While Muslims have responded with deadly outrage to the now-retracted report by Newsweek of alleged Quran desecration by U.S. interrogators, there was little outcry three years ago when Islamic terrorists holed up in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity reportedly used the Bible as toilet paper.
Catholic priests in the church marking the spot where Jesus was believed to have been born said that during the five-week siege, Palestinians tore up some Bibles for toilet paper and removed many valuable sacramental objects, according to a May 15, 2002, report by the Washington Times.
Newsweek is under fire for a report in its May 9 edition that sparked protests and rioting across the Muslim world resulting in 17 dead, scores injured, relief buildings burned down and a setback to years of coalition-building against terrorists.
Newsweek’s Periscope column written by Michael Isikoff and John Barry included a brief item alleging U.S. military investigators at the Guantanamo Bay prison found evidence that interrogators placed copies of the Quran down the toilet in an effort to get prisoners to talk.
Despite Newsweek’s retraction, the outrage in the Muslim world continues.
In Saudi Arabia yesterday, the country’s top religious authority, Grand Mufti Adul-Aziz al-Sheik, condemned the alleged desecration and called for an investigation “to alleviate the sorrow that befell Muslims.”
“We condemn and denounce this criminal act against Muslims’ most sacred item,” al-Sheik said.
Afghanistan’s government said Newsweek should be held responsible for damages caused by the demonstrations, and Pakistan said the magazine’s apology and retraction were “not enough.”
In contrast, during the 2002 church siege, the muted complaints of Christians under the Muslim-dominated Palestinian Authority gained little traction.
The Palestinian gunmen, members of Yasser Arafat’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, seized church stockpiles of food and “ate like greedy monsters” until the food ran out, while more than 150 civilians went hungry, the Washington Times report said.
The indulgence lasted about two weeks into the 39-day siege, when the food and drink ran out, according to an account by four Greek Orthodox priests trapped inside. A church helper told the Times the quantity of food consumed by the gunmen in the first 15 days should have lasted six months.
Angry Orthodox priests showed reporters empty bottles of whiskey, champagne, vodka, cognac and French wine on the floor along with hundreds of cigarette butts.
“They should be ashamed of themselves. They acted like animals, like greedy monsters. Come, I will show you more,” said one priest, who declined to give his name.
Computers were taken apart and a television set dismantled for use as a hiding place for weapons.
“You can see what repayment we got for ‘hosting’ these so-called guests,” said Archbishop Ironius, according to the Times report.