Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Burning the Golden Rule in Kabul

A S H   W E D N E S D A Y

I've never been to Afghanistan.

Neither have I ever been in a war.

Well, not a military war, anyway.

So maybe I'm not entirely qualified to render an opinion on the way soldiers should be acting in that war-torn country.

However, the brother of a friend of mine recently returned to the United States after serving several tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and what few stories he's told about those harrowing days have been mind-bending.  He can't forget about how blood-thirsty the insurgents are in both of those countries.  About how all westerners are sitting ducks, even with our armor-plated First World weaponry.  About how, since most of the citizenry in these oppressed Islamic countries are so schooled in the devices of hatred, each day a westerner survives over there is a miraculous day.

Nevertheless, isn't there any room left for common decency?

American military forces have been on the ground in Afghanistan for over ten years now.  In addition to being humbled by how resilient their scrappy, relentless improvisations for brutality can be, we've learned how illiterate and uneducated the vast majority of Afghans are.  We've seen how masses of disenfranchised Muslims willingly live and die by the demagogic teachings - and teachers - of their faith.  We understand how decades of warfare and centuries of brutal enslavement to the extremist dictates of Sharia Law have created a populace barely recognizable as a civilization.  There's no civility in Afghanistan as much as there is depravity.

Knowing all that we know, then, about the mindset of Afghans and their allegiance to their sacred Koran, and knowing all that is at stake in that country, how could anybody - ANYBODY - with an ounce of logic in their brain possibly fathom the possibility that burning any Islamic material - in the Afghans' own country, no less - could ever make sense?

It boggles the mind to try and construct the scenario in which any personnel associated with any Western military organization would attempt to destroy - let alone burn - sacred Islamic texts.  In Afghanistan.  On a NATO base.  In full view of indigenous contract laborers.  Who are undoubtedly Muslim.

As a born-again Christ-follower who believes the Koran is simply a false religious book with no eternal merit, I still know better than to desecrate any other religion's holy writings with anything other than my own personal beliefs regarding their sanctity.  After all, even by merely believing that the Bible is superior to the Koran probably offends some Muslims.  But I wouldn't consider burning the Koran, or the Mormon bible, or any other non-Christian text.

It's been a couple of days since the incident took place, and no clear explanation for why the Islamic books were being burned has emerged.  Perhaps this lack of information is by design; NATO officials, upon learning further details of the incident themselves, may be hoping tensions ease with vague apologies instead of hard facts.

Still, what we do know is troubling enough.  Two westerners - it hasn't been confirmed they were Americans - drove a truck of some sort up to an incineration station and proceeded to toss sacks containing at least ten to 15 Korans into a fire.  When local Afghans, working nearby, saw what was being burned, they rushed over and managed to salvage most of the holy books.  Yet the westerners who had tossed them onto the fire appeared nonplussed over the incident.

Does it matter if these westerners, whether they were NATO "peacekeepers" or military contractors, had simply been following orders?  Officials have said the reason they wanted the holy books destroyed involved the ability of prisoners to communicate secretly with them.  Even if that was the case, why didn't just removing the material solve the problem?

And if the Korans were accidentally placed along with other material to be burned, is the level of competence among our NATO "peacekeepers" that negligible that somebody didn't think twice about how Afghans already rioted after Florida preacher Terry Jones threatened to burn just one?  Shouldn't NATO be hyper-sensitive to anything that could further destabilize the incredibly fragile tinderbox that is modern-day Afghanistan?  When the westerners were made aware of their "mistake," why didn't they vigorously engage in rescuing the books from the flames?

If not for the books themselves, then at least what their burning would represent?

We're supposedly over there fighting for freedom and human rights.  Religious freedom ranks right up there when we're talking about democracy.  We fiercely guard our own religious freedoms here in the United States.  Or at least, we did before the current administration decided to ignore conscientious objections by religious employers.

I take my religious freedom so seriously that I've actually become quite skeptical about the purported "peacefulness" that some experts say the Islamic faith advances.  I see very little proof of that peace as I look around the Arab world.  I hear very little about that peace from imams whenever the world finds itself reeling from yet another terrorist attack perpetrated by Muslims.  We're told those terrorists are the extremists, but if that is indeed the case, why don't we see legions of peace-loving Muslims out there actively admonishing and punishing the peace violators in their midst?

No, I'm not at all convinced most Muslims want religious freedom as much as they simply want Islamic totalitarianism.

Yet, even with my increasing wariness of Muslims, I find this week's attempted burning of Korans not only profoundly illogical, but utterly indefensible.  Why?  Because I know how angry I'd feel if they were doing that to Bibles.  "Do unto others," remember?

Granted, although I believe the holy Bible to be the inspired Word of God, the actual book isn't sacred; it's what's inside that's sacred.  But I wouldn't want people to burn it.  Would I want to kill the people whom I saw burning Bibles?  No, because I'd know that I've got God in my heart, in the form of Jesus Christ.  They can burn all the Bibles in the world, and all believers in Christ will still have His truth in their hearts.

Muslims, on the other hand, and particularly woefully impoverished Muslims, have nothing in their faith except the Koran.  They don't have their savior living inside of them.  So why should we be surprised when they riot at the news of westerners desecrating their holy books?

They may not want my pity, but they've got it just the same.

Even while I share a bit of their indignation.

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