This ridiculous article in UCLA’s student newspaper, The Daily Bruin, reveals the mindset of those who believe that “Islamophobia” is a bigger threat than jihad terror. Does the U.S. face a jihad threat today? Obviously it does. Do many of these jihadis wear traditional Islamic garb and scream “Allahu akbar” when attacking? Once again, that is patently obvious. But a ROTC exercise that features the enemies of U.S. soldiers wearing Islamic garb and screaming “Allahu akbar” is “Islamophobic” and somehow endeavors to “marginalize 3.5 million Americans.”
The article’s author, Omar Said, even claims that “the university cannot expect these students on campus to feel safe or comfortable knowing that all it takes for them to be labeled an enemy combatant is to say an often used phrase or wear an outfit common in their country.”
Really? And when exactly did ROTC or anyone else claim that everyone who wears traditional Islamic garb or says “Allahu akbar” is an “enemy combatant”? Never. Said’s article is of a piece with successful efforts by Islamic advocacy groups in the U.S. to get all mention of Islam and jihad removed from counter-terror training: because not all Muslims are jihad terrorists, it is somehow wrong for the U.S. military to prepare to counter those who are. The end result will be that the U.S. is ignorant and unprepared in the face of the advancing jihad. Is that what Omar Said wants?
“Omar Said: Use of stereotyped Muslim attire in ROTC training perpetuates Islamophobia,” by Omar Said, Daily Bruin, May 10, 2018:
It takes a lot of work to marginalize 3.5 million Americans at once.
But the ROTC did just that when it stereotyped Muslims to portray enemy combatants.
During a training held by UCLA’s and California State University, Fresno’s Army ROTCs in early April, students acting as enemy soldiers in combat simulations wore clothing commonly worn by civilians in Arab countries. The clothing included kufiyyas and iqals, which are better known as the flowing scarves Arab men traditionally wear on their heads.
At one point in the training, Maj. Tyrone Vargas, the executive officer of the battalion and a UCLA assistant adjunct professor of military science, held a rocket-propelled grenade above his head and said “Allahu akbar” in the presence of cadets. Vargas later told The Bruin that this had been a way to teach cadets how they would need to decide whether people approach them as combatants or in celebration.
“Allahu akbar,” which means “God is greater,” is a large part of daily Muslim worship and life, including the formal prayer done five times a day. Imam Omar Suleiman, an adjunct professor of Islamic studies at Southern Methodist University, wrote in a CNN article that the phrase is used to indicate gratitude “when God bestows something upon you that you would have been incapable of attaining were it not for divine benevolence.” Notwithstanding, “Allahu akbar” has become a common element in Islamophobic jokes and stereotypes about terrorists.
ROTC’s cavalier attitude about Islamic ideas is damaging to Muslim Americans, and to the Muslim and Southwest Asian and North African students studying at UCLA. The university cannot expect these students on campus to feel safe or comfortable knowing that all it takes for them to be labeled an enemy combatant is to say an often used phrase or wear an outfit common in their country.
Training future military combatants is one thing; perpetuating discriminatory stereotypes is another. ROTC can certainly try to make amends for its actions during the spring cadet training, but the fact remains that it has only played into the continuing narrative of Islamophobia in the United States.
“This training negligently promotes an image of Muslims as dangerous,” said Marwa Rifahie, a civil rights attorney for the Los Angeles chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations, in a statement released by CAIR-LA….
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on Jihad Watch. The featured image is of UCLA’s ROTC taking part in a training session for cadets. (Liz Ketcham/Daily Bruin)