March 5, 2021
As the Pope is set to visit Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani on Saturday, the Department of Defense’s Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and spokesman, John Kirby makes an Anti-Shia and xenophobic statement that has outraged religious and minority rights activists.
In the Pentagon briefing on March 3, 2021. John Kirby associated active militia groups with the faith of Shia Islam, a rhetoric that is false in association and harmful to the millions of Shia Muslims who actively condemn violence.
John Kirby’s remarks vilify the Shia faith and marginalize the millions of Shia Muslims who live in the United State of America and damage relations with the international Shia community.
His remarks are a stark contradiction to President Biden’s Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support Underserved Communities through the Federal Government and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin’s commitment to enhance diversity and combat hate in the federal government, by creating a “working environment free of discrimination, hate, and harassment.”
Shia Americans serve in many governmental agencies such as the U.S military, and many Shia Iraqis and Afghans died alongside Americans in fighting ISIS and AlQaeda.
Mr. Kirby is creating an environment of hate against Shia Muslims in America and around the world by using the word “Shia” as pejorative and this label is unacceptable.
We consider Mr. Kirby’s labeling of violent groups in Iraq as “Shia-backed” to be harmful to the international Shia community and a serious cause for concern as it incites anti-Shia rhetoric within American foreign policy.
Shia Muslims have long condemned singular political associations and links to any particular nationality.
In addition to an unambiguous apology, Mr. Kirby should meet with Shia American intellectuals in Washington to gain an accurate understanding of the Shia Muslim community, a global population stretching from Australia to the American heartland in Ann Arbor Michigan, home to the largest mosque in America.
We urge the current political administration to take immediate steps to promote inclusivity for all religious identities and to refrain from using anti-Shia rhetoric in their statements.