CAIRO - A US Muslim advocacy group has welcomed the withdrawal of a retired army general known for his anti-Islam rhetoric from a planned prayer breakfast at the US Military Academy at West Point.
"We welcome Lt. Gen William G. Boykin's withdrawal from this event," Nihad Awad, National Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in a statement obtained by OnIslam.net.
We hope that the speaker who replaces him will offer cadets a spiritual message that promotes tolerance and mutual understanding, Awad added.
The US military academy at West Point had invited Islamophobic general Boykin as its featured speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 8.
General Boykin, a longtime commander of Special Operations forces, first sparked a controversy after the Sept. 11 attacks when, as a senior Pentagon official, he described the fight against terrorism as a Christian battle against Satan.
Retiring from the army in 2007, he started a new career as a conservative Christian speaker, leading an evangelical group called Kingdom Warriors.
In one of his speeches, he described Islam as a totalitarian way of life and said that Islam should not be protected under the First Amendment.
As news of his invitation was made public, a liberal veterans' group, VoteVets.org, demanded that the invitation be revoked.
Several other groups also denounced the invitation, with some faculty members and cadets voicing concern.
The Forum on the Military Chaplaincy (a liberal group of retired military chaplains), the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and CAIR made public appeals to the Pentagon to cancel General Boykin's appearance.
Facing growing criticism, Gen Boykin decided to withdraw from the event, saying he has decided to withdraw speaking at West Point's National Prayer Breakfast.
In fulfilling its commitment to the community, the United States Military Academy will feature another speaker for the event, he said in a statement issued Monday by the academy's office of public affairs. Army Opposition
Many West Point cadets were also critical of the Islamophobic general's invitation.People are definitely talking about it here, a fourth-year cadet at West Point, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he feared reprisals for breaking military discipline, told The New York Times.
They're inviting someone who's openly criticizing a religion that is practiced on campus, he said.
I know Muslim cadets here, and they are great, outstanding citizens, and this ex-general is saying they shouldn't enjoy the same rights.
The cadet asked, Are we supposed to take leadership qualities and experience from this guy, to follow in his footsteps?
A similar controversy erupted last week, in the days before General Boykin spoke at the mayor's annual prayer breakfast in Ocean City, Md.
Though the general made no inflammatory statements about Islam at this event, Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at People for the liberal advocacy group American Way, said the West Point invitation was a mistake.
West Point would have given a platform to someone who is publicly identified with offensive comments about Muslims and about the commander in chief, said Montgomery.
Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to from 7-8 million Muslims.
Since the 9/11 attacks on the United States, many Muslims have complained of facing discrimination and stereotypes in the society because of their Islamic attires or identities.
A US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
There is no official count of Muslims serving in the 1.4 million-strong US armed forces because recruits are not required to state their religion.
But according to the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affair Council, there are more than 20,000 Muslims serving in the military.