18 May 2005

Newsweek and the Koran

It is amazing to me that in this day and age, foul-ups like this still occur. But, while I find the actions of Newsweek questionable at best, and reprehensible at worst, there is an aspect to this that seems to be largely overlooked. It is the legitimacy of the Afghan / Pakistani response to this (flawed) reporting.

There have been multiple protests in Afghanistan over our supposed desecration of their holy book. Ok. On the surface, that sounds like a valid complaint. As desecrating another's holy objects is against the Geneva Conventions as it does not allow a prisoner to attend to their faith, and the harshest of allowed approaches (Fear Up [Harsh]) in military interrogation still strongly cautions that the Geneva Conventions must not be violated, then if the complaint of the protestors is that we do not follow our own rules, then they would be justified. Thus, it would be understandable for them to demand that we punish the offending parties in accordance with the rules they had broken, i.e. the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

But this is not their complaint. Their complaint is that we have broken their laws regarding treatment of the Koran. Specifically, they are referring to the fact that, as stated on the US State Department's website and on afgha.com, "Insulting the Koran or the Prophet Muhammad is regarded as blasphemy and punishable by death in both Pakistan and Afghanistan."

So let us examine that complaint a little more thoroughly, shall we?

If this is to be considered a valid complaint, then the laws in question have to be assumed to apply here. So it seems that the protestors would have us apply Afghani or Pakistani law to US personnel interacting with Afghani citizens on US soil. This assumption has two parts to it, first, the violation of Afghani law (as the supposed offense was perpetrated against Afghanis), and second, the applicability of said law.

So, for the first part. Yes, desecrating their holy book is contrary to their laws. It was, of note, also contrary to ours. If it happened (which it appears to not have), apologies are due. However, should the punishment be per US or Afghan law? Well, let's look at how well the Afghanis (and the also-complaining Pakistanis) are following their own religious instruction (with apologies for any misinterpretation, I am not Muslim, I only attempt to understand in context):

Koran 31:015 "Consort with them in the world kindly, and follow the path of him who repenteth unto Me. Then unto Me will be your return, and I shall tell you what ye used to do." Hmmm, consort with the world kindly... Not so much with that in the last few years, are they? Add to that the fact that many of the protests that erupted into violence were directed at UN targets. Last time I checked, the UN wanted nothing to due with Gitmo.

Koran 6:151 "take not life, which Allah hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus doth He command you, that ye may learn wisdom." Now, from what I have read, the life Allah makes sacred does not necessarily mean unbelievers, hence taking our life is ok. But, frankly, of the 15-17 people that died during these riots in Afghanistan, who were unbelievers? None from what I can tell. They were attacking their own security forces... Afghan on Afghan. So much for "take not life."

So, the Afghanis cannot seem to follow their own laws, yet they expect us to? What does the Koran say about that I wonder...
Koran 9:67 "The Hypocrites, men and women, (have an understanding) with each other: They enjoin evil, and forbid what is just, and are close with their hands. They have forgotten Allah; so He hath forgotten them. Verily the Hypocrites are rebellious and perverse."

Secondly, the complaint assumes that Afghani/Islamic law should apply to US personnel on US soil. If this is so, well then, there should be similar reciprocity with our laws and Afghans. So, let's see if that is true:

From the Dept. of State website:
Afghan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Afghanistan of items such as firearms, alcoholic beverages, religious materials, antiquities, medications, and printed materials.
From what I understand, customs there have been known to seize personal Bibles of inbound travelers. So much for respecting holy writings, eh?
Also from Dept. of State:
Another potentially sensitive activity is proselytizing. Although the new Afghan Constitution allows the free exercise of religions, proselytizing may be viewed as contrary to the beliefs of Islam and may be considered a harmful activity.
While I have always been a Matthew 6 kind of guy, ie. not proclaiming it loudly, there are many who believe that at least -talking- to others about religion is required of them. So much for religious freedom. Worship, maybe, but don't tell us about it.

As for actual acts in Afghanistan that contravene US law, there is not much of note recently, probably due to that whole war thing making getting regular news from there difficult. However, in Pakistan, which is also complaining about this incident, there are some stories of note:

July 5, 2003 - Roman Catholic priest, Rev. George Ibrahim, was killed outside of his parish in Renala Khurd, district Okara, 180 miles south of Islamabad. Very early in the morning, Rev. Ibrahim heard a noise outside of the parish and went to go investigate. A cook heard gunshots and ran outside to find Rev. Ibrahim dead. The local Christian community believes that Ibrahim was targeted because he helped the church to regain control of a Catholic school that had been seized by the government during the 1970s when private schools were nationalized. Ibrahim was also known to speak out on behalf of the poor Christian community

May 9, 2003 - Armed Muslim youths attacked a church 50km northeast of Lahore, beating up the Christians gathered inside and destroying pews and communion vessels. Mughal Masih, a Christian man, was set on fire and stabbed under the ribs as he ran towards the church. The youths were angered because the Christians chastised them for trying to block the entrance to the church and making derogatory remarks to women and girls. Police have refused to file a case under the blasphemy laws which punish those who defile a place of worship. (ANS/Barnabas Fund)

October 22, 2002 - The Sindh High Court ruled that Christian Robin Peranditta was being illegally detained and ordered that he be immediately released from police custody. Robin had been held by the Karachi CIA since the attack against the Peace and Justice Institute on September 25. He was one of only two people not killed by the attackers and was being held by police as an eyewitness and suspect. Despite the Court's order for Robin's release, however, police forcibly re-arrested him in a Court stairwell as he was leaving the building. He was finally released a few days later. It was reported that Robin was tortured by the police in order to extract information.

Now, I am not trying to say that since Afghanistan does not have the same set of rules that we do, that we can ignore any rules when dealing with their people. Nor am I saying that since there are atrocities committed in Pakistan, any actions we take with Muslims are acceptable. All I am saying is, get your own houses in order people. Then come talk to us about -supposed- crimes we have committed. And those accusations will be measured against US law, by US courts, until such time as all our countries decide to have mutual reciprocity regarding law enforcement.

BTW, Kat has a similar, and probably better thought out, discussion on her board.


At 5/19/2005, Anonymous AtRandom said...

Newsweek and the Quran

Well said! Where was the outrage when Muslims occupied the Bethleham church on the sight where Christ was supposed to have been born and they used the page of treasured/historical bibles as toilet paper. Then the same Islamic thieves stole revered religious items. Nothing was said!

Sadly, Islam is becoming more and more a religion of death and destruction propelled by hate and vengence. Just consider the fact that Zarqawi is now targeting other Muslims and killing them while justifying...it is the "Islamic Crusade" against themselves.


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