James Scott Linville says that a barrister friend in London, an expert in sharia law, wrote him “via email that the prescribed method for disposing of a Koran that can no longer be used is to burn it. One wonders, then, why President Obama has apologized so abjectly to President Karzai. What’s more, one asks: why are the US soldiers who disposed of those books now under threat of prosecution?”
The appropriateness of this method of disposal is confirmed in a National Public Radio article which quotes Johari Abdul-Malik, the director of outreach for the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, VA. The problem, he says, lay in the way it was burned. “Malik, who spent time in Afghanistan in November 2010, says the troops should have asked for guidance.”
Indeed, the reason the Korans were burned in the first place is they were being used as notepaper by detainees who used them to transmit messages. But maybe they knew an allowable method to defile it in the right way. After all, the offense is in the attitude, not the physical act of burning, as Malik has already pointed out.
Most Americans do not know what will give Muslims offense — at least until they are educated in the ways of respecting Islam and are at a disadvantage. To amend that ignorance the US has recreated Afghanistan in a California training site to instill in Marines a better understanding of Islamic culture, the better to meet the challenges of today. “At today’s White House news conference, President Obama said the furor over the Quran burning incident last month showed the challenges for allied troops in Afghanistan,” the NPR story said.
The Chicago Tribune reports the President is aware of the significance of the Koran-burning. It quoted him as saying “yes, the situation with the Koran burning concerns me. I think that it is an indication of the challenges in that environment, and it’s an indication that now is the time for us to transition.”
Which part of that is the punch line? Americans have been in Afghanistan since 2001 and Islam there since it conquered its Buddhist inhabitants in 870, why all the trip-ups now? And there are a lot of places to trip up.
Consider there are thirty-seven rules for correctly handling a Koran. There are rules for carrying it. “It is unlawful (haram) for someone not in the state of wudu to carry a Qur’an, even by a trap or in a box , or touch it, whether its writing, the spaces between its lines, its margins, binding, the carrying strap attached to it, or the bag or box it is in.”
And there are rules nested within the rules. Wudu “is the Islamic procedure for washing parts of the body using water often in preparation for formal prayers (salah).'” You can’t use just any kind of water. There’s respectful water and there’s disrespectful water. You can see how burning a Koran might be sacrilege while an Afghan insurgent writing ‘Kilroy was here’ might not be. After all, a lot of the offense is intangible attitude.
From a religious point of view even being near a Koran could be a provocation. “When one fears that a Qur’an may burn, get soaked, that a non-Muslim may touch it, or that it may come into contact with some filth, then one must pick it up if there is no safe place for it”.
You would think a Koran had to be treated like a political or religious IED. That special squads of Americans, Muslims all, educated in Cairo or Qom or some such, need to be on call day or night just to cart one of them around. Touch it at your peril.
One should not use saliva on the fingers to turn the pages of the Qur’an.
It is forbidden to use the Qur’an or any book of Islamic knowledge as a pillow.
If one puts down the Qur’an, not to leave it open.
One might of course purchase a fiber optic device, suitably sanctified, to peer within it. But ordinary Marines might spark a riot by merely reading what they see. For it is written that you may not read the contents of the book without first plying your teeth with “a toothstick (siwak), remove food particles from between the them, and to freshen one’s mouth before reciting, since it is the way through which the Qur’an passes.”
Every religion, the Catholic church included, has many rules for handling sacred objects. But why the trouble just now? Americans have been there for over ten years and Korans have probably been less than perfectly handled in that period. It beggars the imagination to think that something like this hasn’t happened before, accidentally or on purpose. Where the Koran riots of 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011? Where? Could it be that the Koran burnings are yet another manufactured incident blown up out of proportion to make a political point?
Perhaps some kind of deal had been struck to withdraw quickly from Afghanistan and all that was needed was a media exit strategy. What better cover than the old standby trope: sacred text meets Gomer Pyle? Plus, see? It’s all America’s fault.
Then Karzai could say “get a move on” and President Obama could say, ‘indeed we’ll get a move on’. And all because a few guys burned a Koran insensitively. But if it’s a setup then the Korans themselves are just props in the storyline, yet another MacGuffin that is being used to obscure the real game.That raises the question: is it haram to use the Koran as a prop in a public relations ploy? I should write the imam.
You can never win the game which the President has decided play. Respect the Koran. Alright then. Yet even if a person observed all the 38 rules scrupulously somebody can always invent rule number 39 and say, “you infidel dog, how could have forgotten this?” They can always find offense if they are determined to take offense.
Then the President would say, “we gotta learn rule 39″.
The men who wrote on the Korans, for example, don’t seem to be guilty of anything. On the face of it, all the US troops were doing was ridding the library of desecrated objects, the way tattered or defaced flags are taken down. You would have thought they were doing the faithful a favor.
You would have thought.
But may there’s a rule #39 after all, which is a secret dap which an an insurgent can perform before scrawling “s**w you” or “Sarah Palin is a c**t” on the Korans. Maybe this dap, or some words or some ceremony, invalidates the scrawl and turns the whole thing into a holy trap for infidels, who when they burn it, get caught holding the moral bag. The saps who didn’t know the holy rule #39, not the people who scrawled on them are responsible for the sacrilege. So you learn the secret dap and say, “now I respect the Koran”. But ah, you forgot rule #40.
How can you win when the other side controls the rulebook? When they can always add one more rule. Or maybe to save the trouble there’s a secret rule #99 which nobody has translated from Arabic which says “the infidel is always wrong”. That’s pretty close to “it’s always America’s fault”, and I’ll bet you that’s a rule somewhere. And rule #100 says never tell the infidel about rule #99.
When you think about it, that rule should be familiar to all. We live by it every day. For example, Bill Maher can call you a name because he’s “fearless”. And even if he gives offfense, well, he’s a “comedian”. How can he do that? Rule #99.
Rick Santorum’s past is always relevant. If they guy hung out with White Supremacists as kid he could never live it down. If Barack Obama attended Jeremiah Wright’s church for 15 years, what of it, you racist? What you say? Rule #99.
The Koran burning game is the international version of rule #99. You are always stuck with the blame. Always. Now nobody should hold it against the other team for blaming you, but isn’t it the President’s job to stand up for his men? You know, the guys who are risking his lives on the “war of necessity”?
Somehow it don’t seem fair. But who said life was fair?