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The U.S. Military Should Hand Out Qurans in Afghanistan as a Good-Will Gesture (He's serious!)
The Daily Beast ^ | March 1, 2012 | Richard Miniter

Posted on 03/01/2012 10:32:14 AM PST by 2ndDivisionVet

Days after President Obama’s apology for the U.S. military’s inadvertent burning of Qurans in a Bagram Air Base trash pit, the death toll in Afghanistan continues to rise.

At least 30 Afghans are dead, as are four Americans. Two U.S. soldiers were gunned down by a man wearing an Afghan Army uniform and another two were killed inside Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry, which runs that nation’s intelligence services. Six others narrowly escaped death when protesters threw a bomb at American forces. They are being treated for their wounds, some of which are severe.

And this might just be the beginning. The wave of violence isn’t ebbing. Thousands of people are protesting in the wind-swept open spaces outside U.S. bases, despite near-freezing weather, chanting “Death to America.” Protest leaders are calling for more attacks. Predictably, Republicans are faulting the president’s penchant for apologies. Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich even insisted that it is the Afghans who should apologize because they took lives. Democrats are lamenting the dead and asking: what else can we do?

The answer is simple, but culturally difficult for us. The U.S. military should distribute copies of the Quran in Arabic and other local languages to any and all Afghan civilians who want them. They could be handed out by Muslim chaplains as they carry out their humanitarian work in Afghanistan and by military patrols in Afghan cities and villages. They could also be offered in Afghan schools and by State Department officials and contractors, who are busy digging wells, building highways, and painting schools.

Respect for the Quran is so high that the Taliban often instructed illiterate Afghans to save any paper with printing on it, on the grounds that it might be a piece of Quran.

The American-distributed Qurans would be gratefully received. Americans, who come from a country awash in books, simply don’t realize how important books (especially “the book” for Afghanistan’s Muslims) are to a people that has very few of them. Even prayer leaders and imams often do not have a copy of the Quran, especially in remote regions. Instead, they memorize. Indeed, people who memorize the entire Quran are revered in Afghanistan and other Muslim-majority lands. And these people, these legendary memorizers, are not as rare as you might think. I’ve met several in my travels across the region.

And largely secular political leaders fail to understand how a holy book is, itself, an object of reverence. All three major monotheistic religions draw their strength from a holy book and have rituals involving the book. A Roman Catholic priest will often kiss the Gospels and hold the book aloft during a mass. Jews treat the Torah with special reverence. Muslims are not unique in this regard. And all these Abrahamic faiths have special rituals for disposing of their holy books, which usually involve burial, placing in a sealed chamber, or, for reform Jewish congregations, recycling. None involve burning. As for burning the books with the trash, that is simply unimaginable.

When you add the traditions surrounding a holy book to the perceived rarity of that book, you have an explosive combination. No, that doesn’t excuse murder and violence. But these traditions and perceptions of rarity, which combined to cause the current crisis, can be used to undo it. Passing out Qurans to Afghan civilians, if done reverently, would work to build trust and restore order. Tradition and perceived rarity would make it a gift hard to refuse and would probably generate a lot of good will. For many Afghans, the Quran would immediately become their most prized possession. For the hardheaded, distributing Qurans would have another benefit. When some Islamic groups distribute Qurans, the books often come with an appendix written by a contemporary Arab scholar on the “necessity” of jihad. That appendix is taken more seriously because it is between the covers of a holy book. Simply giving people a true copy of the Quran, in whatever language they prefer, would inoculate them from a copy of the Quran containing that dangerous appendix.

The military already has an ample supply of Islam’s holy book. The military has stores of Qurans in Arabic and other local languages, including Pashto (the language of the Pashtuns, who make up the largest plurality of Afghans).

Yet, for the past 10 years, these Qurans have been made available only to detainees, soldiers, and chaplains. For the most part, the only way an Afghan can get a free Quran from Americans is either to wear our nation’s uniform or to be a captive of those who do.

Whatever constitutional arguments about separation of church and state might exist here, they are weak. The Constitution bars the federal government only from establishing an official state religion. Indeed, the phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution at all, but in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to a Protestant leader in New England who belonged to a nonmajority church. The goal of the Founders in the Constitution’s First Amendment barring a federal religion was to prevent believers of one faith from having to pay the pastors of another faith for the right to marry or record the birth of a child. Supreme Court cases on the subject have turned on whether students in government-funded schools can be made to participate in prayers or whether religious structures can appear on federal lands. The first set of cases turned on theories of coercion (children may not feel free to dispute their teacher) and symbolism (public land being used to endorse a particular religious creed). The high court has never banned the military, or any government body, from distributing religious books to people who already follow that faith. It would be simply nonsense to bar the distribution of Qurans at Guantánamo Bay or other U.S. facilities, because the move isn’t establishing a religion or forcing anyone into a belief they do not already hold.

And the military has been making Qurans available to detainees for more than a decade without any objection on constitutional grounds. Certainly, what is legal to give to captives (who are under direct U.S. government control and, therefore, some high degree of coercion) must be legal to give to willing civilians.

Why would distributing Qurans work when a presidential apology failed?

Apologies work only when three conditions are met: they are quick in coming (before shock hardens into anger), they are novel (the speaker is not seen as a habitual apology giver), and some degree of trust exists between the apologizer and the aggrieved (which is how sincerity is measured).

The apologies were relatively quick. The NATO general in charge of Afghanistan, Gen. John R. Allen, apologized within hours, and his words were translated and carried on radio throughout Afghanistan. The president apologized within days.

But the apologies were not seen as novel or sincere. American generals have been apologizing for misdirected bombs in Afghanistan for a decade. And the president has apologized to other peoples at other times.

More important, trust is lacking. Groups backed by Iran and by Pakistan have been very active in Afghanistan for the past decade, using their rights of free speech and assembly to make Afghans skeptical of the American presence. It amounts to two sets of foreigners complaining about a third group of foreigners, but it has proved to be effective. Indeed, many of the speakers at the current protests appear to be Pakistani, according to Afghan and Pakistani press reports. There is little the U.S. can do about these groups without undermining the constitutional rights it hopes to instill.

Distributing Qurans would be both novel and sincere. It simply hasn’t happened before, on a large scale, in Afghanistan, and distributing Qurans would be a bona fide news story. And given the reverential traditions and perceived rarity surrounding the Quran, the action would be seen as sincere. Apologies coupled with actions are more effective than words alone.

Simply calling the Afghans “crazy” or demanding an apology from them is not a solution. It is nothing more than putting more Americans in the crosshairs, both in Kabul and in New York.

******

Richard Miniter is a bestselling author and investigative journalist. His latest book is Mastermind: the Many Faces of 9-11 Architect Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.


TOPICS: Current Events; Islam; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: afghanistan; islam; koran; obama
Ne plus ultra Dhimmi.
1 posted on 03/01/2012 10:32:27 AM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

With extra Smallpox, please!


2 posted on 03/01/2012 10:37:30 AM PST by februus
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

OMG! This gets more serious every moment.

We are in some evil time warp and on the edge of an abyss.


3 posted on 03/01/2012 10:38:59 AM PST by TribalPrincess2U (NOT VOTING gets 0bamao re-elected. 0bamao's ANTI-TRUTH & SPIN TEAM is again on the move.)
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To: februus

why don’t we wrap all our APC’s in KAR.. Koran Appliqué Armor ? and see how many of our foes no longer care about burning a koran ?


4 posted on 03/01/2012 10:40:34 AM PST by Bidimus1
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
the Taliban often instructed illiterate Afghans to save any paper with printing on it

Does anybody in government see a problem with distributing books to illiterates?

5 posted on 03/01/2012 10:41:10 AM PST by DeFault User
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To: Bidimus1

oops KAA or QAR..


6 posted on 03/01/2012 10:42:20 AM PST by Bidimus1
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

The more I hear about this, the more I think the burning of the Qurans was deliberate.


7 posted on 03/01/2012 10:47:09 AM PST by John Leland 1789
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

I don’t think the military allows non-Muslims to touch Korans


8 posted on 03/01/2012 10:47:49 AM PST by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Pursue Happiness)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Wait just a minute,,, i say we do it!! (Of course,, first we make all kinds of fun strategic changes in several verses)


9 posted on 03/01/2012 10:51:12 AM PST by DesertRhino (I was standing with a rifle, waiting for soviet paratroopers, but communists just ran for office)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

They will riot and protest if we hand out korans. The koran has to be an official version made in Saudi Arabia. At least that’s the BS I was told.


10 posted on 03/01/2012 10:54:08 AM PST by USAF80
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Why stop there. Have the Federal Government hand out Korans in Washington. Put on on every Senate and House desk. Put a minaret on the White House. Maybe they’ll like us then (or come up with a new set of demands).


11 posted on 03/01/2012 10:54:42 AM PST by DManA
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To: John Leland 1789

They claim prisoners were using them to send messages. If that was the case the classified shredders can obliterate anything written so you can’t tell what it is. It leaves sawdust. Even the unclassified shredders can mutilate paperwork.

I think it is a set up.


12 posted on 03/01/2012 10:58:40 AM PST by USAF80
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

What good would this do since about 80% of the population of Afghanistan can’t read the damn book anyway because they are illiterate?


13 posted on 03/01/2012 11:00:48 AM PST by rfreedom4u (Just because someone thinks it's a good idea doesn't make it legal.)
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To: USAF80

We had very expensive German-made cross-cut shredders. The documents could be the highest form of Top Secret, yet you could take it home as packing material after it was shredded. There was absolutely no way to put the document back together, unlike strip shredders.


14 posted on 03/01/2012 11:02:17 AM PST by 2ndDivisionVet (You can't invade the US. There'd be a rifle behind every blade of grass.~Admiral Yamamoto)
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To: DManA

Don’t give these clowns any ideas. I already had to sit thru the “Homos are normal” training.


15 posted on 03/01/2012 11:02:49 AM PST by USAF80
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To: GeronL

That book should get no more respect than a copy of Mein Kampf,,
It’s stunning to see our Army show such deep respect to the gutter level values of the enemy. They need a review of the US Army,, circa May/June 1945.
This bunch of tee-totaling, marathon running, MBA, Harvard JFK school of government grads that we call Army officers are an embarrassment.


16 posted on 03/01/2012 11:03:26 AM PST by DesertRhino (I was standing with a rifle, waiting for soviet paratroopers, but communists just ran for office)
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To: GeronL

That book should get no more respect than a copy of Mein Kampf,,
It’s stunning to see our Army show such deep respect to the gutter level values of the enemy. They need a review of the US Army,, circa May/June 1945.
This bunch of tee-totaling, marathon running, MBA, Harvard JFK school of government grads that we call Army officers are an embarrassment.


17 posted on 03/01/2012 11:03:33 AM PST by DesertRhino (I was standing with a rifle, waiting for soviet paratroopers, but communists just ran for office)
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To: GeronL

That book should get no more respect than a copy of Mein Kampf,,
It’s stunning to see our Army show such deep respect to the gutter level values of the enemy. They need a review of the US Army,, circa May/June 1945.
This bunch of tee-totaling, marathon running, MBA, Harvard JFK school of government grads that we call Army officers are an embarrassment.


18 posted on 03/01/2012 11:03:38 AM PST by DesertRhino (I was standing with a rifle, waiting for soviet paratroopers, but communists just ran for office)
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To: USAF80

Those shredders do exist, but we used burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq. I personally set foot in almost every SCIF in both countries, and I don’t recall seeing any of the high end paper shredders you’d see at big strategic sites.


19 posted on 03/01/2012 11:05:56 AM PST by Steel Wolf ("Few men desire liberty; most men wish only for a just master." - Gaius Sallustius Crispus)
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To: rfreedom4u
I got involved in Islam when I was in the ME. The koran is written so you only need a basic knowledge of reading to recite it. Most have no idea what it says. They just recite the verses. I have an official translated version that I received as a gift when I left the ME.
20 posted on 03/01/2012 11:08:58 AM PST by USAF80
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To: DesertRhino

I agreed all three times!


21 posted on 03/01/2012 11:10:39 AM PST by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Pursue Happiness)
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To: Steel Wolf

Well whoever did the burning did a piss poor job then. Just imagine if it was classified info.


22 posted on 03/01/2012 11:12:59 AM PST by USAF80
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To: Steel Wolf; USAF80

SCIF: Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility formerly Secure Compartmentalized Information Facility. You just triggered some old memories. I helped set up the SCIFs at 312th MI Bn. (1st Cav. Div., Ft. Hood), 102nd MI Bn. (2nd Inf. Div., Camp Casey, Korea) and 105th MI Bn. (5th Mech. Inf. Div., Ft. Polk) many moons ago.


23 posted on 03/01/2012 11:14:57 AM PST by 2ndDivisionVet (You can't invade the US. There'd be a rifle behind every blade of grass.~Admiral Yamamoto)
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To: USAF80

Did you have to do the “what it’s like to be a pregnant soldier” training?


24 posted on 03/01/2012 11:38:44 AM PST by DManA
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
If they take Minter's advise they'd better hand them out wearing gloves or the A-Holes will riot over the insult of infidels touching they precious book.
25 posted on 03/01/2012 11:42:53 AM PST by DManA
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To: GeronL

They call this a ‘ smart phone’,, I’m sure it has it’s reasons for deciding to send that post three times! Maybe someday ill be a smart user.


26 posted on 03/01/2012 12:26:45 PM PST by DesertRhino (I was standing with a rifle, waiting for soviet paratroopers, but communists just ran for office)
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To: DManA

Nope. I think the brass have lost their collective minds. What next? Wear pads so we can see what it’s like when women are having their period?


27 posted on 03/01/2012 12:29:29 PM PST by USAF80
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To: DesertRhino

Doubtful, we are all on the downslope dude. Sorry about that.

:p


28 posted on 03/01/2012 12:57:12 PM PST by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Pursue Happiness)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Right up there with homosexual training.


29 posted on 03/02/2012 9:37:10 AM PST by onedoug
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