Friday, 20 September 2019
featured Racism

Halifax Navy sailor with Islamophobic tattoo told to clean up his arm

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – A member of the Canadian Navy photographed at a local Tim Horton’s sporting a large tattoo of the word Infidels in the shape of a machine gun on his lower arm has been told such imagery is not acceptable.  

The tattoo does not conform with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) policy on tattoos, writes CAF spokesperson Mark Gough in an email to the Nova Scotia Advocate.

That policy states that “members shall not acquire tattoos that are visible either in military uniform or in civilian clothing that could be deemed to be offensive (e.g., pornographic, blasphemous, racist or containing vulgar language or design) or otherwise reflect discredit on the CAF.”

The sailor will not receive any punishment.

“After speaking with the sailor, his chain of command has concluded that there was no ill intent on the sailor’s part. The sailor acknowledges and understands the concerns raised by this tattoo and has reassured his chain of command that he will abide with the Canadian Armed Forces’ policy on tattoos.  As such, the chain of command considers the matter closed and no further action is required,” Gough writes.

“(The sailor) has indicated to his chain of command that he plans to tattoo over this tattoo as soon as possible,” writes Gough in a follow-up email. 

Questions remain

Images and memes using the term Infidels are widely associated with various rabid Islamophobic movements in North America.

That no co-workers or superiors ever formally questioned a tattoo that Muslim colleagues and others would consider hurtful is concerning.

Asked why the sailor only had the conversation with his superiors after the issue received media attention, Gough writes that “given his clear indication that no ill-will was intended or expressed, he was never approached by his chain of command in the past.”

This response is puzzling since the policy on tattoos does not mention the absence of ill-will as a valid reason to ignore an offensive tattoo.

In the summer of 2017 four Halifax Proud Boys who interfered in an Indigenous ceremony at the Cornwallis statue were reprimanded, but were allowed to stay with the Canadian Forces. None were demoted.  

Also in 2017 APTN through a Freedom of Information request acquired a report by the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group that says racism and discrimination “is a systemic issue” within Canadian Armed Forces that is “rampant throughout all ranks of elements of Land, Air Force and Navy.”

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