The U.S. Army has removed a training center sign in Hawaii that featured a Crusader knight after a religious watchdog group protested its legality and also criticized it as a "propaganda bonanza" to ISIS or other jihadists who routinely use the Crusader image as a symbol of Western hostility toward Islam.
"In light of the concerns that you brought to our attention, the sign was removed from the building, and the image of the sign was also removed from the article on our unit web page," Col. Phillip Mead, deputy commander of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, which oversees the training center at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, told the Military Religious Freedom Foundation in an email Monday evening.
The Army also deleted a photo of the center that it had sent out over the command's official Twitter account this past weekend. Even without the Crusader image, which is anathema to many in the Middle East, the religious connotation makes it illegal as a symbol for the military, said Mikey Weinstein, president of the MRFF.
Weinstein said he was pleased that the command "took down that unconstitutional sign" only hours after he demanded the action on behalf of several dozen service members who contacted his organization.
"MRFF still asks how and why that offensive sign was even allowed to be erected in the first place," Weinstein said. "To answer those critical questions and to ensure that such unlawful activity not reoccur, MRFF renews its prior demands that the Army aggressively investigate and publicly punish all those who were responsible for this travesty and malfeasance."
According to the 8th TSC's public affairs office, use of the Crusader Knight on the sign was "a mistake made by company leadership and not representative of the unit or the Army -- simple human error."
The explanation was included in an email the office sent to Military.com, which first reported on the sign Monday. A spokesperson went so far as to ask Military.com to remove its article about the sign.
Sgt. 1st Class Mary Ferguson, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the office, asked the story be pulled because it included only a single source, the unit did not have a chance to respond, because the story headline "brings attention to jihadists over a non-issue ... contributing to their agenda" and because the sign was removed.
Military.com tried to contact the command on Monday afternoon via email but received no reply.
Three years ago, a Marine aviation squadron commander's bid to reinstitute the units nickname -- the Crusaders -- was nixed by a higher up, in part for because it would likely be resented by Muslims in the Middle East, allies as well as enemies.
As far back as 2001 -- shortly after the 9/11 attacks -- President George W. Bush's framing the anticipated retaliatory strikes against those responsible as "a crusade" spurred concern and criticism from both Muslims and Western allies who understood how the phrase would be taken in the Middle East.
-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at email@example.com