Monday, May 30, 2005

Dissing the Qur'an

Just wanted to post these two interesting perspectives.

From Newsweek:

While Islamist fanatics and ignorant Westerners sow panic over the alleged desecration of a Koran at Guantanamo Bay, no one mentions a startling fact: When it comes to destruction of the Koran, there's no question who the world champion is--the government of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi state religion is the primitive and austere Wahhabi version of Islam, which defines many traditional Islamic practices as idolatrous. Notably, the state bans the importation of Korans published elsewhere. When foreign pilgrims arrive at the Saudi border by the millions for the annual journey to Mecca, what happens to the non-Saudi Korans they are carrying? The border guards confiscate them, to be shredded, pulped, or burned. Beautiful bindings and fine paper are viewed as a particular provocation--all are destroyed. (This on top of the spiritual vandalism the Saudis perpetrate, by inserting anti-Jewish and anti-Christian squibs into the Korans they publish in foreign languages, as Stephen Schwartz documented in our issue of September 27, 2004.)

This behavior isn't a recent innovation, by the way. Here's an account of how the Saudis carried on when they seized the city of Taif in 1802. It's taken from an unimpeachable Islamic source, the compilation Advice for the Muslim, edited by the Turkish scholar Hilmi Isik and published by Hakikat Kitabevi in Istanbul:

The Wahhabis tore up the copies of the Koran . . . and other Islamic books they took from libraries, mosques and houses, and threw them down on the ground. They made sandals from the gold-gilded leather covers of the Koran and other books and wore them on their filthy feet.

There were verses of the Koran and other sacred writings on those leather covers. The pages of those valuable books thrown around were so numerous that there was no space to step in the streets of Taif. . . . The Wahhabi bandits, who were gathered from the deserts for looting and who did not know the Koran, tore up all the copies they found and stamped on them. Only three copies of the Koran were saved from the plunder of a major town, Taif.

No wonder anti-Wahhabi Muslims say "the Saudis print the Koran to destroy it." They print it and they destroy it in a daily desecration that makes Newsweek's retracted Guantanamo allegation look trivial by comparison.

I'm not sure where this is from:

Blaming the victim for Qur'an desecrations

HAROON SIDDIQUI

It is hard to believe but there are commentators who are berating those who protested the desecration of the Qur'an, not those who did the desecrating. This attitude of blaming the victims fits the tenor of the times. The colonial British and the French were also adept at holding the Indians and Algerians responsible for their own plight.

The pundits are being even more bizarre than the Bush administration, which skewered Newsweek for reporting the sacrilege, not those who committed it.

Even as the Bush administration continues its cover-up for presiding over one of the most shameful chapters in prisoner abuse, here is New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, reprinted in the Toronto Star no less, hectoring the Afghans and others for being stupid enough to take to the streets in dismay.

He is not alone, and he and the other new Orientalists are entitled to their views, as also their logical contortions to continue rationalizing the war on Iraq. But their myopia does cause concern.

Here are their arguments, with one person's response:Political opportunists in Pakistan and elsewhere hijacked the Qur'an incidents to whip up public fury.

Don't our politicians exploit every chance to advance their agenda and themselves, often at the expense of the common good? Aren't George W. Bush and other Republicans particularly adept at using religious and moral wedge issues?

Muslims should be up in arms about the killing of 17 fellow Muslims in the Qur'an protests.

Unlike the impression left of crowds lynching one another, most of those who died were killed in police shootings ordered by the pro-American governments of Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Hamid Karzai.

There has been plenty of criticism of that, which is not what Messrs. Friedman and others, shedding crocodile tears, are looking for. What they want is for Muslims to berate Muslims for being Muslim in a way not acceptable to America.

Muslims must condemn "their culture of death," as demonstrated in the Qur'an protests and in suicide bombings, lately in Iraq.

Sure. But as a recent study by Robert Pape, professor at the University of Chicago, has shown, suicide bombings are not the exclusive preserve of Muslims. The Tamil Tigers, who happen to be Hindu, have been the leading user of that dastardly weapon.

More importantly, the Arab and Muslim world has had much to say, and with good reason, about America's "culture of death," as seen in the killing of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis in the last three years, and in the earlier deaths of an estimated 500,000 children in the American-led economic sanctions, and in American complicity by silence in Russia's butchering of more than 100,000 Chechens.

Why the soft-pedalling of such mass deaths but the frothy denunciations of the Muslim mayhem, which is minuscule by comparison?

All killings must be condemned. But honesty demands context and perspective.

Nobody mounts deadly demonstrations when the Bible or other sacred texts are violated. This point has drawn two responses: the Qur'an plays a far more central role in the lives of Muslims than do the sacred texts for others, and, secondly, it's not the fault of Muslims if other believers, especially in the West, have lost their sense of the sacred (something the new Pope also complains about). But that misses the greater principle: Having guaranteed freedom of \r\nreligion, it is not for us to dictate how strongly some people might \r\nfeel about their faith, so long as they operate within the rule of \r\nlaw. \r\n\r\nThe protests over the Qur\'an episodes have been presented as the ",1]
);
//-->
Friedman and others, shedding crocodile tears, are looking for. What they want is for Muslims to berate Muslims for being Muslim in a way not acceptable to America.Muslims must condemn "their culture of death," as demonstrated in the Qur'an protests and in suicide bombings, lately in Iraq. Sure. But as a recent study by Robert Pape, professor at the University of Chicago, has shown, suicide bombings are not the exclusive preserve of Muslims. The Tamil Tigers, who happen to be Hindu, have been the leading user of that dastardly weapon. More importantly, the Arab and Muslim world has had much to say, and with good reason, about America's "culture of death," as seen in the killing of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis in the last three years, and in the earlier deaths of an estimated 500,000 children in the American-led economic sanctions, and in American complicity by silence in Russia's butchering of more than 100,000 Chechens. Why the soft-pedalling of such mass deaths but the frothy denunciations of the Muslim mayhem, which is minuscule by comparison? All killings must be condemned. But honesty demands context and perspective. Nobody mounts deadly demonstrations when the Bible or other sacred texts are violated. This point has drawn two responses: the Qur'an plays a far more central role in the lives of Muslims than do the sacred texts for others, and, secondly, it's not the fault of Muslims if other believers, especially in the West, have lost their sense of the sacred (something the new Pope also complains about). But that misses the greater principle: Having guaranteed freedom of religion, it is not for us to dictate how strongly some people might feel about their faith, so long as they operate within the rule of law. The protests over the Qur'an episodes have been presented as the
\r\nutterly incomprehensible actions of illiterate and irrational mobs. \r\nThey are at one level. But on another, they are understandable — not \r\njustifiable but understandable — given the scandalous mistreatment of \r\nMuslims in America, Iraq and in Afghanistan, day after day, for more \r\nthan three years. \r\n\r\nHuman Rights Watch, joining the international chorus of condemnation, \r\nconfirmed this week that religious humiliation of Muslims has been \r\nwidespread in American-run jails. \r\n\r\nAnd Amnesty International, in one of its toughest reports yet, called \r\nGuantanamo Bay "the gulag of our times." \r\n\r\nYet the media mostly ignored those reports. They were busy baiting \r\nMuslims. \r\n\r\nOne longs for the day in the future when we will be ready to look \r\nback at this dark period and hang our heads in shame. \r\n\r\nHaroon Siddiqui is the Star\'s editorial page editor emeritus. His \r\ncolumn appears Thursday and Sunday. hsiddiq@thestar.ca.",1]
);
//-->
utterly incomprehensible actions of illiterate and irrational mobs. They are at one level. But on another, they are understandable — not justifiable but understandable — given the scandalous mistreatment of Muslims in America, Iraq and in Afghanistan, day after day, for more than three years. Human Rights Watch, joining the international chorus of condemnation, confirmed this week that religious humiliation of Muslims has been widespread in American-run jails. And Amnesty International, in one of its toughest reports yet, called Guantanamo Bay "the gulag of our times." Yet the media mostly ignored those reports. They were busy baiting Muslims. One longs for the day in the future when we will be ready to look back at this dark period and hang our heads in shame.