A course taught at a select military college in Norfolk, Virginia has been suspended after complaints it included number of anti-Islamic materials, including a Power Point slide suggesting the United States is "at war" with Islam, officials said Wednesday.
The Joint Forces Staff College, which trains officers for various higher-level joint assignments, offers a class on "Perspectives in Islam and Islamic Radicalism". This class has been halted pending an inquiry into how the slide and other material came to be included in the class. Officials said a student's complaint alerted them.
The scandal prompted the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey (pictured), to order a review of all military training curricula to ensure no similar references exist elsewhere.
Navy Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said the sentiments expressed on the slide are not what the U.S. military espouses or tries to teach.
"We are not at war with Islam," he said. "We are at war withal-Qaida, specifically."
The Defense Department became aware of the complaints on Friday, and the military has begun to review that specific course.
However, General Dempsey also wants "to take a broader view" and scrutinize all military education.
General Dempsey's memo, dated 24 April, calls for a review by combatant commands, services, the National Guard Bureau and the Joint Staff to ensure that military education programs demonstrate "cultural sensitivity, respect for religion and intellectual balance."
General Demsey is angered that such an incident has taken place again. The Pentagon asked for a curriculum review last year, in response to similar complaints about training by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on countering extremism, as well as related Defense Department lectures. General Dempsey's new order seems to reflect his irritation that the latest complaints "caused me to question whether all parties understood the spirit and intent" of the earlier effort.
He complained that military instructors and guest lecturers appeared to be "advocating ideas, beliefs and actions that are contrary to our national policy, inconsistent with the values of our profession and disrespectful of the Islamic religion."
No one has been suspended or disciplined over the matter, which is characterized as an inquiry as opposed to a full-blown investigation that would look into criminal behavior.
There was no indication Wednesday how long the inquiry would take, but it will try to determine how long the inflammatory material has been included in the course. That's something officials just don't know, Kirby said.
The course has been offered as an elective since 2004.
Hugh Lessig, "Military class in Norfolk suspended over anti-Islam flap" HR Military April 25, 2012
John H. Cushman, "General Orders Review of Military Schools After Class Is Told U.S. Is at War With Islam" New York Times April 25, 2012
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today