memri
August 26, 2010 Special Dispatch No. 3191

Al-Jazeera TV Program Titled 'The Right In America Declared War On Islam Inside and Outside America' Interviews Muslim U.S. Soldier From Fort Hood on Planned Islamic Center Near Ground Zero, Who Says: 'Islamophobia Pervades U.S. Military'; 'The Training We Get and the Information That We Are Subject To - Constitute Propaganda Against Islam'

August 26, 2010
Special Dispatch No. 3191

Following are excerpts from an interview with Muslim U.S. soldier Zachari Klawonn. The interview, in a program titled "The Right in America Declared War on Islam Inside and Outside America," aired on Al-Jazeera TV on August 24, 2010, with simultaneous translation into Arabic over the English original. The MEMRI TV subtitles follow the English original, to the extent that it is audible.

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, visit http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/0/0/0/0/0/0/2589.

Interviewer: 'Hate Campaign Against Islam Affects The Muslim Soldiers As Well'

Interviewer: "The hate campaign against Islam affects the Muslim soldiers as well, who number over 3,700. They wear the U.S. military uniform, and are ordered to fight in Muslim countries, while at the same time they are subject to racist harassment at the hands of their fellow soldiers.

"One of these soldiers is Mr. Zachari Klawonn. Even though the American press has written extensively about his suffering, his situation has not changed much. We are pleased to have Mr. Zachari join us, from Austin, Texas.

"Mr. Zachari, Salaam Aleikum."

Zachari Klawonn: "Aleikum Asalaam. I'd like to say 'Ramadhan Mubarak' to all the viewers who are watching."

Klawonn: "Even Before That Horrific Attack [At Fort Hood], the Overwhelming Sense of Islamophobia Was Present in the U.S. Military"

Interviewer: "Could you tell us how this anti-Islam campaign, which coincides with the month of Ramadhan, affected your situation at the Fort Hood base, which witnessed a shooting by a former [sic] Muslim-American soldier? How are you being treated these days?"

Zachari Klawonn: "Absolutely. Even before that horrific attack, the overwhelming sense of Islamophobia was present in the U.S. military. It's evident within the anti-terrorism training, as well as the vibe in the general environment around me, and unfortunately, some of the discrimination that I have been through is the result of that environment."

"A Big Misunderstanding of the Islamic Faith... Contributes to People's Negative Notions Coming Into the Military; Also, the Training We Get and the Information That We Are Subject To – Constitutes Propaganda Against Islam"

Interviewer: "Some say that the military establishment displays more openness towards minorities – there's a mosque at the Pentagon, which has been mentioned in the American press lately. How can you be talking about suffering, when the military establishment claims that it is the most open toward minorities, toward women, and toward all those who suffer in society in general?"

Zachari Klawonn: "Well, I think there's a pretty big misconception of the reality of what's going on in the military, and what the mainstream media says. The reality is that there is a sense of Islamophobia, and there is a big misunderstanding of the Islamic faith, and that contributes to people's negative notions coming into the military. Also, the training we get and the information that we are subject to constitutes propaganda against Islam."

"I See the Opposition of American Citizens to My Right To Build an Islamic Community Center Near Ground Zero As a Big Slap in Our Face For a Service Member"

"Unfortunately, we are going through this right now. I think this speaks volumes about us, as a society right now. I mean, as an American citizen and service member, I see the opposition of American citizens to my right to build an Islamic community center near Ground Zero[1] as a big slap in our face for a service member.

"For someone who enlisted in the U.S. Army to uphold and defend our constitution, to have that right almost completely battered and taken away is moral[ly] shattering. Islamophobia is evident within the military, but I think it's also within our American society right now, unfortunately."

Interviewer: "Zachari, one last question, and thank you for joining us. Can you give us some examples of the harassment you are talking about, which you experienced personally?"

Zachari Klawonn: "Sure. I received numerous disrespectful comments, and even harassment to my personal property from an array of soldiers, and even in some instances, from the command itself. But more importantly, the training that I have been subject to is a complete slap in my face. Any Muslim who happens to be in the service and is subject to this training can see that this is an absolutely false interpretation of Islam. It's heartbreaking to see this, as a service member."


Endnote:

[1] This was translated into Arabic as: "....My right to build a mosque on the ruins of 9/11..."

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