If one Googles Afghanistan Koran burning, you’ll find link after link blaming America, reporting new unrest, or simply asking what America should do next to make it better. And while some reports address Afghanistan’s broader problem, one has to read down to the bottom of many stories to recall what started all this, if it’s still being mentioned at all.
Five days of chaotic street battles have left more than 30 people dead, including two U.S. military officers killed Saturday in a heavily guarded Afghan government ministry. The unrest over the desecration of the Muslim holy book illustrated not only the depth of religious fervor felt by many here, but also a visceral distaste for Western behavior and values among a far broader swath of Afghan society.
At the same time, however, the Obama administration’s efforts to kindle negotiations with the Taliban have generated deep-seated fear among progressive Afghans of a theocracy-in-waiting that could come to fruition when most North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops depart.
Based on early accounts, the Korans were already defaced and being used to disseminate extremist views. It appears the Korans were already desecrated, against Islamic law. Supposedly, they could have been dealt with by soaking them in water until they were blank. From what we know, this was a cultural misunderstanding, not an intended slighting of any religion. Yet, no one seems interested in the original desecration of the books.
A Western military official with knowledge of the incident said it appeared that the Qurans and other Islamic readings in the library were being used to fuel extremism and that detainees at Parwan Detention Facility, which adjoins Bagram, were writing on the documents to exchange extremist messages. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
The military official said that several hundred Islamic publications, including Qurans, were removed from the library. Some of the publications had extremist content; others had extremist messages written on their pages by detainees, the official said. The official said the documents were charred and burned, but none of them were destroyed.
Obama had an excellent opportunity to stress that fact, as opposed to issuing an apology. Instead, he blamed America and the media is mostly following suit, as though the original desecration never took place. Naturally, the usual suspects in Afghanistan are now using it to inflame emotions and incite violence against Americans.
That seems like something less than a search for truth, or justice, or respecting Afghan’s ability to handle the truth. As long as the White House and the media play that game, there will be little hope for Afghanistan, or other Muslim nations to join the modern world. Serving the interests of extremists in the region will never serve the interests of the population at large.