Friday, May 27, 2005

Again, the Pentagon Misses the Point on Allegations About Desecration of the Qur'an

The Associated Press is reporting that the anonymous prisoner at Guantanamo who initially alleged that U.S. military personnel flushed pages of the Qur'an down a toilet has "recanted" his testimony when requestioned by U.S. government agents.

The prisoner is not identified. What a surprise. I wonder what threats were used to get him to withdraw his testimony? Perhaps he would actually be fed. Maybe they wouldn't use mental or physical abuse on him for a week.

However, the greater issue seems to be that the Pentagon has focused all of its energies on refuting this one case where U.S. military personnel were alleged to have desecrated the Qur'an, which is sacred to ALL Muslims, not just the violent ideologues in al-Qaeda. Even if this single case never happened, there have been PLENTY of other allegations, documented by third party organizations such as Amnesty International. Even the U.S. military admits that there are credible cases of "mishandling" of the Qur'an by its employees.

Three years after coming face to face with radical, militant Muslim extremists, the U.S. government is still fumbling around how to interact with the wider Islamic world. "Mishandling" the Qur'an by throwing it on the ground, insulting its message(s), and possibly defiling it are insults to ALL Muslims, not just the idiots in al-Qaeda. How do those "mishandling" the Qur'an think moderate (i.e. normal) Muslims view such acts? On the one hand, we support the destruction of terror in the name of Islam, while on the other, we become defensive when our core beliefs are abused, ridiculed, insulted, and attacked.

It's high time for the U.S. government to stop alienating all the world's 1.5 billion Muslims with its "War on Terror." But, like many giants, the U.S. is unwieldy, clumsy, and often cannot see the forest for the trees. In a time when greater understanding is needed between Muslims and the U.S., acts such as desecrating the Qur'an do not help fight the image that the U.S. is arrogant and fighting a war not against terrorism, but against Islam and all Muslims.

The International Committee of the Red Cross documented reports of abuse of the Qur'an at Guantanamo years ago, in 2002, and brought up its concerns with the U.S. government, apparently to no avail. Luckily, there seem to be signs that, due to increasing public exposure on the world stage, the U.S. military is cracking down on cases of "mishandling."

Another issue at hand here is that of respect for others and their beliefs. This is something ALL people must do, including Muslims. I am devoted to Islam, the Words of God as I believe them to be preserved in the Qur'an, and in the Message brought by God's Messenger, Muhammad. However, I also read, study, and show respect for the other religious writings of the world, including the Christian Bible, the TANAKH (Hebrew Bible), the Bhagavad Gita, the Dhammapada, the Book of Mormon, etc. I show respect for the religious scriptures of others, even if I don't particulary like the religion (i.e. Mormonism, Christianity.)