Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin (Photo: Los Angeles Times)
A top U.S. general in charge of hunting down Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein is under fire from Muslims and others because of published reports he has told evangelical groups America is in a war with radical Islam, whose god is an “idol.”
Army Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, the new deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, told a church gathering last year regarding a 1993 battle with a Muslim militant leader in Somalia: “I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol.”
“We in the army of God, in the house of God, kingdom of God have been raised for such a time as this,” Boykin said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
At a news conference yesterday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld offered praise for the three-star general as an officer with an “outstanding record in the United States armed forces.” And Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he thought Boykin – a highly-decorated former commander and 13-year veteran of the Army’s top-secret Delta Force – broke no rules speaking at churches.
The Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, however, issued a statement calling on Boykin to be reassigned.
“Putting a man with such extremist views in a critical policy-making position sends entirely the wrong message to a Muslim world that is already skeptical about America’s motives and intentions,” said CAIR executive director Nihad Awad.
CAIR, whose leaders are accused of having ties to Hamas and other radical groups, said it is responding to investigative reports by the Times and NBC News that paint Boykin as an “intolerant extremist who believes that Islam is an idolatrous, sacrilegious religion against which we are waging a holy war.”
Meanwhile, a former CAIR staffer, Randall Todd “Ismail” Royer, was among 11 men indicted in July for conspiring to train on American soil for a “violent jihad.” Another CAIR figure, Bassem Khafagi, was arrested in January while serving as the group’s director of community relations.
The Times noted Boykin has said publicly radical Muslims who resort to terrorism are not representative of the Islamic faith. The paper said he has compared Islamic extremists to “hooded Christians” who terrorized blacks, Catholics, Jews and others from beneath the robes of the Ku Klux Klan.
Neverthess, the Muslim lobby group urged action be taken against Boykin, citing his claims “radical Islamists” hate America “because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian … and the enemy is a guy named Satan.”
Boykin also is quoted as saying, our “spiritual enemy will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus.”
‘Everyone is entitled … ‘
Republican Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee of Rhode Island said he had been unaware of Boykin’s statements, but stated, “If that’s accurate, to me it’s deplorable,” according to the Associated Press.
Awad said, “Everyone is entitled to their own religious beliefs, no matter how ill-informed or bigoted, but those beliefs should not be allowed to color important decisions that need to be made in the war on terrorism. Gen. Boykin should be reassigned to a position in which he will not be able to harm our nation’s image or interests.”
The CAIR leader contended Muslims worship the same god as Christians and Jews, noting Arabic language Bibles use the word “Allah” when referring to God.
He quoted from Islam’s holy book, the Quran, which says in 2:136, “Say ye: ‘We believe in God and the revelation given to us and to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to(all) Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between one and another of them and it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves.”
Awad called on Americans “of all faiths to reject any attempts to turn the war on terrorism into a religious crusade.”
“President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld should also take this opportunity to further distance themselves from those who actively promote the clash of civilizations and religions,” said Awad, alluding to Professor Samuel Huntington’s thesis that since the end of the Cold War, the world has moved into a new phase in which the fault lines of conflict are between cultures or civilizations, particularly Western and Muslim.
The Los Angeles Times said Boykin’s religious activities were documented first in detail by William N. Arkin, a former military intelligence analyst who writes on defense issues for the newspaper’s opinion section.
In a Times op-ed, Arkin wrote, Boykin’s Pentagon appointment “is a frightening blunder at a time that there is widespread acknowledgment that America’s position in the Islamic world has never been worse.”
Pollster John Zogby told the Times public opinion surveys indicate Arabs and Muslims throughout the world react strongly against statements by American officials suggesting a conflict between religions and cultures.
President Bush and his administration have been careful to couch the country’s current struggle as a war on terrorism, not on Islam.
“To frame things in terms of good and evil, with the United States as good, is a nonstarter,” Zogby said, according to the paper.
“It is exactly the wrong thing to do.”