NEWS from the National Council of Churches, USA
Contact NCC News Service: 212-870-2252  |  E-mail news@ncccusa.org   |  Most Recent Stories   |  NCC Home

Expressing Concern About Sectarianism in the U.S. Defense Department, NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar Seeks Meeting with Donald Rumsfeld
Dr. Edgar Also Writes Malaysian Prime Minister Decrying His Remarks Condemning Jews

October 20, 2003, NEW YORK CITY -- Hate speech, whomever it targets, is wrong and dangerous.  That concern was reflected in two letters sent today by National Council of Churches General Secretary Robert W. Edgar -- one to Donald H. Rumsfeld about apparent anti-Muslim sectarianism in the U.S. Department of Defense, the other to the Prime Minister of Malaysia for his recent anti-Jewish remarks.

To U.S. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Edgar addressed his concerns about anti-Muslim bias expressed repeatedly by Lt. General William G. Boykin and protested Boykin's recent appointment as Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence.  Edgar pressed Rumsfeld to reassign Boykin "to a less sensitive position, one in which his religious convictions won’t impair our national security."

Edgar concluded by requesting a meeting with Rumsfeld for religious leaders representing the National Council of Churches USA "to further discuss this situation and the issues it raises."

In his letter to Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia, Edgar added the National Council of Churches' voice "to the chorus of protest from religious and human rights organizations condemning your remarks about Jews on Thursday, October 16th at the Organization of the Islamic Conference."

"Hate speech -- whether it comes from western religious leaders, such as Rev. Jerry Falwell to whom you referred in your follow up comments on Friday, or Asian political leaders such as yourself -- seriously damages peace and harmony in our fragile world," he wrote. "We have consistently condemned remarks that malign the Muslim community and, similarly, we have consistently condemned comments that malign the Jewish community."

The full texts of both letters follow.

*  *  *  *

October 20, 2003

Hon. Donald H. Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense

Dear Mr. Secretary:

Over the course of the last three days, there has been significant public outcry regarding the appointment of Lt. General William G. Boykin to the post of Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. On behalf of the National Council of Churches USA, which counts among its affiliates 36 national churches with an aggregate membership of more than 50 million faithful Christians across the country, I am writing to protest this appointment.

While General Boykin has the right to personally ascribe to an exclusive form of religious faith, the sensitive position to which he has been appointed, namely to lead the "hunt" for Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, does not allow for such sectarian hostility to Islam. This appointment is not only an offense against Islam and its adherents, but also an affront to the sensibilities of all well meaning Americans who defend the principles of religious freedom and religious pluralism.

I would hope that this appointment does not represent an outright antipathy toward Islam within the Defense Department, a concern that is raised by the Department’s reevaluation of procedures regarding the endorsement of Muslim military chaplains. To avoid this perception, I urge you to reassign General Boykin to a less sensitive position, one in which his religious convictions won’t impair our national security.

To further discuss this situation and the issues it raises, I request a meeting with you for religious leaders representing the National Council of Churches USA. Given the urgency of this matter, I look forward to receiving a timely reply to this request.

Peace,

Rev. Robert Edgar
General Secretary

*  *  *  *

October 20, 2003

The Hon. Mahathir Mohamad
Prime Minister of Malaysia

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA adds its voice to the chorus of protest from religious and human rights organizations condemning your remarks about Jews on Thursday, October 16th at the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Hate speech -- whether it comes from western religious leaders, such as Rev. Jerry Falwell to whom you referred in your follow up comments on Friday, or Asian political leaders such as yourself -- seriously damages peace and harmony in our fragile world. We have consistently condemned remarks that malign the Muslim community and, similarly, we have consistently condemned comments that malign the Jewish community. Moreover, such speech does more than malign. You cannot truthfully claim to be advocating nonviolent means when your comments incite anti-Semitism, creating a climate conducive to violent acts.

We call on you to stand on the high and noble principles of peace and harmony to which your Muslim tradition, and indeed all our religious traditions call us.

Yours sincerely,

The Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar
General Secretary
National Council of Churches USA


Return to NCC Home Page