Once again, Afghans have revolted against foreign troops, this time to condemn a new act of desecration by them: the horrid Quran burning incident at the NATO military base in Bagram. So far, the recent days’ protests in Kabul and other cities of Afghanistan have taken the lives of fourteen Afghan citizens.
As the news of the Quran burning incident has revitalized anti-American sentiments in Afghanistan, American statesmen are making their utmost efforts to soft-pedal its gravity. The commander of the US forces Stanley McChrystal has called it an incident caused by lack of knowledge, and has promised to probe the case. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has also condemned the act. And last of all, Obama has apologized to the Afghan public and sent his letter of regret to his Afghan counterpart Hamed Karzai. Nonetheless, contradictory reports render the intention of such efforts open to contest.
A few weeks have passed since the leakage of a provocative video in which a handful of US marine soldiers desecrated the bodies of Afghan insurgents by urinating on them. In that case, too, US officials pledged to investigate and identify the wrongdoers. No news so far. In 2005, Muslims’ holy book was flushed down the toilet by an American interrogator in Guantanamo, leading to sixteen casualties in the consequent demonstrations. The aftermath of the outrageous hate campaign by Pastor Terry Jones in burning the Quran in public was the death of eighteen resentful Muslims by the security forces of their own countries.
One cannot but wonder if such offensive acts by the US military follow covert guidelines, or whether they are isolated incidents carried out without the knowledge of senior commanders. Even if we believe that the US government has had no role in the Quran burning incident, leniency toward such offensive behavior is hard to justify. How could US statesmen deny that the Islamophobia campaign intently promoted by the pro-Israel lobby and radical groups in the West has been the key inspiration of such outrageous acts? Washington has direct responsibility in such offences, and no statements or apology can relieve them from accountability. Public prosecution of the perpetrators of the Quran burning incident would be the only effective means to prove the American politicians’ innocence in these cases, but all efforts to cover up the desecration will add just another black mark to Washington’s record in the Muslim World and make one wonder if such incidents were premeditated actions.
The desecration of the Quran in Afghanistan is not only an Afghan issue: it concerns the entire Muslim World. Leaders of Muslim communities across the globe should condemn the misdeed, and call for the US government’s serious pursuit in investigating the incident. The Iranian diplomatic apparatus should also play its deserved role through negotiations with other Muslim countries.
* Sadegh Kharrazi is former ambassador to the UN mission and France. This article was originally published in the Etemaad Daily on Saturday, February 25, 2012.