Afghanis Protest NATO Troops and Possible Quran Burnings
Protests have erupted in Afghanistan over the past few days based on allegations that NATO troops burned Qurans (the holy book of Islam). A number of Qurans were removed from libraries because Islamic extremist activists were using the books to pass messages to each other. U.S. military and NATO officials say the Qurans were mistakenly given to NATO troops along with other materials that were set to be burned. Carsten Jacobson, a spokesman for the NATO-led international force in Afghanistan, explained that local workers stopped the disposal process once they recognized the Qurans in the materials. Still, amid apologies from U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, the protests continued throughout the day yesterday.
This is not the first time protests have erupted in Afghanistan over the burning of Qurans. In April 2011, upon hearing about the burning of the Quran by a US preacher, Afghanis broke into violent protests that resulted in the deaths of seven UN peacekeeping roops. In September 2010, when the U.S. pastor first threatened to burn the Quran, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center Rabbi David Saperstein and dozens of other religious leaders said: “As religious leaders, we are appalled by such disrespect for a sacred text that for centuries has shaped many of the great cultures of our world, and that continues to give spiritual comfort to more than a billion Muslims today.”
A correspondent from Al Jazeera commented on the current protests, observing: “It is surprising that after all these years American and NATO forces have been here in Afghanistan and all the lessons they have learned about how important it is to treat Islamic material with due respect, this sort of thing is still happening.”
Even though the results of the investigation seem to indicate that no Qurans were burned, the perception of mistreatment of Islam’s holiest book is having serious repercussions for U.S. and NATO troops, as well as Afghan society and the future of the West’s relationship with Afghanistan. We re-emphasize the need for respect and understanding of different faiths and hope the protests resolve peacefully.
Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera.