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Dutch Chaplain Seeks to Build Network of Muslim Chaplains

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2015 — The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is capitalizing on some Muslims’ ignorance of Islam, and a Dutch military chaplain is working to build a network to combat that.

Dutch Navy Capt. (Chaplain) Ali Eddaoudi, chief Muslim chaplain for the Dutch armed forces, is visiting his counterparts in Canada and the United States to build the network and to find ways to work together in normal settings. He spoke to DoD News about his efforts during an Oct. 23 visit to the Pentagon.

Eddaoudi, one of two Muslim chaplains in the Dutch military, said he would like to find ways for chaplains from different militaries and different faiths to work together. But ISIL dominates any conversation, he added.

Muslim chaplains have an important role in these things, Eddaoudi said, noting that while he doesn’t have a combatant role against ISIL, he has to explain about Islam, sharia or justice and jihad in the Quran or ISIL will dominate the perceptions of people -- Muslims and non-Muslims alike -- on these subjects.

A military chaplain or imam, he said, has a responsibility to say what his religion says about the situation. Islam does not condone the actions of ISIL, Eddaoudi said flatly, adding that ISIL has no right to do the horrible things it does. The Quran, he said, contains no justification for killing an individual without due process or justice, and Muslim chaplains need to speak out about that.

ISIL Relies on Ignorance

ISIL is making false promises and luring new followers by counting on believers not understanding the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, the chaplain said. A lot of young Muslims in the world have a lack of knowledge about Islam, he said. They know about the Quran, he added, but many of them never have actually read the entire book, but rather rely on others to tell them what’s in the Quran and to explain it.

But from time to time, the chaplain said, even some imams have little knowledge, and they preach from their own political views or from personal emotions such as anger or fear. Without basic knowledge of the Quran, he added, some Muslims can become prey to religious predators like ISIL.

Decapitating prisoners, the killing of doctors, journalists or other noncombatants, burning people in cages and the destruction of Shia or non-Muslim places of worship all are forbidden in Islam, Eddaoudi said, yet ISIL uses ignorance and willfully interprets Islamic sources in an extreme way to justify their barbarous acts.

The false prophetic message that ISIL is spreading and their false claims of a caliphate must be countered, Eddaoudi said, and the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world must work together to do so.

The chaplain noted that when a person comes to America and becomes a citizen, that person is an American -- period. In many European countries, he added, an immigrant may have become a citizen, but still will be viewed as a foreigner. Without a firm sense of belonging, he added, young people may have a void in their lives that ISIL is more than willing to fill.

Many of these young people also feel very connected to the Middle East and all the conflict there, Eddaoudi said, and many of them see the problems in a warped or simplistic way because of a lack of knowledge, and they believe the United States is at the heart of it.

He was the same way when he was young, he acknowledged. But he studied and found the true facts, he added, and now understands the United States much better.

Finding a Solution With Justice

During his visit, he said, he even found out that there is a prayer room in the Pentagon. People should know that, he said, adding that he also is convinced that the United States, Europe and the regional partners are “truly trying to find a solution with justice for all people.”

“Just look at this coalition against ISIL,” he said. “It’s not a group of crusaders fighting Islam. It’s a coalition of countries -- Muslims and non-Muslims -- who are fighting to defend and rescue Muslims and non-Muslims from the clutches of ISIL.”

Eddaoudi said that building a network among chaplains is one way to get this story out and to allow the militaries to better use a scarce resource: Muslim chaplains. Eleven Muslim chaplains serve in the U.S. military, he noted, and the existence of such a network might enable them to minister to those serving in other nations’ militaries during multinational deployments, he added.