But to some observers, it’s not clear how a simple reference to the Bible on a gun part is different from a Muslim soldier carrying a Koran into battle.
Biblical phrases on sights “are innocuous and don’t mean a thing, but it’s how people react to them that matters,” says Victor Le Vine, a Middle East expert at Washington University, in St. Louis.
The US is already struggling against the image of a crusade in the Middle East, and the idea of US soldiers using what some call a “Jesus gun” to shoot at Islamic jihadists ultimately jeopardizes US servicemen, critics say.
“One of the main recruiting tools for anti-American forces is the claim that America is engaged in a war on Islam, and this kind of incident feeds directly into that talking point,” says Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in Washington.
In a letter to President Obama this week, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance in New York, wrote: “Images of American soldiers as Christian crusaders come to mind when they are carrying weaponry bearing such verses. This incident simply adds to the perception that religion rather than national security is at the heart of our military’s presence abroad.”
Indeed, Al-Jazeera quotes its correspondent in Kabul, David Chater, saying that the references are a “rallying cry for the Taliban. It gives them a propaganda tool. They’ve always tried to paint the US efforts in Afghanistan as a Christian campaign.”