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NATO’s Koran Book Burning Sparks Fiery anti-American Protests Across Afghanistan

Posted on the 22 February 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
NATO’s Koran book burning sparks fiery anti-American protests across Afghanistan

Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Photo credit: isafmedia

Protests in Afghanistan against the burning by NATO personnel of an undisclosed number of Korans spilled into a second day on Wednesday and seemed poised to widen as the United States Embassy in Kabul ordered a lockdown suspending all travel by its staff.

Afghans are fiercely protective of their Islamic faith and the burning the Koran is generally regarded as one of the most offensive acts in the Muslim world. The burning of the Koran has angered Afghans in the past, sparking deadly protests in 2010 and 2011, noted The Christian Science Monitor. The Taliban called the American action a “wild act” of disrespect to Muslim Afghans, reported The New York Times.

The New York Times reported on the book-burning incident, which sparked the protests. According to Afghan workers who witnessed the events, late on Monday night a dump truck escorted by a military vehicle drove up to the landfill at Bagram Air Base, where 20 or so Afghans work. Two uniformed NATO personnel began unloading bags of books from the back of the truck and throwing them into a pit for incineration. NATO officials said it was not yet clear if the two people were troops or civilians. The holy books came from the library in the detention center in Parwan, where Americans house suspected insurgents, including many of those captured during night raids. A military official told The New York Times that detainees had been using the books to communicate with each other and potentially incite extremist activity.

The violent protests started on Tuesday as news of the burning spread. Over 2,000 Afghans braved the bitter cold to protest at Bagram, America’s largest base in the country. By Wednesday protests had spread from Kabul to the eastern city of Jalalabad. The United States Embassy said on Wednesday that its staff were on lockdown, with all travel suspended. “The embassy is on lockdown; all travel suspended. Please, everyone, be safe out there,” the embassy’s official Twitter feed said.

The protesters chanted slogans including: “Death to America,” witnesses said. Some of the crowd sung Taliban songs.

Shocking. The New York Times reported that “10 years into the Afghan war, foreign officials and Afghans alike were shocked that any member of the foreign forces in Afghanistan did not know just how offensive desecrating the Muslim holy book could be, or recognize the potential for violence it could unleash in a country where news of the burning of a single Koran — by a preacher in Florida — provoked mobs to ransack a United Nations office and kill 12 people in April.” The newspaper said that while NATO commanding general, John R. Allen – who has released an apologetic statement – and his recent predecessors “have tried to improve soldiers’ cultural training and, according to many Afghans, have succeeded in some measure, events like the one late Monday threaten to seriously undermine those gains.”

Dunderheaded. David Ignatius at The Washington Post said that “after the latest shoot-yourself-in-the-foot incident in Afghanistan … the military needs to ask a question: With the United States providing so much ‘human-terrain’ mapping and cultural-sensitivity training for its forces in Afghanistan, how do such incidents keep happening where U.S. troops appear, to Afghan eyes, to show gross disrespect for the country and its religion?” Ignatius lamented that mistakes made by low-ranking “dunderheads” “can affect the strategic stakes in a campaign involving more than 100,000 U.S. troops and something approaching $1 trillion in spending.” Ignatius reminded that, “in a counterinsurgency campaign like Afghanistan, such errors are immensely costly to the mission of stabilizing the country under U.S.-backed local forces. Enough little mistakes like this, and the larger battle becomes unwinnable. The Bagram incident is a good reminder why it’s sound policy to move U.S. troops out of their lead combat role next year and shift responsibility for security to Afghan forces. But it boggles the mind that 10 years into this war, some idiot could back up a truck to a fire and prepare to torch the text held sacred by the people we say we are there to help.”

So, how do you discard of a Koran? Whitney Eulich at The Christian Science Monitor examined how to respectfully discard of a Koran. She quizzed scholars and found a the holy book should be given a send-off akin to a “poor man’s funeral … one could literally bury the Quran, ideally in a place with little foot traffic. Another option is to put the book in a flowing body of water, either letting it sink or be carried away. Regardless of the method, treating the book’s destruction with respect is paramount.”

More on the war in Afghanistan

  • US Marines in war crimes scandal
  • Taliban to open office
  • Secret talks leaked, suspended
  • Obama announces troop withdrawal
  • Remember Afghanistan?

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