A young man of Moroccan descent, Army Specialist Zachary Klawonn has seen a lot of misconceptions about Islam and discrimination against Muslims in the U.S. Army, some of which put himself as a victim. He has seen individuals in the Army belittle Islam, not realizing that among his subordinates was a follower of the faith. In a session supposedly designed to provide a cultural education, a sergeant showed a slide saying “it is a duty of all Muslims to kill westerners or Americans” to Klawonn’s surprise. Incidents of this sort led Klawonn and his colleagues to believe that there is still a strong misunderstanding about Islam among U.S. Army members, to the degree that there is a belief that “Muslims” and “terrorists” are synonymous and that the United States is at war against Islam. This is not to mention all personal attacks against him, in which he is called nasty, racist names and slurs.
Chris Arata, Klawonn’s commander who respects him for his quality as a soldier, states that he is not aware of any acts of discrimination in his unit. With regards to the non-educational “cultural education” above, Arata explains that the attitude of that particular individual is not unrelated to the fact that many individuals in the American society that believe in the same misconception against Islam. Hence, it is appropriate to say that this problem in the U.S. Army is not unrelated to its counterparts in the larger American society. By its counterparts, I mean, among others, the common misconception of associating Muslims with terror incidents perpetrated by Islamist or Muslim fundamentalist groups. A similar case can be seen in the recent “Muslim poem vs Pledge of Allegiance incident” that took place in Concord-Carlisle High School, which I will discuss further in a different post.
As for Army Specialist Klawonn himself, he optimistically states near the end of the documentary that it is true that his appearance in this documentary might not make his life less difficult as a US Soldier who happens to be Muslim; however, for him, this is for the better, because unless he speaks up, the next Specialist Klawonns will experience the same things that he has experienced.