Trijicon sights: How the ‘Jesus gun’ misfired
Biblical references on rifle sights have been an open secret among soldiers. But it’s become an embarrassment for the Pentagon, causing Michigan gunmaker Trijicon to send ‘removal kits.’
A Michigan manufacturer criticized for putting biblical citations on gunsights sold to the US military vows to end the practice. It has sent 100 “removal kits” that soldiers can use to scrape off words that critics say promote the idea of a Christian crusade in the Middle East.
The revelations, first reported by ABC News, caused embarrassment and consternation within the Pentagon after religious groups – including the Interfaith Alliance – complained that it violated an Army rule against proselytizing.
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The Pentagon at first said the inscriptions did not violate Army rules, and one official compared the sight references with “In God We Trust” on US currency. On Thursday, however, Gen. David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command, called the references “disturbing” and a “serious concern.”
But to some observers, it’s not clear how a simple reference to the Bible on a gun part is different from a Muslim soldier carrying a Koran into battle.
Biblical phrases on sights “are innocuous and don’t mean a thing, but it’s how people react to them that matters,” says Victor Le Vine, a Middle East expert at Washington University, in St. Louis.
The US is already struggling against the image of a crusade in the Middle East, and the idea of US soldiers using what some call a “Jesus gun” to shoot at Islamic jihadists ultimately jeopardizes US servicemen, critics say.
“One of the main recruiting tools for anti-American forces is the claim that America is engaged in a war on Islam, and this kind of incident feeds directly into that talking point,” says Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in Washington.
In a letter to President Obama this week, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance in New York, wrote: “Images of American soldiers as Christian crusaders come to mind when they are carrying weaponry bearing such verses. This incident simply adds to the perception that religion rather than national security is at the heart of our military’s presence abroad.”
Indeed, Al-Jazeera quotes its correspondent in Kabul, David Chater, saying that the references are a “rallying cry for the Taliban. It gives them a propaganda tool. They’ve always tried to paint the US efforts in Afghanistan as a Christian campaign.”