10 November 2009

The New Model Army?

The New Model Army of Great Britain was formed in 1645 by Oliver Cromwell's Parliamentarians in the English Civil War, and disbanded in 1660 after the Restoration. It was raised partly from among veteran soldiers who already had deeply-held Puritan religious convictions, and partly from conscripts who brought with them many commonly-held beliefs about religion or society.

I am amazed that there are organisations that try to convert those serving in the US Military to Christian Fundamentalism to make it a New Model Army.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has a history of religious freedom in the US military. Not to mention I've blogged that The First Amendment and Article VI of the Constitution provide for religious freedom.

Mikey Weinstein, a retired officer and activist for religious freedom in the military, published this communication from the wife of an American Muslim serving in the military:
I wanted to let you know what life has been like for myself, being an American-Muslim military spouse, over the last few days here at (military installation withheld), since the Ft. Hood incident. When I first learned of this, I was sitting in the PX food court with my best friend whose immediate reaction was, “ No offense to you, but Muslims shouldn’t even be allowed in the U.S. Army”. Wow, this was from my best friend here! I have heard this and similar sentiments repeatedly from various “friends”, as well as people insisting it’s really a terror plot.

Since this happening, my Muslim husband, who is deployed to Afghanistan, has been put on duty to build a chapel on his base, as well as being told not to associate with the Afghan nationals that work there. I went shopping at the commissary and had people mumbling under their breath but loud enough to ensure that I could hear, things like, “get out of our country”, “go back to your country”, “ F-ing Muslims”, “G-Damn Muslims,” and several other expletives you can insert there. Now people don’t just stare at you when they see you go by wearing hijab, they glare. Last time I checked, I was born in this country, this is my country, and my husband is serving it and continues to serve it despite the harassment and racism he encounters. He proudly serves despite the fact that our family pays a higher price for it than many others.

I know that The United Kingdon has a state sanctioned Church, but how can the US condone intlerance in its military? And despite the state religion, The United Kingdom has worked to encourage diversity and understanding in recent years.

The first recorded Englishman to become a Muslim was John Nelson, who converted to Islam at some point in the 16th Century. In the 18th and 19th Centuries there were a number of converts to Islam amongst the English upper classes, including Edward Montagu, son of the ambassador to Turkey.

The first large group of Muslims in Britain arrived about 300 years ago. They were sailors recruited in India to work for the East India Company, and so it's not surprising that the first Muslim communities were found in port towns. Islam was not recognised until the Trinitarian Act in 1812, though Muslims were present prior to this. Today Islam is the second largest religion in the UK with recent estimates suggesting a Muslim population as high as 2.4 million, in part due to considerable immigration to the UK from its former colonies.

My question is why is the US so far behind the UK in recognising Islam? This is especially true considering the Treat of Tripoli I mentioned in my previous post.

I can take some guesses as to why the US demonises Islam, but none of those reasons would be valid ones for such an action.

Religious freedom takes on an additional importance in the current international environment, where religious motivations are an increasing rationale for waging conflict. At a time when the United States is encouraging greater freedom in Muslim nations, it is imperative upon America to show by example that religious pluralism is a viable and preferred option. Any sign of hypocrisy in United States policy, official or otherwise, toward the free exercise of religion within the military makes it more difficult to convince others to follow its example.