Written by Mustafa Khan May 21, 2008 · 193 views
May 21, 2008
In a highly charged situation shooting the Koran is tantamount to shooting the albatross, the bird of good omen. The war in Iraq is purportedly fought also for winning the hearts and minds of the people. When the wind of anti insurgency seems just to have started blowing shooting the holy book could wreck the very ship in which the Americans and the Iraqi government are sailing.. This is not a theological perception of any presentiment but rather a gauge of geopolitical realization of the facts on ground.
An enlisted soldier of the US army used the holy book to practice shooting target. This incident has come full several years after the flushing of the same holy book in the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. Both are contemptible outrageous deeds. Instead of winning hearts and minds such odious acts would create cataclysmic reaction. It is like carrying gunpowder for the al Qaeda cannon aimed at the so called crusaders besieging the Muslims.
In the fist place it is a symbolic action. A thin wire far away or gravel would have done the job better. But choosing the thick book with hundreds of pages the American soldier wants to signify certain things that are fixated in his mind. It is objectification of his hate. He can shoot even without bothering the crossed hair in the view. In the words of Najam Sethi such deliberate wilful act of vandalism is seen ‘as evidence of how America and the West make the war against terrorism synonymous with the war against Islam.’ [Somini Gupta and Salman Masood, “Guantanamo Comes to Define US to Muslims” New York Times, May 21, 2005]
It also lends credence to the fact that there is design behind all the incidents of desecration. It was no other than a two-star general in charge of the hunt of Osama bin Laden, William G ‘Jerry” Boykin who told in 2003 a gathering of Christians that America was cast as a Christian nation locked in a battle with Satan. The general made such a statement wearing full military uniform. He also described his god as greater than the god of the Muslims. It is for nothing that some 4000 Christian missionaries landed in Baghdad after the invasion began in 2003.
On May 9, 2008 American soldiers were practicing target shooting in the police station of Radhwaniya on the western outskirts of Baghdad. They had clearly marked the centre of a copy of the Quran for this purpose. Afterward the bullet ridden copy was retrieved by an Iraqi policeman, Abdullah. There were fourteen bullet marks and the pages of the holy book were scrawled with graffiti. Since then the Americans have pulled the particular sniper soldier out of the country and flown him to US.
In the past US officials were dismissive in their attitude and did not tender any apology. Their attitude is summed up what the soldier in charge said when US planes had bombed a marriage party. A senior officer had remarked: “Hey, bad people can have parties too.” In the case of the shooting the Koran the New York Times reporter described the reaction of the people as irrational popular anger [May 20].
The blogger site Abu Muqawama devoted to fighting insurgency merely called the soldier stupid and the American response to apologize: quick.
A meeting of tribal leaders was called on May 17 where a grim looking officer, General Jeffrey Hammond said: “I come before you here seeking your forgiveness, In the most humble manner, I look in your eyes today and I say please forgive me and my soldiers.”
President Bush who was lecturing the Arabs on democracy and asking for more oil around the same time spoke to the Iraqi Prime Minister Noori al Maliki and expressed his concern. There was no extraordinary effort on his part as was in evidence during his visit to Israel. He ignored to dilate on the kind of attitude his soldiers had for Islam and the Muslims. He had won the hearts and minds of the people of Israel when on that foreign soil of the ally he had castigated Barack Obama for daring to speak with radicals and terrorists. The Americans know whose hearts and minds they really want to win.
Many others in America justified saying that shooting the holy book is of the same class as beheading Daniel Pearl and Nicholas Berg. For them Jehovah was guidance: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. They did not bother that such attitude puts the soldiers in the rank of the terrorists. Of this Matthew Arnold had said of armies clashing in the dark of the night when the sea of faith was ebbing. But now it is full.
So full that every event has a biblical justification. Some took strong exception to American soldiers kissing the Quran by way of tendering apology. They also felt angry at army officers’ submission to the tribal leaders and their demand. Submission as a metaphorical substitute of Islam is a bete noire to many.
However, when all is said and done, what really matters is that US is a secular country and yet such regrettable incidents happen, that too in the army. Another is the absence of chain of command in the episode. The higher officers on duty enjoy the cloak of anonymity. No one seems to question what they were doing when the incident transpired. Call it what you will, debasement or demoralization. Occupation of a foreign land has queer ways of recoiling on the occupiers.
President Bush had attacked talking to radicals or ‘terrorists’ as appeasement. What else were the army officers in Baghdad doing when they met the tribal leaders? True, real politick is necessary, but the Americans and their allies in the Noori government have much longer to stay together, if at all staying the course is feasible. It is for this that many people recall how Britain had to deal with the IRA for a hundred years. In a world where IRA, yes, but Hamas and Iranisns, no, the Reformation is still needed in the West.