Civil Rights Groups Call On NRA To Revoke Invitation To Islamophobic General

Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

William BoykinThe Military Religious Freedom Foundation and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee are calling on the National Rifle Association to revoke its invitation to Islamophobic retired Lt. General William Boykin to keynote the organization's prayer breakfast at its annual meeting this week.

In a letter to NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre sent today, MRFF executive director Mikey Weinstein writes:

No prayer breakfast should be used as a forum for hate speech, and no organization that boasts of defending the U.S. Constitution should give extremists who degrade the faith of soldiers fighting for our country a national platform. Therefore, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF: http://www.MilitaryReligiousFreedom.org) unequivocally demands that the National Rifle Association (NRA) revoke its invitation to the rabidly Islamophobic retired Lt. General William Boykin.

MRFF represents over 27,000 soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, cadets, midshipmen, and armed forces veteran clients. We also represent more than 10% of all Muslim Americans in the armed forces.

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The General's unabashed hostility towards the Muslim community represents an open insult to that which countless generations of service members have shed precious blood to protect: democracy and religious freedom, as embodied and guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. We're all Americans regardless of how, where, and to whom we pray, if at all. The NRA's invitation to Boykin is an egregious slander against the thousands of honorable Muslim Americans serving in the U.S. military, and a desecration of the memory of those patriotic soldiers of Muslim faith who have fallen or have suffered injury in their service to this country. MRFF calls on the NRA to immediately revoke its invitation to the vociferously racist and intolerant retired Lt. General William G. Boykin.

Yesterday in a letter to NRA president David Keene, ADC President Warren David wrote of Boykin's rhetoric:

These statements are unacceptable and reflect Lt. Gen. Boykin's disregard and seeming hatred of Islam and Muslims. Because the NRA is an organization that stands for the Second Amendment rights of all Americans and many Americans are Arab American and/or Muslim, I urge you to withdraw the invitation and cancel Lt. Gen. Boykin's speech at your upcoming festivities. Doing so would reaffirm your commitment to protect the Second Amendment rights of the entirety of American citizens, including those Arab-American and Muslim citizens that chose to exercise their Second Amendment rights and also support the NRA.

Boykin received international attention in 2003 after the Los Angeles Times and NBC News reported on speeches he had given in full military dress at religious events suggesting that the United States was fighting a "spiritual battle" in the Middle East against "a guy called Satan" who "wants to destroy us as a Christian army." He subsequently drew criticism from then-President Bush, among others.

Since his 2007 retirement, Boykin has continued to use a variety of religious and media platforms to attack Muslims and Islam. For example, he has said that while "every Muslim should be allowed to worship freely," "Islam itself is not just a religion -- it is a totalitarian way of life," which he said "should not be protected under the First Amendment, particularly given that those following the dictates of the Quran are under an obligation to destroy our Constitution and replace it with Sharia law."

In January Boykin withdrew from a similar event at the United States Military Academy at West Point in the face of criticism from MPFF and other civil rights groups of his divisive rhetoric.

The April 15 prayer breakfast comes on the final day of the NRA's convention, which will be held in St. Louis, Missouri and feature speeches from Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and a variety of Republican officeholders.

UPDATE: Writing on the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch blog, SPLC senior fellow Mark Potok sharply criticized the NRA's decision to host Boykin:

The National Rifle Association (NRA) -- the powerful gun lobby that has called federal law enforcement agents "jack-booted thugs," accused President Obama of having secret plans to strip away Americans' guns, and been the main force behind the incredibly dangerous "Stand Your Ground" laws being used to justify the killing of Trayvon Martin -- is once again flaunting its political extremism.

This Sunday in St. Louis, the NRA plans to host retired Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, a radical Islamophobe who has said there should be "no mosques in America," as keynote speaker of a prayer breakfast at its annual conference.

Writing of the NRA's efforts to pass "Kill at Will" laws similar to Florida's in several states, Potok concluded:

Not that any of this matters to the NRA. Indeed, cravenly plunging ahead despite the tragedy of the Trayvon Martin killing, the group has moved ahead in three states, pushing for the adoption of similar laws there. Folks in Iowa, Alaska and Minnesota take heed: The NRA's coming your way, and it means you no good. And by the way, if you're into a little Muslim-bashing along with your gun violence, you might want to make your way to St. Louis this Sunday. There are some folks there who would be happy to oblige you.

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