer breakfast on Jan. 26. Boykin did speak at that engagement and refrained from peaking about Islam.
He did however claim that his prayers had led to his witnessing “a dead man rising from the dead” during the Black Hawk Down incident in Somalia.
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