The Air Force Academy has invited three speakers to give their vision of Islam after remarks made by three self-described former terrorists that some in the audience believed were condemnations of all Muslims.
Mikey Weinstein, head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, former U.S. ambassador to Niger Joe Wilson and Islamic expert Reza Aslan, a research associate at the University of Southern California's Center on Public Diplomacy, will speak to cadets April 9 at a forum on terrorism.
Academy officials invited the three amid criticism of the appearances of Walid Shoebat, Kamal Saleem and Zachariah Anani at a Feb. 6 forum on the topic, “Dismantling Terrorism.”
Although academy spokesman Johnny Whitaker said this was not in response to the criticism, he acknowledged that it occurred only after the complaints were made.
Academy officials insisted that Shoebat, Saleem and Anani, who claim to have abandoned terrorism after converting to Christianity, are genuine.
Maj. Brett Ashworth, academy spokesman, said the three had been checked out by Air Force intelligence. Ashcroft disputed reports that the three had pushed a Christian agenda during the February forum and had insisted in advance they would not be proselytizing on behalf of Christianity.
Religion has been a sensitive topic at the Air Force Academy in the past. A group of cadet graduates had claimed the academy violated their rights, saying evangelical Christian values were forced onto them. They filed a lawsuit, which was dismissed in 2006 after a judge said they couldn't claim their rights were violated because they no longer attended the academy. . .
The Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations criticized the speakers, saying one of them, Shoebat, has said that “Islam is the devil.” (MORE)