Burning the Quran
This story is revealing. Some US soldiers decided to throw copies of the Quran over a pile of garbage and set them on fire. I know that the accounts of this incident are not consistent. We were told that Qurans were “mistakenly” tossed in a garbage dump and set on fire. The mechanics of the error have yet to be revealed to us. Some accounts claim – in justification of the act – that Qurans were being used to smuggle letters to prisoners. Would it have been difficult to search Qurans for secret messages?
Worse, the US military quickly announced that all US soldiers in the field would undergo special training in handling Qurans. Special training? One requires special training to figure out that holy books should not be tossed into a garbage dump before setting fire to them? One should require special training to figure that Muslims – like other religious groups – don’t like their holy books to be desecrated particularly by soldiers who are occupying their lands, and who have an accumulated reputation for insensitivity to Islam and Muslims? One should require special training to know that provocative acts are provocative?
But this incident, as it has been called, is indicative of the mentality of the occupiers of Afghanistan. The US has occupied Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 and yet it has not occurred to those in charge that sensitivity is particularly required from the occupiers, although sensitivity – no matter how acute – can’t win over support from the natives for occupation? But it is amazing that after all those years the arrogant political leadership and the Middle East experts in the US government would not figure out the place of the Quran for Muslims.
If they read the old Orientalist books on Islam they would have figured it out. Philip Hitti used to describe in detail the place of the Quran among Muslims. He would say that Muslims would put the Quran on top of other books in a book case, or that Muslims consider the Quran to contain the word of god, literally. In Saudi Arabia, newspapers call on readers to carefully handle and discard the newspaper because chances are it carries Quranic text.
Insensitivity is not accidental to colonial powers which invade and occupy Muslims and Arab lands under different pretexts. Their occupation enterprise would not be undertaken if they didn’t operate based on the assumption that Muslims are inferior and religion is illegitimate. Christians of Europe took it upon themselves to determine which religions are legitimate and which are not (of course, only their religion is, and the rest are bogus).
The issue will not lead to any so-called soul-searching on the part of the occupiers. They will arrogantly blame the Afghans for being ingrates.
On the other side, fanatical groups in Afghanistan (like the Taliban and others) will exploit the issue and will whip up sentiments against “the West.” For them, desecration of holy books are fare worse than the desecration of lives and homes over the last decade or so.
It is utterly disingenuous for Americans to feign ignorance on the matter of discarding Qurans (it is possible that they were burnt by individuals who wanted to insult Muslims and Islams). After all, the American flag is semi-worshipped in the land and there are special rules and regulations for the proper way to discard of a flag. Most Americans even support a constitutional amendment to protect the flag from desecration.
The belief that the same people who have such reverence for the flag would not imagine that Muslims could be offended if their holy books were tossed over a garbage dump and then set ablaze is not credible. Muslims also have special methods for discarding Qurans. There were cases where ink was removed from Qurans before discarding them, although burial has been the common method of carrying out this task. But Newt Gingrich spoke on the matter: he called on Muslims to apologize.