Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey jokingly asked a bearded man during a speech at Syracuse University whether he was a member of the Taliban, in an exchange first reported by

When a man stood up to ask Dempsey a question during a Q&A session, Dempsey asked him, “Are you Taliban?” before quickly adding that he was kidding.

Dempsey’s office later said the chairman’s joke didn’t have to do with the Islamic faith and was instead a joke about the man’s beard.

Yusuf Soule, the man who asked the question, converted to Islam in 1999, according to the report. Soule, who is Caucasian, said that he wasn’t offended by the crack and called Dempsey “a funny guy.” But Ibrahim Hooper, the communications director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told The Hill he didn’t share Soule’s sentiment.

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