The NY Times Compares The U.S. Army To Islam

I seriously didn’t know what to expect when I saw the New York Times profile on a Muslim woman who has joined the United States Army. Despite my expectations, or lack thereof, I had a pretty good feeling that it would be filled with the typical bombastic innuendo and mischaracterizations of the United States military that I have come to expect from a newspaper that that I admittedly loath to read.

Thus I was not surprised to see the following at the beginning of the From Head Scarf to Army Cap, Making a New Life article.

It helped, Ms. Hamdan thought, that there were so many similarities between Islam and the Army.

However I am still confused. The New York Times regularly contains op-ed articles that deride Christian’s on just about anything, from their belief in creationism to calling the episcopate “full of mindless sycophants” in a profile on Pope John Paul II.

So you can understand my confusion. Is the comparison to Islam being done in a positive light or is it one of mocking contempt by drawing comparison to the hard edge religious fanatics who enslaved the subject of the story? It is hard to tell from this article.

The article tells the story of Palestinian born Fadwa Hamdan who made the jump from a self described life of hell in a pre-arranged marriage to a Muslim man who took on a second wife and stole her five children after whisking them away to Saudi Arabia.

So by all accounts the comparison of the Army to Islam doesn’t sound like anything positive – not in this light.

To add to that confusion we receive mixed messages when reading the article. The following passage demonstrates the lukewarm approach the reporter takes in her comparison.

It helped, Ms. Hamdan thought, that there were so many similarities between Islam and the Army.

The command “Attention!” reminded her of the first step in the daily Muslim prayer, when one must stand completely still.

Soldiers, like Muslims, were instructed to eat with one hand. The women ate by themselves, and always walked with an escort, as Muslim women traditionally traveled.

The Army taught soldiers to live with order. They folded their fatigues as women folded their hijabs, and woke before sunrise as Ms. Hamdan had done all her life. They always marched behind a flag, as Muslims did in the days of the Prophet.

Nothing felt more familiar than the military’s emphasis on respect. Soldiers learned to tuck their hands behind their backs when speaking to superiors.

The reporter managed to toss the military a bone with the small blurb on respect, but I find it hard to believe that she is alluding to the positive aspects of the military. A belief that I found reinforced as I continued reading the article.

Life at Lackland — where soldiers cannot chew gum, wear makeup or leave the base — reminded Ms. Hamdan of her marriage.

“Sometimes, when I’m by myself, I wonder how I have stayed here for six months,” she said as she sat outside her barracks one recent evening. “But I did it.”

She was among 39 men and women in the Army linguist program, in a company of 119 soldiers. The rest were immigrants from around the globe, there to improve their English in the hopes of entering boot camp.

Everyone, it seemed, had a sad story.

You see there? Everyone has a sad story and the military was very much like her sad oppressive marriage. In the end Fadwa Hamdan failed to pass her English language proficiency exam; as a result she will be discharged from the military today, December 15, 2006. In other words this is a story about another military failure. A hard luck case that failed in the end.

Chalk this article up as another in a long line of shallow anti-military articles from a group of flatulent wind bags who spend an inordinate amount of time writing pointless articles with little direction and less hope. You can always count on the New York Times to deliver on that message.

This article is crossposted at Webloggin.

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