Wednesday, September 07, 2011 3:26 AM
Deputy District Gov. Mohammad Akbar Khan (left) sits with Navy Lt. Asif Balbale (center) and Lt. Cmdr. David Todd in the district governor’s compound in Sangin, Afghanistan, Sept. 3.
Asif Balbale is a Muslim Navy chaplain and imam. He spent the past month visiting Afghanistan " to celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan through religious outreach engagements across Helmand province," the Pentagon reports (gushes) at DVIDS. Sangin -- bloody, Taliban-riddled Sangin -- was his last stop.
Was he there to minister to US Muslims in uniform? Hardly. As Balbale himself notes in this interview, he ministers to US Muslims in uniform only "sporadically." Instead, this was a dog and pony show for Afghan Muslims: to see a Muslim in US uniform, to demonstrate the "tolerance" and "diversity" of the US military. Did the Afghans respond in kind by showing the tolerance and diversity of their own ranks -- by featuring, for example, as the Marine Mom who sent me the story put it, a Jewish Rabbi embedded with the Afghan Army?
Haha. Reciprocity has no place in Muslim "outreach." It's always a one-way street, a demonstration of ever-deeper fealty to Islamic sense, sensibility, and law. In this case, a US Navy Muslim chaplain, born in India and raised in Kuwait, who immigrated to the United States 11 years ago, was out there on assignment for Uncle Sucker with a purely Islamic message for the mullahs of Sangin. You might think this would have dimmed the beatific glow on the face of the Lt. Cmdr. in the photo above, if not the reporter's serenity. But no.
First, the set-up from the story:
U.S. service members are dissuaded from discussing religion with local Afghans especially if they are not Muslim.
They are also "dissuaded" from touching the Koran lest their non-Muslim fingers defile the book, which, not incidentally, ISAF has officialy put under special protection as per Islamic law. "ISAF forces are trained on the sanctity of the holy book and go to significant steps to protect it," the ISAF website states.
They go to "significant steps to protect" -- sounds dangerous -- a book, 30 million copies of which are given away each year by Saudi Arabia alone?
But I digress (sort of).
This leaves a whole range of issues and communication that will go unspoken. Saturday’s visit was meant as a way to introduce the chaplain and to begin a religion based dialogue. ...
The meeting consisted of a meal and private conversation amongst the military, political and religious leaders.
The elders began the meeting by questioning Balbale on his knowledge of the Quran. He responded in Urdu, a language Balbale learned while living in India, and cited passages from the Islamic holy book.
What questions about the Koran did the "elders" ask? Was there an Urdu interpreter on hand to translate for the DVIDS reporter? I'm guessing the chaplain himself was the Urdu translator. The story continues:
Questions then took on a more inquisitive nature after the initial skepticism wore off. A flurry of dialogue proceeded.
“Is your wife Muslim?” asked the leading mullah and Islamic religious leader of the district.
“How do Christians get married [in the U.S.]?” inquired a local elder.
“When a Muslim commits a crime in America do they get special treatment?” asked the local district chief of police.
Balbale answered the questions in rapid order but with a relaxed demeanor that put the participants at ease.
But we have no idea what he actually said. There was a overarching theme, however, according to the story.
His message was simple, Muslims should unite in their brotherhood and avoid violence towards one another.
Isn't something important missing here?
How about avoiding violence toward American and other ISAF forces?
As reported, Balbale made no such pitch, which is a special outrage in Sangin, of all places. The intensity of this year's fighting there has never entered the American consciousness -- with the stark exception being that of the families of Sangin's US casualaties. The lucky ones are still making the trek to military hospitals where the wounded undergo multiple operations and longterm rehab for lost and mangled limbs, head injuries and the like. A plug for non-violence toward their replacements surely was in order from a US military chaplain.
But no. Pentagon "outreach" to Sangin's Muslims comes down to a plea for Islamic brotherhood, which, quite frankly, better serves the cause of a global caliphate than US foreign policy.