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May 12, 2005

Demonstration Effects

Guest post: hilzoy

Here's an obvious thought: it's really, really important that in our efforts to defeat al Qaeda, we not be seen as fighting a war on Islam itself. It's important because we should not actually be fighting a war on Islam, but on Islamic terrorists, who bear about the same relation to Islam that people who blow up abortion clinics bear to Christianity. And it's important because it would be disastrous if ordinary Muslims, who might otherwise not support al Qaeda, got the idea that they had to defend Islam itself against us. This is not exactly rocket science.

Unfortunately, it seems to have eluded some of our interrogators at Guantanamo. From Newsweek:

"Investigators probing abuses at Guantanamo Bay have confirmed some infractions alleged in internal FBI e-mails that surfaced late last year. Among the previously unreported cases, sources tell NEWSWEEK: interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, placed Qur'ans on toilets and, in at least one case, flushed a holy book down the toilet."

Flushing a Qur'an down the toilet. Gosh, that's really helpful. I hope they got a lot of useful information that way, given the consequences:

"Three more people have died in anti-US protests in Afghanistan, bringing the total to seven over the last two days. The protesters are angry over reports that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay prison desecrated the Koran.

Two people died in a shooting near the city of Jalalabad. Another person was killed west of the capital, Kabul.

As the violence spread from Jalalabad to other parts of the country, the UN has announced that it is pulling out its international staff from the city.

Correspondents say the protests are the largest against the US since the fall of the Taleban in 2001 and have now taken place in 10 of the country's 34 provinces as well as Kabul.

At least three demonstrations took place in Kabul on Thursday.

But the BBC's Andrew North says the worst trouble was in a district north west of Jalalabad, with two people being killed when shooting broke out. It is not clear who fired the shots.

Many more are reported injured.

Jalalabad was the scene of anti-US riots on Wednesday in which four people were killed.

Another person died on Thursday after a police ammunition store was set on fire west of Kabul, and south of the capital protestors ransacked two Western aid agency compounds.

The biggest of the Kabul protests was at the university where between 200 and 300 students shouted slogans against the US.

They chanted "Death to America!" and carried banners stating "Those who insult the Koran should be brought to justice."

One group of students climbed a building and set light to the US flag, to loud cheering from the crowd.

But heavily armed police, many in riot gear, prevented anyone marching beyond the university area.

"America is our enemy and we don't want them in Afghanistan," political sciences undergraduate Ahmad Shah told the AP news agency. "When they insult our holy book they have insulted us." "

And in Pakistan:

"Pakistani officials say they are "deeply dismayed" over reports that the Koran was desecrated at the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. (...)

Pakistan, a conservative Muslim nation, is also a key US ally in its war against terrorism. (...)

Mr Jilani said the reported act of sacrilege had shocked people of every faith around the world.

"The government of Pakistan condemns the incident and demands that an inquiry should be conducted to bring to justice the perpetrators of this shameful act," he said.

Insulting the Koran and Islam's Prophet Mohammed is regarded as blasphemy and punishable by death in Pakistan."

Way to go, guys. Way to make us all proud.

[Cross-posted at Obsidian Wings.]


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