By Jack Minor
Experts on radical Islam say the U.S. military is sadly mistaken if it believes groveling at the feet of Muslims after copies of the Quran were accidentally burned will help win the hearts and minds of the world’s Islamic community.
The reaction of the U.S. military toward a recent report that NATO forces may have unintentionally burned copies of the Muslim holy book stands in stark contrast to its response when U.S. forces burned copies of the Bible in 2009 – when it refused to apologize and even defended the practice.
Robert Spencer, founder of Jihad Watch, called the actions taken by U.S. Gen. John Allen offensive.
“Allen’s statements amount to groveling before Muslims around the world,” he said. “This is the United States military, and he is the commander of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan. This is embarrassing and an insult to every American.”
The Qurans were among books and other materials that had been confiscated from Taliban prisoners after military personnel thought they were being used to send messages to other operatives. The materials were taken to a waste pit on the U.S. base at Bagram, north of Kabul, and burned.
Once Gen. Allen became aware of the burning, he quickly issued a statement of apology in an attempt to prevent violent Muslim riots similar to those last year that resulted in at least 24 deaths.
In a statement, Gen. Allen said, “I have ordered an investigation into a report I received during the night that ISAF personnel at Bagram Airbase improperly disposed of a large number of Islamic religious materials which included Korans [sic]. When we learned of these actions, we immediately intervened and stopped them. The materials recovered will be properly handled by appropriate religious authorities.”
He assured Muslims that he would thoroughly investigate the issue and ensure the burning “does not ever happen again,” pleading, “I assure you … I promise you … this was NOT intentional in any way.”
Following the Quran burnings, thousands of protesters shouted “Death to Americans!” and “Death to infidels!” They reportedly besieged the U.S. base with petrol bombs and slingshots.
In a similar incident involving the burning of holy books in 2009, the U.S. military confiscated copies of the Bible that a church had sent to an American soldier to use in an outreach geared toward Afghan citizens. When the military discovered the Bibles, the holy books were confiscated and burned.
After the Bible burnings, the U.S. military defended its actions.
Appearing on CNN, Lt. Col. Mark Wright said, “The decision was made that it was a ‘force protection’ measure to throw them away, because, if they did get out, it could be perceived by Afghans that the U.S. government or the U.S. military was trying to convert Muslims.”
Clare Lopez, a senior fellow with the Center for Security Policy, said Allen’s penitent attitude will create nothing but contempt among the populace for U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan.
“They value and respect strength,” she said. “They disdain and will not respect those who show weakness.”
Lopez said the military’s defense of burning Bibles – while simultaneously showing veneration for the Quran – reveals a shocking lack of understanding regarding the Muslim perception of those outside the Islamic faith.
“If the government had showed similar respect for the Bible as the Quran, they would respect us more than they do,” she said. “As it is now, all they have for us is contempt. They will not respect anyone who does not first respect themselves or demand respect for themselves.”
Lopez argued that when military and government officials show a higher level of reverence for the Quran than the Bible, they are sending a message that America does not believe the Bible is as sacred as the Quran.
Spencer agreed with Lopez, noting that if Allen’s intent was to earn respect among the Afghan people, he has made a grave mistake.
“He has no idea how weak he now appears before the people of Afghanistan,” he said. “They are going to look at him and think, this man is weak and America is defeated.”
Spencer said the contrasting attitudes concerning the burnings of the two religious texts revealed how U.S. military officials really feel about Islam.
“This is a double standard based on fear,” he said. “They know the Muslims will riot and kill over this, but the Christians won’t. If the military really believed Islam was a religion of peace hijacked by a small amount of extremists, rather than kowtow to what is supposedly a minority group, Allen could have appeared publicly and called upon the vast number of ‘moderate Muslims’ to reign in their extremist brethren.”