Muslim Group Turns Up Heat on Navy Over Target Images

Service removes training range images of a Muslim woman pointing a gun after group protests.

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Navy SEALs
U.S. Navy Seals train with a SH-60F Seahawk helicopter assigned to the Tridents of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Three on the flight deck of the USS Enterprise on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2001 at an undisclosed location at sea in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Bowing to pressure from a Muslim-American advocacy group, the Navy removed images from targets at a commando training range showing a Muslim woman aiming a handgun--but the service is mum on why the images were used.

The Navy last week took down the image at a new SEAL training facility at Joint Base Fort Story in Virginia Beach, Va.--and another with a Koran verse printed in Arabic--under pressure from the powerful Council on American-Islamic Relations.

CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad calls the move a "welcome first step," but signaled the organization will keep up the heat on the Navy.

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"We welcome the Navy's prompt action to address community concerns and hope this incident serves as a reminder that credible scholars and experts need to be consulted when designing training materials relating to Islam and Muslims for our nation's military personnel," Awad says.

But CAIR wants the service to conduct a "serious and comprehensive review...to deal with the issue of Islamophobia in military training."

Lt. David Lloyd, a Naval Special Warfare Group 2 spokesman, acknowledges the images were removed "due to public pressure."

"There are other props of individuals holding other objects such as a bag of groceries, books, pets, and the like," says Lloyd. "The intent or purpose of the indoor range is to provide the most realistic training available to prepare the service member with a life-and-death scenario where one must immediately discern and quickly react to a potential innocent bystander or threat. The focus is the danger or presence of a weapon and not necessarily the individual itself."

In short, using such images, Lloyd says, is intended to help U.S. troops "differentiate between the real threat and innocent bystander."

Lloyd did not directly respond to several inquiries seeking information on why the images of the gun-pointing Muslim woman and Koran verse were used, nor an inquiry about what service official approved their use.

The advocacy group in recent weeks has been ramping up its pressure on the U.S. military. CAIR is calling on Pentagon officials to fire an instructor at Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., who allegedly taught his officer students that a "total war" on Islam is the only way to protect the United States.

John T. Bennett covers national security and foreign policy for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact him at jbennett@usnews.com or follow him on Twitter.

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