Posted November 26, 2015 11:31:46

Muslim Australian soldier facing backlash Photo: The soldier stated he had been discriminated against several occasions during his service. (Supplied)
Map: Australia

A soldier who converted to Islam says he was branded a “safety risk” and told he would by no means be promoted since of his religion.

Essential points:

  • Australian soldier ostracised after converting to Islam
  • Much of the discrimination was perpetrated by senior officers
  • The ADF’s highest-ranking Islamic officer described one of the incidents as “alarming”
  • The soldier’s wife has taken the matter to the Chief of Army

The lance bombardier claims he was also excluded from group counselling sessions and told to locate another job “if he wanted to practise Islam appropriately”.

As a drone pilot from the 20th Surveillance and Target Acquisition regiment, he spent eight months in Afghanistan in 2011 exactly where he was immersed in the globe of military intelligence.

“He’s a skilled operator of 1 of the most technical pieces of gear we have in the Army,” mentioned military lawyer Brian Briggs, who is pursuing a separate compensation claim on behalf of the Brisbane-primarily based soldier.

“He witnessed some quite atrocious issues exactly where he saw individuals becoming killed, not on a every day, but surely on a regular basis.

“How he’s being treated is definitely not very good adequate.”

Anthony John (not his actual name) enlisted in the army following the September 11 terrorism attacks in 2001. Eight months later he married an Indonesian lady and converted to Islam.

Australian Muslim soldier praying Photo: Mr John was told he need to discover yet another job if he wanted to practise Islam. (ABC News: Alex McDonald)

As a serving member of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), he asked not be identified as he feared becoming targeted by these with an extreme view of Islam.

He believes some of these who serve alongside him fall into that category.

Mr John stated he had experienced discrimination repeatedly throughout his 13-year profession, a lot of it perpetrated by senior army members.

In 2008 — prior to he joined the surveillance unit — he said a senior army member berated him in front of a group of soldiers.

“My instant supervisor told me that I would by no means be deployed or promoted simply because I’m a security risk,” Mr John stated. “Simply because I was a Muslim.”

Soldier’s colleague fined over anti-Islamic Facebook post

In 2013, a member of his unit posted on social media that all Muslims were “filthy”, “scum” and “worthless”.

“If they go overseas with that sort of attitude, in a nation where they are predominately Muslim, then we’re not truly setting a very good example for ourselves,” Mr John said.

“In truth, we’re almost certainly generating [ourselves] targets.”

Racist Facebook comment Photo: The soldier reported this Facebook post from a colleague to his superiors. (Facebook)

Mr John reported the Facebook abuse by way of his chain of command.

The member accountable was fined $ 400 and forced to apologise. Mr John mentioned the incident created him deeply unpopular within the regiment.

Last year, he asked to work versatile hours during Ramadan. When his request was refused he approached an Army chaplain for advice.

He said the chaplain recommended he “discover one more job if he wanted to practise Islam correctly”.

“I stated, ‘are you critical?’ And he stated, ‘yes’.”

‘No evidence’ to support discrimination claim

Once more he reported the incident internally. But this time he was advised he could be charged with generating a vexatious complaint.

Though the Army conceded the conversation had occurred, his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Bede Galvin, stated there was no evidence to substantiate his discrimination claim.

His commanding officer suggested it was basically a misunderstanding.

“It clearly was not a misunderstanding between two people,” Mr John stated.

“I had definitely sought the right suggestions through the systems accessible within the military.”

Muslim soldier with his wife Photo: Mr John’s wife has urged the Chief of Army to intervene. (Supplied)

The routine inquiry which followed advised administrative action be taken against Mr John.

The lance bombardier was criticised for employing a “religious angle” in his complaint and of becoming “uncompromising in his expectations”.

His commanding officer said there had been “confusion” on each sides and cleared the chaplain of any wrongdoing.

“It was a reputable complaint,” Mr John said. “I hadn’t just flown off the deal with.”

“All I wanted to do was do my job.”

He then took his case to the Inspector Basic of the ADF (IGADF) — an independent body set up to deal with unresolved matters of military justice.

The IGADF found a warrant officer in Mr John’s unit had a leadership style that was “incompatible” with the modern ADF.

But in a subsequent meeting in June, Lieutenant Colonel Galvin questioned his selection to go outdoors the chain of command.

“The reality that you went by means of an anonymous complaint to [IGADF],” Lieutenant Colonel Galvin said, “It would have been very diverse if you’d offered the complaint to me.”

“If I don’t know about it, I can not do something about it, and if I shed control of it, I cannot support you.”

Lawyer Brian Briggs stated the alleged discrimination has had a “extreme effect” on his client and his loved ones.

“He hasn’t been able to celebrate Ramadan with his wife,” he mentioned.

“He’s been excluded from courses. He wasn’t capable to participate in group therapy counselling sessions because of his religion.

“I know that [the ADF] will be investigating this due to the fact it’s not a excellent look.”

ADF should not be demonising Muslims: wife

Mr John’s wife has now written to Chief of Army Angus Campbell urging him to intervene.

Fostering a culture inside the Defence Force that is inclusive, that celebrates diversity in people… is what makes us a actually powerful, effective and powerful force.

Mona Shindy, Senior Islamic ADF officer

“Muslims need to not be demonised in the Australian Defence Force,” she wrote to Lieutenant-Common Campbell final month.

She has not received a response.

There are 102 Muslims amongst the 57,000 permanent members of the ADF.

Mona Shindy, a single of the ADF’s prime-ranking Islamic officers and Navy weapons engineer, expressed concern about the incident involving the chaplain.

“I find it quite alarming to believe that a chaplain could say one thing like that,” she stated.

The Australian Navy has lately introduced special Islamic dress for female officers, Halal meals alternatives and appointed a Muslim chaplain.

“A Muslim lives their life by specific values which are not too various from Defence values,” Captain Shindy mentioned.

“Fostering a culture inside the Defence Force that is inclusive, that celebrates … that tapestry of our society is what makes us a truly effective, effective and strong force.”

The ADF did not respond to a detailed series of questions about the case.

Watch the full report on Lateline tonight at 9.30pm (AEDT) on ABC News 24 or ten.30pm on ABC Tv.

Subjects: army, defence-forces, defence-and-national-safety, religion-and-beliefs, community-and-society, islam, australia

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