Friday, October 17, 2003

Religious Speech

A high-ranking general has given rise to some controversy because of a few speeches that he made to Christian groups earlier this year:
Questions about Boykin, the new deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, dominated a Pentagon news briefing after his comments were highlighted by NBC News on Wednesday and the Los Angeles Times yesterday, putting Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the defensive.

Dressed in his Army uniform, Boykin told an Oregon religious group in June that radical Islamists hate the United States "because we're a Christian nation ... and the enemy is a guy named Satan." He told an audience in Florida in January that a Muslim Somali warlord was captured because "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real god and his was an idol."
What I find interesting is the reaction from a prominent Muslim spokesman:
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based civil-rights group, urged the Bush administration to remove Boykin from his post, where he is in charge of tracking down al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and other high-profile targets in the Muslim world.

"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," said the council's executive director, Nihad Awad. "Gen. Boykin should be reassigned to a position in which he will not be able to harm our nation's image or interests."
Grant that Boykin's statements were imprudent, given his station and given the United States' struggle with various Middle Eastern countries. But on what grounds can Boykin's religious beliefs be described as "bigoted" or "ill-informed"? Doesn't that imply that his religious beliefs are, well, false? The Muslim spokesman's statement is all too typical, but is logically contradictory: It amounts to saying that a religious belief is false if it provides that someone else's religious beliefs are false. But if that were the case, then the Muslim spokesman's own beliefs would be false, because he stated quite clearly that he thinks Boykin's beliefs are false.


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