CAIRO – Facing Muslim criticism, America's Navy has announced it will stop using cardboard targets depicting Muslim women wearing hijab and verses from Qur’an at a new training range for SEALs in Virginia Beach.
"We have removed this particular target and Arabic writing in question from the range in the near term, and will explore other options for future training," Lt. David Lloyd, a spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Group 2, told the Virginian Pilot.
The target in question is a picture of the cardboard target, which shows a woman in a headscarf holding a pistol.
Published in The Virginian-Pilot on Tuesday, the image shows verses of the Qur’an hanging on the wall behind the woman, which also generated criticism from the group.
The Navy announcement came hours after the Council on American-Islamic Relations asked the Pentagon to remove the target, referred to as a "kill house."
Nihad Awad, executive director of the Washington-based council, said in the letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta dated Friday that the target "is offensive and sends a negative and counterproductive message to trainees and to the Muslim-majority nations to which they may be deployed."
Ibrahim Hooper, a CAIR spokesman, said it's important that military units not be trained to see Muslims as enemies, even if they are fighting in Afghanistan or other Muslim-majority nations.
"There are all kinds of people all over the world trying to do us harm. Why would you use this particular image in training people how to kill?" Hooper asked.
"It creates the impression, we believe, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, that you should view Muslim women in headscarves with hostility and suspicion."
Capt. Tim Szymanski, the commodore of Naval Special Warfare Group 2, agreed, saying SEALs must differentiate in a split second between civilian bystanders and potential enemies.
He also noted other cardboard cut-outs on the range would show people holding animals, not weapons.
The leading American civil rights group welcomed the decision by the US Navy to stop using the offensive target.
"We welcome the Navy's prompt action to address community concerns and hope this incident serves as a reminder that credible scholars and experts need to be consulted when designing training materials relating to Islam and Muslims for our nation's military personnel," Awad, CAIR National Executive Director, said in a press release on Friday night.
"This is a welcome first step, but a serious and comprehensive review is needed to deal with the issue of Islamophobia in military training."
Although there are no official figures, the United States is believed to be home to between 6-8 million Muslims.
This is not the first scandal that engulfed the US military since the 9/11.
Earlier this year, the New York police used a video screening accusing Muslims of launching a holy war on the West as a training material for its officers.
The film, “The Third Jihad: Radical Islam’s Vision for America”, says "the true agenda of much of Muslim leadership here in America" is to "infiltrate and dominate America."
It claims that there were three jihads: One at the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him), a second in the Middle Ages and a third that is underway covertly in the West today.
In July 2011, the FBI used training materials that claim Islam “transforms [a] country’s culture into 7th-century Arabian ways”.
Earlier in 2011, CAIR and the University of California released a report titled “Same Hate, New Target: Islamophobia and Its Impact in the United States 2009-2010,” which warned of growing Islamophobia in the US since President Barack Obama was elected.
Last September, Danger Room cited an FBI training material which described Muslims as "terrorist sympathizers", who turn into violent people once they become pious.
It also described Islam as an indicator of terrorist activity and that the Muslim practice of giving charity as no more than a “funding mechanism for combat.”
Earlier this February 2012, the FBI purged hundreds of documents offensive to Muslims and their faith, describing those document as "offensive" while others were "inaccurate" and "overbroad".
The White House also ordered a government-wide review of counterterrorism training late last year.
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