Reverence for the Holy Book

Reverence for the Holy Book

Are the Americans really that dumb? I mean after spending 11 years in the world’s most dangerous battlefield and dealing with the fiercely proud and famously hot blooded Afghans  you have to be stark, raving mad to be doing what the Americans were found doing last week.  Why is it so hard for the West to see that faith plays a pivotal role in Muslim societies and lives of the believers? The renunciation of faith may be the first step towards liberation for the West with its best and brightest minds, from Christopher Hitchens to Richard Dawkins, competing with each other to run down their Maker.



But what the West finds to be ‘delusional’ is held in highest esteem by the Muslims.  This reverence extends to the Book that they believe to be the last word of God and the Last Prophet, peace be upon him, who brought it.  The faithful cannot imagine or tolerate slightest of slurs or affront against these icons.   Anyone who has seen the Muslims handle the Book would know it.   They hold it with utmost reverence and do not even touch it unless they are in a state of purity. And when it comes to love and reverence for their faith and its icons, perhaps no one can outshine the Afghans.



When those spiteful caricatures surfaced in the scenic Scandinavia, they provoked spontaneous protests all around the world but the strongest of them were witnessed in Afghanistan. Many died in the angry demonstrations that went on for weeks.  History repeated itself when two years ago an attention-hungry pastor in the distant Florida vowed to make a bonfire of the Islamic scripture.



The Afghans are seldom known to allow a provocation go unchallenged.  Killing and getting killed for honor and what is close to heart is all in a day’s work — or Pakhtoonwali (the Afghan way) for the ordinary Afghans. Not for nothing this land enjoys the reputation of being the ‘graveyard of empires.’



After spending more than a decade and $500 billion dollars in Afghanistan, not to mention the thousands of lives lost on both sides, it is hard to believe the Yanks didn’t know this already.  So you have to be either totally stupid or utterly callous, or both, to incinerate the copies of the Book at the Bagram air base.



After days of protests and the unprecedented killing of many US troops including two senior US military personnel right inside the Interior Ministry by their Afghan allies, President Obama coughed up a terse apology: “I wish to express my deep regret for the reported incident. I extend to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies.”



His commander in Afghanistan General John R. Allen, who has issued an equally sincere apology, has directed that all US forces undergo 10 days of “sensitivity training in the proper handling of religious materials.”



Eleven years into this war–isn’t it a bit late for that, General? Besides, it’s not as though the Americans and their comrades in Afghanistan are exactly ignorant of Afghan and Muslim sensitivities.  We have been here before, repeatedly, with similarly sensitive American shenanigans being followed by equally perfunctory apologies.



In 2005, Afghanistan was rocked by violent protests when there were reports of the Guantanamo Bay interrogators defiling the Quran as part of their methods of persuasion. Last year the Afghans were outraged by the revelations about the US ‘kill teams’ that hunted civilians for fun, duly capturing their Kodak moment for posterity standing over their ‘trophies’.



Why only recently when the Americans and Taleban representatives were sitting down for talks in Doha, there were these startling images of the four wisecracking US Marines urinating over dead Afghans.  Other members of the ‘coalition of the willing’ haven’t been far behind. The cousins across the Atlantic, for instance, were found filming themselves abusing Afghan children.



This war for Afghan hearts and minds has gone alongside the bombing of Afghan homes and villages and even wedding and funeral processions.  Thousands of innocent civilians, according to UN agencies and independent rights groups, have perished in these attacks.  The recent killing of eight shepherd boys, aged between eight and six, in a NATO air strike in Kapisa province is but just one example.



Do we see a pattern here–a deliberate method in the madness? Does the upsurge in such ‘incidents’ have anything to do with the timing of the US-Taleban engagement following the efforts of some Arab and Muslim countries? Anything is possible. There are many out there, including those in the US military establishment, with strong motives to derail all efforts to end this disastrous war.



Given the high stakes involved in the so-called Great game and Washington’s keenness to maintain its presence in this strategically critical region, not to mention the yet-to-be-tapped rich mineral resources that Afghanistan has hidden in its belly, possibilities are endless.



This week, conservative pundit Patrick Buchanan was livid over Obama’s Quran apology. In an angry opinion piece, he points to the fact that the US has squandered hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of American lives in Afghanistan, raising the inevitable question: For What, These Wars? For what, indeed? Well, here’s why.



Afghanistan provides Uncle Sam with a rare vantage point to keep a resurgent Russia and a clever China on the one hand and an irrepressible Iran and pesky Pakistan, on the other, in check.  The US already has an overwhelming presence in the Gulf, the energy bowl of the world. The 9/11 was merely an excuse and a rather convenient opportunity.



But then the Americans are not the first to enter Afghanistan with such ambitions and, some would say, delusions of grandeur.  The British and more recently the Russians have been there before them, not to mention numerous others, from the Greeks to the Mongols.  While the crafty British had to give up after several disastrous and humiliating attempts, the Afghan occupation cost the Russians the Soviet empire.



Do the Americans, after a disastrous decade in Afghanistan, really think they can succeed where all others failed? It had always been a doubtless enterprise. But with the sweetness and light that the coalition of the willing has been forever spreading around, it is doomed.  That Uncle Sam will have to leave sooner or later is not a matter of debate.  It’s a certainty. What remains to be seen is how the Americans go—the way the British left with egg in their face or in the manner the Russians departed, bruised and battered with their empire crumbling around them.


The article was published in The News (Print) under the heading on March, 03 2012.

Aijaz Zaka Syed

A Dubai-based writer & op-ed contribtuor for The News. He can be reached at [email protected]

  • S Nasrullah

    Mr Aijaz Zaka Syed: Your acuity and incisiveness has often caused lot of embarrassment for lot of people. You handle your subject with utmost care and caution, but the plain inferences you lead people to derive, is a sour pill to swallow. Drawing parallel to the historical events of British debacle or the USSR defeat at the hands of the Afghans and the interpolated scenario of ISAF retreat at some point of time in the foreseeable future are ground realities. But what will happen to Pakistan when the shifting sands of events bring the Afghan Taliban to the fore? The bloodletting on the streets of major cities and towns of Pakistan have etched memories of the affectees with revulsion for those who never knew moderation in revenge or reprisal.

    Some acts are morally wrong and cannot be defended. The sacrilege of Holy Quran, an unpardonable crime, for one. Somehow, whether the vagaries of a biased Media or refractory and repulsive rituals of those die-hard fundamentalists, Islam has unduly come under unjustified stick of castigation and condemnation. The splitting images of people publicly practicing some rituals do NOT, repeat NOT, reflect the method and motive of Islam. The West have always played the role of inciting instigating, enraging and exasperating those fundamentalist by desecrating Quran at various places and at various times. Muslims cannot retaliate by desecrating the Holy Books of other Messengers of God. Islam strictly forbids them from doing so. In the end, it is their rage that spikes their revulsion to ransack, rampage and ravage the symbols if not the real substance of their antagonists.

    There are 43 Muslim States and almost 1.6 Billion Muslims who constitute a Mega Scope of Lucrative Market for the consumption of variety of Essential or Luxury items that the busy Western Business enterprises have to offer for prospective customers abroad; and if they rise to the occasion collectively and register their indignation and make it abundantly clear that enough is enough and that further attempts to vulgarize their religious sentiments would compel them to review their political and commercial relations with countries that encourage and defend those devils and detractors. Many Muslim countries are Oil Producers who fuel the Engines of Development by keeping the Wheels of the Industry running. Many others provide raw materials or cheap labor and surely economic moratorium can stultify the best of plans and prosperity of the industrialized countries. The modern day Economists have learnt it the hard way that ‘The price of Oil and the pace of freedom always move in opposite directions’. The Spartan naivety to defile the Holy Book must STOP. Sacrilege of their Holy Book may weld them for their United Stance against the immoral perpetrators. By orchestrating the distorted images of their sentimental outburst to sacrilege by the Muslims, the proponents of Armageddon get a huge mileage out of their vicious propaganda portraying the Muslims with unbridled slander.

  • Anonymous

    Sadly Written form of the word (illegible scribbles to an illeterate) appear to be more important than the meaning and spirit of the ‘word’…..what is idolatry?!


    Qalim you asked a profound question what — what else is this if not idolatry? The same — to kill human beings for thethe so called “naamoos” of Mohammed — as if the House of Mohammed that stood full scrutiny for solid 1400 years — and survived to 1.5 billions strong today — is made of House of cards — one chicken scratch cartoon and it will collapse?