While dining at a restaurant, a Navy sailor’s arm tattoo was spotted by a customer. However, once the customer complained to the sailor’s superiors that the tattoo was “Islamophobic” and “scary as hell,” he was given the choice to either tattoo over his beloved ink or face military discipline.
While dining at a Tim Hortons in Halifax, a member of the Royal Canadian Navy was spotted by customer Rob Hutten, according to The Chronicle Herald. Noticing the sailor’s unique arm tattoo, he decided to snap a candid photo of the ink before posting it on Twitter in an effort to condemn the man. The tattoo featured the word “infidel” in the shape of a rifle on the man’s forearm, which Hutten claims sends a “clear” anti-Islam message.
“Saw a navy guy in Tim’s today in uniform & HMCS Fredericton hat sporting a huge ‘INFIDEL’ tattoo on his right arm, stylized in the shape of a machine gun. The message is clear, and scary as hell. #Islamophobia #halifax @HFXAgainstHate @AtlanticPoliSci @NSAntifa,” he tweeted.
Thanks to Hutten’s accusation, the sailor was soon confronted by his superiors, who told the Navy member that he could either remove the inked message or face disciplinary action. The sailor agreed to cover his ink with a less offensive design.
Once the photo went viral, Major Mark Gough publicly addressed the issue, promising to ensure that the sailor removes his “infidel” tattoo. Although he acknowledged that his subordinate’s tattoo had nothing to do with Islam or Muslims, Gough confirmed that the sailor would be covering up the controversial term.
“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 and that he plans to tattoo over this tattoo as soon as possible,” Gough said in an email. “As such, the chain of command considers the matter closed and no further action is required.”
The policies to which Gough is referring are somewhat vague, listing “pornographic, blasphemous, racist,” and “vulgar” designs as prohibited, Global News reports. However, since the message isn’t explicit or pertaining to any one race, it’s disturbingly clear that the sailor’s tattoo is considered “blasphemous.”
The regulations state: “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).”
Although Hutten suggests that the sailor’s tattoo is “Islamophobic,” there is nothing in the definition of “infidel” that implies hostility toward Islam or any other religion for that matter. In fact, the word itself signifies “a person who does not believe in religion or who adheres to a religion other than one’s own.” As such, every atheist or agnostic would fall under such a label.
The Royal Canadian Navy has alleged that the tattoo’s message conveys an intolerance of other cultures, namely Islam. They also confirmed that the sailor is aware of the negative connotation implied by the design and that he has denied any disrespect toward the Muslim people.
The sailor has since agreed to cover up the tattoo with a design that will completely deface the word and the rifle shape. He also apologized for his ink’s offensive nature and reiterated that he had no ill intention when he got the tattoo.
The Royal Canadian Navy only adopted the bizarre and dangerously vague policy on visible tattoos less than a decade ago. Sadly, the case demonstrates Canada’s tightening stranglehold on freedom of expression. Instead of protecting individuals’ rights from infringement, the country is allowing the offended minority to determine that their neighbors’ rights end at their own ever-changing sensibilities.