By Rob Boston
Longtime readers of “The Wall of Separation” might remember William “Jerry” Boykin, an Army general who in 2003 sparked controversy for giving speeches to fundamentalist Christian audiences during which he asserted, among other things, that Muslims worship idols and that the real enemy of America is not Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein but Satan.
In a 2003 appearance in Oregon, Boykin unleashed this gem: Islamic extremists hate the U.S., he said, “because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundations and our roots are Judeo-Christian.”
In another speech, Boykin recalled how he captured an Islamic warlord in Somalia because “I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol.”
Things got so bad that the White House had to issue a “global message” to Muslim nations letting them know that Boykin wasn’t speaking for the American government during these appearances. This was a little hard to do since the man served as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence at the Pentagon and was often in uniform when the spoke at fundamentalist churches.
Eight years have passed. What’s Boykin up to now?
Well, the good news is that he retired and is no longer with the Army. The bad news is, he’s as extreme as ever.
Boykin has been making the rounds on the far-right rubber-chicken circuit, joining the growing chorus of Islam-bashers who made a nice living spreading horror stories about the coming imposition of sharia law in America.
In a recent column published online, Boykin questions “whether or how the First Amendment should properly be applied to Islam” and asserts that “the ultimate outcome of blanket protection for Islam in all its manifestations on the grounds of ‘religious freedom’ would be the establishment of Islamic law and government, or Sharia, alongside or in place of civil law and government in this country.”
I’d like to assure Boykin that there are at least two obstacles to this nefarious Muslim takeover. One is the First Amendment. Properly interpreted by the courts, it protects us from any form of religion-based law.
The second factor is there just aren’t that many Muslims in America. It’s true that the Pew Forum reported recently that the American Muslim population is expected to double by 2030 – but even then it will still account for only 1.7 percent of the population. With numbers like that, I doubt they’re going to be able to force women into burqas and require men to grow beards – especially since not all Muslims believe men and women should even do those things.
What really irks me about Boykin is that he had the nerve to invoke the separation of church and state in his latest anti-Islam tirade. He complained that Muslims don’t recognize that principle.
I’ve got some news for you, Jerry: Neither do you. Boykin for years ranted and raved about how our great Christian nation was going to launch a new crusade against the Muslim hordes. That suggests he isn’t really interested in church-state separation.
I’m sure he’d gladly impose his own narrow understanding of Christianity on the rest of us through government action. He’s merely using a great constitutional principle as yet another club for his Muslim bashing.
When I hear Boykin and people like him talk about how we need to curb religious freedom for Muslims (or any other group), I can only shudder. What they are proposing is that we trash religious freedom in order to save it and that the best way to preserve our Constitution is to shred it.
It’s appalling, and we shouldn’t let him get away with it.
Islam is the religion of at least 1 billion people in the world. Some of them are violent extremists, but the vast majority of that faith’s members are not. Tarring everyone with the same brush, spreading hate and division and proposing new witch-hunts is simplistic. It also mocks the values of our Constitution.
We’ve been down this road before. It is a dangerous place to be.
In the 19th century, we looked with suspicion upon immigrants from certain nations because they spoke foreign tongues, belonged to the “wrong” religions and had their own customs. Laws were passed to keep them out. During World War II, we put Americans of Japanese descent into internment camps merely because of their background. In the 1950s, many people lost their jobs and had their lives ruined because of political beliefs they may have once held or gatherings they might have attended.
The lesson of history is crystal clear: Looking for new enemies to demonize isn’t the answer. So what is the answer? Let’s try this: Instead of trashing our Constitution and proposing that the rights in it shouldn’t apply to certain Americans, let’s cling to its values all the tighter – and make certain that all Americans are under its protection.
P.S. Our friend Kyle Mantyla at PFAW’s Right-Wing Watch reports that Boykin’s speeches about the Obama administration are increasingly insane. In one television appearance, Boykin asserted that Obama is planning a “Marxist insurgency” backed by a secret military force “that would control the population in America.” According to Boykin, the health-care bill is part of this plot. It’s alarming to me that a crank like Boykin was ever in a position of authority in our military.