Saturday, April 2, 2011


The rioting continues in Afghanistan. The estimated toll is now 20 dead and more than 80 injured.
Two suicide attackers disguised as women blew themselves up and a third was gunned down Saturday when they used force to try to enter a NATO base on the outskirts of Kabul, NATO and Afghan police said. Earlier in the week, six U.S. soldiers died during an operation against insurgents in eastern Afghanistan near Pakistan, where the Taliban retain safe havens. 
President Hamid Karzai expressed regret for the 20 protest deaths, but he also further stoked possible anti-foreign sentiment by again demanding that the United States and United Nations bring to justice the pastor of the Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, where the Quran was burned March 20. Many Afghans did not know about the Quran-burning until Karzai condemned it four days after it happened. 
The pastor, the Rev. Terry Jones, had threatened to destroy a copy of Islam's holy book last year but initially backed down. On Friday he said Islam and its followers were responsible for the killings. 
U.S. President Barack Obama extended his condolences to the families of those killed by the protesters and said desecration of the Quran "is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry." But he said that does not justify attacking and killing innocent people, calling it "outrageous and an affront to human decency and dignity."
While I would guess that Terry Jones and his congregation are almost certainly intolerant bigots, that doesn't mean that any desecration of a Qur'an is inherently a bigoted act. Intentions are what make bigotry. I also wonder if Karzai has contemplated for even a second whether all of this destruction would have taken place if he had not publicly condemned a stupid ritual conducted by a few dozen people in a Florida church.

ETA:  Being fiercely opposed to the initial invasion as well as our current occupation of Afghanistan, I'm certainly not overlooking the possibility that this rioting is simply a sign of the camel's back having been broken and general anti-American sentiment having come to a head. That very well might be the case. Nevertheless, it's still horrifying that the Qur'an burning has been taken as endorsed by the entirety of the U.S. and that it legitimizes this kind of reaction. Terry Jones's congregation is not occupying Afghanistan.

And considering the fallout from the Danish cartoons in 2007, I can't imagine that hatred of America due to the occupation is the only reason for the rioting. The Danes have troops in Afghanistan, too-- about 700 of them. That wasn't why Muslims throughout the Middle East were burning embassies.

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