Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Blog
By Jeffrey Wright
2012 Spring Intern
The United States Military Academy at West Point announced today that an Islamophobic retired general has withdrawn from his planned role as the speaker at West Point’s ceremony marking the National Prayer Breakfast, scheduled for February 8. Lt. Gen. (ret.) William Boykin, a 36-year veteran of the U.S. Army, has a history of inflammatory and anti-Muslim rhetoric, including calling Islam “a totalitarian way of life.” When news of Lt. Gen. Boykin’s scheduled speech surfaced, VoteVets.org, a group of liberal military veterans, called for the invitation to be rescinded, saying that Lt. Gen. Boykin’s history of statements about Islam “...go against Army values, counter-insurgency strategy, and disrespect the service of the thousands of Muslim-Americans who have served in uniform.” West Point initially defended the decision to ask Lt. Gen. Boykin to speak, saying through a spokeswoman last Thursday that they remained confident that Boykin’s speech would be valuable for cadets. By Monday, however, VoteVets.org was joined by other organizations, like the Council on American Islamic Relations and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, in calling for the cancellation of Lt. Gen. Boykin’s speech. Later that day, West Point officially cancelled Boykin’s speech.
This is not the first controversy sparked by Lt. Gen. Boykin and his views on Islam. While serving as a high-ranking intelligence officer in 2004, Boykin made remarks at several church gatherings calling Islam a idolatrous religion and likening the Global War on Terror to a spiritual battle against evil. Boykin made the remarks in his Army uniform, and was censured by the Pentagon for making no effort to distinguish between his personal views and those of the U.S. military. Since retiring from the U.S. Army in 2007, Boykin has made a career as a speaker to far-right groups. He was a co-author of “Shariah: A Threat to America,” an inflammatory report produced by the neoconservative Center for Security Policy. A man with such a long history of Islamophobia should never have been asked to make such a speech, but West Point should be commended for correcting its error.