Sunday, June 05, 2005

A storm in a toilet 

The Hood report into mishandling of Koran at Guantanamo Bay is out, and what a fizzer it has turned out to be - to the great disappointment of the mainstream media, which are still nevertheless running with the "Pentagon confirms mishandling/desecration" line. This doesn't look too impressive when you actually contrast it with what has been uncovered during the investigation.

In summary: Guards 5, Detainees 15.

The most serious incident involved urine sprinkling a Koran. The guard who was relieving himself says he had no intention of doing anything sacrilegious - the wind carried the urine through the airwent and into the cell block. In any case, following the incident he had been transferred to the gate duty, with no further contact with prisoners.

The second most serious incident involved an interrogator stepping onto a Koran. The person later apologized but as it doesn't seem to have been their only lapse in behavior, their employment was terminated.

The other three cases are even more minor - certainly no "flushing Koran down the toilet" material.

So what about the detainees?
Hood also said his investigation found 15 cases of detainees mishandling their own Qurans. "These included using a Quran as a pillow, ripping pages out of the Quran, attempting to flush a Quran down the toilet and urinating on the Quran," Hood's report said. It offered no possible explanation for the detainees' motives.

In the most recent of those 15 cases, a detainee on Feb. 18 allegedly ripped up his Quran and handed it to a guard, stating that he had given up on being a Muslim. Several guards witnessed this, Hood reported.
That's pretty serious stuff - deliberately destroying and desecrating the holy book - including the famous "toilet flush". Strangely, I do not expect rallies and riots throughout the Islamic world protesting the detainees' "mishandling" of their own Korans; although should such rallies eventuate, they would probably still lay most of the blame on the US authorities for failing to stop the prisoners from committing desecration. It's early days though, the Hood report has only just been released, so there is still time for the righteous anger from the Gaza Strip to Jakarta at the sacrilegious actions of suspected Al Qaeda terrorists. But I won't be holding my breath seeing that several other recent events do not seem to have roused the Islamic street at all.

Only a few days ago, another Shia mosque in Pakistan was bombed. A letter recovered from a body of one of the militants shot by the police warns of more such attacks in the future. There certainly have been many in the past. As De A.H. Jaffor Ullah notes in the Bangladesh "Independent" many of these attacks are being carried out on Muslim Sabbath day.

In Iraq, meanwhile, a suicide bomber had driven a minibus full of explosives into a Sufi monastery in Balad, killing nine. On the same day, in Basra, another Shia cleric was assassinated.

Bombing places of worship and killing religious leaders - words like sacrilege, blasphemy, and desecration spring to mind, at least to my mind. But wait, the victims were Shia and Sufis, and since 90 per cent of Muslims are Sunni and not exactly friendly, maybe "the silence of the imams" can be explained by the general ill-feeling among the orthodox majority toward heretics?

So how about this:

A few weeks ago, one of Afghanistan's top religious clerics, Mawlavi Abdullah Fayaz, presided over a meeting of some 500 other senior religious leaders, who have condemned the Taliban and officially removed the title "leader of the faithful" from Mullah Omar. A few days ago, Fayaz was assassinated. Two days later, the mosque in Kandahar where his funeral was being held, was suicide bombed, killing at least 20 people and injuring 50 others.

Fayaz was an orthodox Sunni, and the bombed mosque in Kandahar was a famous Sunni place of worship.

The reaction? Zilch. No rallies, no riots, no chanting, no flag-burning.

So what's the explanation? Is there a desecration double-standard at play, where Muslims can get away with murder (literally) but it's only not OK if the infidels do it? Don't think so. Most likely this stark contrast between the outrage in one case and the deadly silence in the other is a sort of an underhanded compliment for America - the recognition of the fact that if the United States have done (or is said to have done) something wrong, you can jump up and down, burn the stars and stripes, chant against the Great Satan, and the Great Satan will profusely apologize for hurting your feelings. But if the Islamic extremists do something wrong - something sacrilegious and offensive - and you start jumping up and down in protest, the extremists will simply come over and kill you.

There are problems within the Muslim world, but the United States is the least of the worries.


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