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US Army Secretary urged to protect Muslim soldier facing discrimination

8th Jul 2022
US Army Secretary urged to protect Muslim soldier facing discrimination

Lt. Ize Alimi Credit: Military Religious Freedom Foundation

Elham Asaad Buaras

A leading military civil rights group has called on the US Secretary of the Army to intervene to stop the discharge of an African American Muslim soldier, whom they claim has been subject to anti-Muslim discrimination.

On June 10, Michael Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), which fights for the separation of church and state for active and former military personnel, wrote to Army Secretary Christine Wormuth outlining an incident involving a Muslim First Lieutenant of Benin origin.

According to MRFF, Ize Alimi, based in Fort Polk, Louisiana, received numerous positive work performance reviews in which he was recommended for increased responsibility.

“This changed after one person alleged that he used derogatory language toward a minority while on duty. One witness to the alleged incident submitted a sworn statement contradicting that Alimi said anything derogatory. Another member of Alimi’s unit submitted a sworn statement that another first-hand witness to the incident said they never heard the alleged derogatory language and felt the actions taken against Alimi were wrong,” argued the MRFF.

Alimi’s outstanding character was also attested to by a third service member who worked closely with Alimi and a minority member whom Alimi allegedly disparaged. Although he has received several positive job performance reviews and statements praising his character, Alimi is being discharged from the Army.

The letter to the Secretary of the Army also includes a signed statement from Alimi in which he claims he “has suffered discrimination and bias that has followed me through two commands over the previous years or so.”

“I have been uniformly discouraged, harassed, and discriminated against because I am Muslim and an African national whose skin colour and life experience do not comport with my white/American-born commander’s notions of the ideal Army officer. I do not look like them, talk like them, and I have cultural mannerisms and religious beliefs that are different from what they find acceptable.”

He also alleges that “white/American-born commanders punish foreign-born, Muslim service members harder than their white/American-born/Christian counterparts.”

They do this within their discretion by simply withholding the benefit of the doubt for the minority, and liberally granting it to their white and American Born soldiers. In the false EO case, despite the multiple witnesses who corroborated my account of events, I was never granted the benefit of the doubt.”

In a separate but also very recent incident at Fort Polk, another Muslim First Lieutenant was similarly an object of attack by her Army chain of command due to her religion and race. “Tragically, there exists inside the Department of Defence (DoD) an unconstitutionally pervasive and pernicious pattern and practice of systemic anti-Islamic oppression at all levels of the chain of command. 1Lt. Ize Alimi is another victim of this evil, as is 1Lt. Khadijah X. What generally fuels this unbridled hatred, bigotry, and prejudice within the DoD is fundamentalist Christian nationalism, supremacy, exceptionalism, and exclusivity,” Weinstein said.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has lent their support to Alimi. CAIR’s Director of Research and Advocacy, Corey Saylor, said, “There is ample evidence that Almi has a strong character and has consistently done good work, including testimony from witnesses who debunked the false allegation being used as an excuse to punish him. Removing him from his job because of thinly veiled anti-Muslim bigotry would be a gross injustice.”

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