The gulf between our cultures

From CNN and others:

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) — At least four people have been killed and 70 injured in violent protests in Jalalabad over reports U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base desecrated copies of the Quran during questioning of prisoners held there. 

The trouble started as thousands of demonstrators marched Wednesday through the streets of Jalalabad, in the eastern part of the country, officials and eyewitnesses said.

Afghan’s interior ministry reported police fired at the crowds when they began to attack government buildings.

Rallies were also held in several cities in neighboring Pakistan, where the religious party alliance MMA announced plans to mount a countrywide protest against the United States Friday.

The country’s national assembly passed a resolution demanding the U.S. government investigate the incident and punish anyone found to be responsible.

The U.S. State Department announced Tuesday the Pentagon would investigate the allegations, which were first reported in Newsweek magazine.

The magazine quoted sources as saying investigators looking into abuses at the military prison in Cuba found interrogators “had placed Qurans on toilets, and in at least one case flushed a holy book down the toilet.”

U.S. interrogators are reported to place Qurans on toilets and maybe even flushed one down a toilet and people riot in the streets.  Their “Holy Warriors” cut off innocent (but non-believing) people’s heads and there is no complaint from these same people.  Someone, please, tell me how we can resolve these cultural differences in values.  These differences are just so extreme that I can’t imagine a peaceful co-existence.


8 thoughts on “The gulf between our cultures

  1. What has given you the impression that the people protesting the desecration of the Qur’an are the same who beheaded the innocent hostages in Iraq? (By the way, most protests have been peaceful.) You write as if they’re the same. You mean religious Muslims are all the same?

    That kind of logic would mean that Timothy McVeigh, the marines who destroyed the city of Falluja, and the US policy-makers who killed 600,000 Iraqi children in the 90’s through sanctions (based on the false pretext of WMD) have the same cultural values as peace-loving folk like Martin Luther King and Noam Chomsky. After all, they’re all Americans, right? No, some Americans bring disgrace to their people by their brutality while other Americans bring honor to their people by their humanity and compassion. Such are Muslims as well.

    Allah bless.

  2. I did not mean to imply the same people were beheading innocent as were protesting. My intent was say that the same people who protest the desecration of the Qur’an do not protest the beheadings. As near as I can tell, perhaps it just isn’t reported where I would notice it, those people are silent about the beheadings and the bombings (including women and children) of innocent people in Iraq.

  3. What is there to give us the impression that they are not the same people? You hear no big outcry from religious Muslims when they show the beheadings on tv.

    Heh, yep US policy-makers killed 600,000 Iraqi children… No that would be Sadam and his government who stood by and watched the people under their protection suffer while Sadam continued to build palaces.

    If the marines destroyed Falluhja it was because the honorable people stood by and did nothing…

    Please try not to mention Chomsky and MLK in the same sentence, as you insult MLK.

    Oh and as far as peaceful existence with Muslims goes, why don’t you ask the people of sweden how that experiment is coming along…

  4. Kirk,

    Can you explain how the fact that Saddam was a bad guy absolves the US from its crimes? The US-enforced sanctions on Iraq throughout the 90’s were based on a false pretext, WMD, all of which had been all destroyed by 1992. About 600,000 Iraqi children died as a result of these sanctions. True, the Iraqi people were not a priority for Mr. Hussein. But so what? It’s as if we condemned Bin Laden for his acts of mass murder, and he answered, “But look what the Americans did! They killed so many more people!” (Actually, he does say this in his statements.) Do American crimes absolve Bin Laden of his crimes? No. Do Saddam’s acts mean the US has the right to commit genocide? No.

    Hey, American leaders have also done bad things, and they’ve violated international law (Panama, Iraq). Does that justify a murderous campaign against the American people? Of course not.

    By the way, a report just came out that says 25% of Iraqi children today suffer from malnutrition. This is a direct result of the war that Americans launched. So the brutalities continue.

    Finally, you justify the destruction of Falluja, which led to the killing of thousands of civilians during the fighting. Your reasoning is that the people of Falluja were responsible because “they stood by.” That’s the kind of logic Bin Laden uses for things like the WTC attack. Look, they stood by and didn’t stop their government from killing us Muslims.

  5. Joe,

    Many Islamic religious authorities from around the world have issued fatwas condemning the beheadings, as well as suicide attacks killing civilians. Some Islamic clerics have been quite active trying to secure the release of hostages.

    Some of these fatwas have been reported in the Western press, and many have not. On the whole, this kind of thing is obviously not as newsworthy as acts of violence.

    You ask if Muslims condemn violence. I wonder if you follow the same standards. Do you condemn your government for the suffering it has brought to millions? You know, I would like to see the US government apologize for the acts of violence it has perpetrated abroad, in Latin America, the Far East, and the Middle East. It’ll be a very long list of things to apologize for, dating back many decades.

    On a final note, I see that you have a tendency to demonize Muslims. If you get the chance, travel widely in the Muslim word (but avoid war zones), and develop friendships and personal relationships with Muslims. You’ll see we don’t have horns on our heads. People are just people just about anywhere.

    Allah bless,


  6. It seems I have become a fan of Joe’s blog, for a while at least.

    I think there is something to Joe’s views about a cultural difference, although I don’t understand it in terms of Western cultural superiority as he does. (It’s always fun to pat oneself on the back by thinking oneself superior to others.)

    The kernel of truth in Joe’s view lies in the fact that Muslims tend to view the Qur’an in a somewhat unique way. No book is to non-Muslims quite what the Qur’an is to many Muslims. In the 9th century AD, there was a debate among Muslims about whether the Qur’an, as the Word of God, has existed since pre-eternity. Till today, many Muslims see the Qur’an as an embodiment of one of God’s attributes. Perhaps the Qur’an can be compared, loosely, to the way Christians view the person of Jesus (peace be upon him).

    While Christians do not have a similar concept, some of them seem capable of resolute action in the face religious insults. Reuters reports, “France’s media council has sharply reprimanded a private television channel for satirizing Pope Benedict as “Adolf II” .” It threatened the channel with “stiff monetary fines,” etc. And the French are quite secular, which is what I find puzzling about this story.

    Anyway, it’s no accident that the violent riots have flared in Afghanistan, and not, say, in Indonesia (the most populous Muslim nation) or in Iran. The Afghan President, Mr. Hamid Karzai’s take on the matter is that demonstrations that started as peaceful were taken advantage of by anti-government sabateurs. My own take on it is that the rioters would like the US out of their country. (I don’t mean to justify the violence, though, which for me as a Muslim constitutes another sort of desecration.)

    Allah bless,


  7. Muhammad, thank you so much for sharing. I have been very busy with family business or I would comment much more and try to understand better. And also to help you to understand us better.

    What I find so puzzling is that harm to a single book, of which many copies exist and many more can easily be created is considered a crime punishable by death. It’s easy to see it as an insult, perhaps even a grave insult. But to consider that insult so grievous that it demands the taking of a human life seems very odd to me. I’m not sure what to make of it. Does this mean the Muslim culture views human life far less valuable than I do? Or does it elevate the book, and what it stands for, to something much greater than a human life? If the latter, then why? What purpose does that serve? I can only think that it is a means to preserve something they know is very fragile and will be easily destroyed if it’s validity is openly challenged.

  8. Joe,

    Death penalty for blasphemy is a relic of the past. Many Muslim countries don’t have such a law (preferring lesser punishments), and some of those that do don’t necessarily apply them, or don’t necessarily apply the full punishment provided for in the law. These laws, incidentally, are subjects of debate within some of those Muslim nations which do have them, and the trend is toward liberaization.

    There was a case in Afghanistan last year where the editors of a journal called Aftab were accused of blasphemy. The government released the accused on bail, who promptly left the country and ended up in Canada. The government has been quiet about the case, and speculation runs that they were happy to see the accused leave.

    I don’t think that the origin of the blasphemy laws lies in Muslims trying to “preserve something they know is very fragile and easily destroyed if its validity is openly challenged.” It may look that way to an outsider to who holds the religion in low esteem, but for a typical religious Muslim, the validity of Islam is self-evident.

    God bless,


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