Targeting the Quran
CNN, May 17, 2008
Edited by Andy Ross
On May 11, in a police station shooting range on Baghdad's
western outskirts, the American-allied Iraqi militiaman found what one or more
GIs had been using for target practice -- a copy of the Quran, Islam's holy
Riddled with bullets, the rounds piercing deep into the thick volume, the pages
were shredded. Turning the holy book in his hands, the man found two handwritten
English words, scrawled in pen. "F*** yeah."
The discovery was incendiary. It was an affront to Islam and a serious challenge
to the religious credentials of the U.S-allied militias, or Awakening Councils,
who turned on al-Qaeda and are now on the U.S. government payroll.
Largely moderate Sunnis, the American-backed militias face constant accusations
from Islamic groups that they have turned against Islam to support the cause of
the infidels, or nonbelievers. If this indignity had gone unanswered, the
Islamists' case would have been won.
Abdullah, the militiaman who found the defaced Quran, complained to his
superiors. Soon, there was outrage among the tribes and population of
Word of what the Americans had done rippled throughout the district and the fury
spread. Honor was at stake, and the urge for a violent response against the
insult was strong. Tribal leaders made an approach to American commanders in the
region, who immediately launched an investigation.
Army investigators soon identified the section that had been at the police
station's small arms range on May 9, and a staff sergeant was the primary
suspect. The sergeant eventually confessed, though he claimed he had no idea the
book used for target practice was a Quran. Martin found the shooter guilty and
relieved him of duty.
On May 17, CNN was present for the showdown in Radwaniyeh as the Americans faced
the tribes. U.S. commanders arrived at a police outpost in heavily armored
vehicles to be met by a human tempest; hundreds of chanting tribesmen lined up
behind razor wire, offering their blood and souls in sacrifice for the Quran.
Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, commander of the U.S. forces in Baghdad, stood facing
the angry crowd. His face was grim and fixed as tribal sheikhs swirled around
"I am a man of honor, I am a man of character. You have my word, this will never
happen again," the general told the angry crowd through loudspeakers, pounding
the makeshift podium three times with his fist.
"In the most humble manner, I look in to your eyes today and I say, please
forgive me and my soldiers. The actions of one soldier were nothing more than
criminal behavior. I've come to this land to protect you, to support you, not to
harm you, and the behavior of this soldier was nothing short of wrong and
unacceptable. This soldier has lost the honor to serve the United States Army
and the people of Iraq here in Baghdad."
Hammond also read from the shooter's letter: "I sincerely hope that my actions
have not diminished the partnership that our two nations have developed
together. ... My actions were shortsighted, very reckless and irresponsible, but
in my heart they were not malicious."
Brigade commander Col. Ted
Martin stood before the crowd next, opening his address with an Islamic
blessing. He announced the sergeant had been relieved of duty with prejudice,
reprimanded by the commanding general with a memorandum of record attached to
his military record, dismissed from the regiment, and redeployed from the
brigade. An official said he will be sent to the United States for reassignment.
Holding a new Quran in his hands, Martin turned to the crowd. "I hope that you'll
accept this humble gift." He kissed the Quran and touched it to his forehead
as he handed it to the tribal elders. The crowd's voice rose, "Yes, yes, to the
Quran. No, no, to the devil. America out, out."
Sheikh Hamadi al-Qirtani, in a speech on behalf of all tribal sheiks of
Radhwaniya, called the incident "aggression against the entire Islamic world."
Then he said, "In the name of all the sheikhs, we declare we accept the apology
that was submitted."
The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq issued a statement:
"As the Association of Muslim Scholars condemns this heinous crime against God's
holy book, the Constitution of this nation, a source of pride and dignity, they
condemned the silence by all those who are part of the occupation's agenda and
holds the occupation and the current government fully responsible for this
violation and reminds everyone that God preserves His book and He is a great
Accommodating Islamic Law?
City Journal, February 11, 2008
Edited by Andy Ross
British intellectual life has long harbored a strain of
militantly self-satisfied foolishness, and the present archbishop of Canterbury,
Rowan Williams, is a perfect exemplar of the tendency. In an interview with the
BBC on February 7, the archbishop said that it "seems unavoidable" that some
aspects of sharia, or Islamic law, would be adopted in Britain.
The archbishop spoke to the BBC on the same day that he delivered a lecture at
the Royal Courts of Justice in London before an audience of distinguished
lawyers, including the Lord Chief Justice. Williams suggested that some elements
of sharia should enjoy joint jurisdiction with British law. The passage that
caused an immediate furor and has led to calls for his resignation was that in
which he spoke prospectively of a "transformative accommodation."
Rarely does philosophical inanity dovetail so neatly into total ignorance of
concrete social realities. Those more charitably inclined point out that the
archbishop is an erudite man, a professor of theology who reads in eight
languages and who was addressing a highly sophisticated audience.
Charity is a virtue, of course, but so is clarity. Here is a telling passage
from the lecture:
Perhaps it helps to see the universalist vision of law as
guaranteeing equal accountability and access primarily in a negative rather than
a positive sense — that is, to see it as a mechanism whereby any human
participant in a society is protected against the loss of certain elementary
liberties of self-determination and guaranteed the freedom to demand reasons for
any actions on the part of others for actions and policies that infringe
The archbishop goes on for pages and pages in this vein:
Earlier on, I proposed that the criterion for recognising and
collaborating with communal religious discipline should be connected with
whether a communal jurisdiction actively interfered with liberties guaranteed by
the wider society in such a way as definitively to block access to the exercise
of those liberties; clearly the refusal of a religious believer to act upon the
legal recognition of a right is not, given the plural character of society, a
denial to anyone inside or outside the community of access to that right.
There is only one word for a society in which such discourse can
pass for intellectual subtlety and sophistication, and lead to career
Theodore Dalrymple on Islam
Shariah Is for Everyone!
Henryk M. Broder
Spiegel Online, February 12, 2008
Edited by Andy Ross
The Archbishop of Canterbury has proposed a partial introduction
of Islamic Shariah law in Great Britain. This is yet another step on the part of
the Western world to subjugate itself to a Muslim immigrant minority unwilling
In the summer of 2007, Tiny Muskens, a liberal Catholic and the former bishop of
the Dutch city of Breda, proposed replacing the word "God" with the word
"Allah." Allah, he said, is a nice name for God.
A short time later, the Social Democratic mayor of Brussels, Freddy Thielemans,
banned a rally -- scheduled to take place on the sixth anniversary of 9/11 -- to
protest the gradual Islamicization of Europe. He also instructed Brussels police
officers not to smoke or eat in public during the month-long Ramadan fast, so as
not to offend Muslims.
Meanwhile, the BBC announced a new policy on its website's "Section on Islam":
Any mention of the Prophet Muhammad was to be followed by the phrase "Peace be
upon him." The move, a BBC spokesman explained, was intended to ensure a "fair
and balanced" portrayal of Islam.
Then the British Home Office announced a new rule applicable to all official
government statements: Phrases like "war on terror" and "Islamic extremism""
were no longer to be used. Home Secretary Jacqueline Jill Smith explained the
reasoning behind the rule: Extremists, she said, act, not in the name of Islam,
but in opposition to their faith. For this reason, she argued, their activities
ought to be referred to as "anti-Islamic activities."
And now the spiritual leader of the Anglican Church, Rowan Williams, Archbishop
of Canterbury, says that Britain must consider the fact that some citizens
cannot identify with British law. Accepting some aspects of Shariah, he argued,
could help to avoid social tension.
But the bishop is mistaken. A little bit of Shariah is just as unrealistic as a
little bit of pregnancy. Shariah regulates all aspects of life, and anyone who
proposes assuming only parts of Shariah fails to comprehend its inherent
The proposal by the archbishop of Canterbury is evidence of more than just an
unbelievable naiveté. It also reveals how far the idea of preventive
capitulation in the face of an unsolvable problem has advanced.
Cant on the Other
By Daniel Johnson
New York Sun, February 15, 2008
Edited by Andy Ross
A couple of years ago, the Archbishop of Cant lectured a roomful
of historians on the subject of "the other" — a pretentious way of referring to
remote historical figures, which segued into a disquisition on how the British
ought to treat Muslims. According to His Grace, it was quite wrong to impose
Judaeo-Christian cultural norms on "the other" in the name of a moral absolutism
that was quite inappropriate in a modern multicultural society like Britain.
He had particularly harsh words to say about Pope Benedict XVI, who had then
recently been elected, and whose devastating attack on "the dictatorship of
relativism" was still ringing in our ears. For the leader of the Anglican
Church, it seemed, for the Pope to lay claim to any moral certainty or
theological truth was at the very least lacking in respect for "the other."
This is the man who has just sold the pass on perhaps the most important legacy
of Judaeo-Christian jurisprudence: the idea that every person is equal in the
sight of God, and hence also equal before His law. Human, secular law reflects
its origins in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. Sharia law
knows nothing of equality for women or non-Muslims. Its imposition in countries
where Islam competes with Christianity has led to persecution on a vast scale.
Just as all seemed lost, the British establishment closed ranks. On Monday, the
archbishop had to open the general synod, or governing assembly, of the Church
of England. no sooner had he entered the hall than almost all those present rose
to give him a standing ovation. Prime Minister Brown phoned to give the
archbishop, "a man of great integrity," his support. The state had come to
rescue of the established church.
The spectacle of the Church of England and its leader advancing the cause of
Sharia will not be soon forgotten. The archbishop's adviser on Islamic affairs
is reported to be Tariq Ramadan, the Oxford-based academic who is banned from
America because he has links to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists.
Professor Ramadan is fond of reacting to criticism of Sharia by accusing the
critics of fomenting "Islamophobia." What the Archbishop of Canterbury has
unwittingly revealed, however, is that people are not impressed by this tactic.
They can see how Sharia is practiced in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and
they want none of it.
Free Speech and Radical Islam
By Flemming Rose
Wall Street Journal, February 15, 2008
Edited by Andy Ross
After celebrating his 25th anniversary with Jyllands-Posten, Kurt
Westergaard is on the run. Mr. Westergaard did the most famous of the 12
Muhammad cartoons published in Jyllands-Posten in September 2005 -- the one
depicting the prophet with a bomb in his turban. Mr. Westergaard's fate has
proven the point of his cartoon: In the early hours of Tuesday morning Danish
police arrested three men who allegedly had been plotting to kill him.
Sadly, the plot to kill Mr. Westergaard is not an isolated story, but part of a
broader trend that risks undermining free speech in Europe and around the world.
Every case speaks to the same problem: a global battle for the right to free
speech. The justifications for censorship and self-censorship are similar in
different parts of the world: Religious feelings and taboos need to be treated
with a kind of sensibility and respect that other feelings and ideas cannot
Right now the Organization of Islamic Countries is conducting a successful
campaign at the United Nations to rewrite international human-rights standards
to curtail the right to free speech. Last year the U.N. Human Rights Council
adopted a resolution against "defamation of religion," calling on governments
around the world to clamp down on cartoonists, writers, journalists, artists and
dissidents who dare to speak up.
We need a global movement to fight blasphemy and other insult laws, and the
European Union should lead the way by removing them. Europe should make it clear
that democracies will protect their citizens if they say something that triggers
threats and intimidation.
Flemming Rose is the culture editor of Jyllands-Posten.
Gaza Palestinians march against Danish Muhammad cartoons
International Herald Tribune, February 15, 2008
Edited by Andy Ross
Thousands of Palestinians protested Friday in the Gaza Strip
against the reprinting of Danish newspaper cartoons depicting the Islamic
prophet Muhammad. Chanting "What Denmark said is heresy," residents of the
strip, ruled by the militant Islamic Hamas movement, marched in the Jebaliya
More Gaza news
Ayaan Hirsi Ali Asks EU Lawmakers for Protection
Spiegel Online, February 15, 2008
Edited by Andy Ross
After spending the last two years in the US and recently
requesting French citizenship, Ayaan Hirsi Ali went before a group of 100 EU
lawmakers to request assistance in protecting her life from Muslim jihadists who
vowed to hunt her down.
Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali made a pitch for French citizenship last week. Now
the former Dutch poltician, who speaks six languages, is asking the EU for help
in protecting her life. Hirsi Ali has received death threats since 2004 for her
criticism of Islam.
"The threats to my life have not subsided and the cost is beyond anything I can
pay," Hirsi Ali said to a group of European Union lawmakers on Thursday. "I find
myself in a very desperate position. I don't want to die. I want to live and I
love life. I'm going to do anything legal to get help."
Help Ayaan Hirsi Ali
By Riazat Butt
The Guardian, February 21 2008
Edited by Andy Ross
The Archbishop of Canterbury last night said some of the
practices of sharia law can be "grim" and "appalling".
Rowan Williams made the remarks in the first of three public lectures to be
given in Cambridge: "In some of the ways it has been codified and practised
across the world, it has been appalling. In some of the ways it has been applied
to women in places like Saudi Arabia, it is grim."
Two weeks have passed since the archbishop caused an uproar for suggesting that
some aspects of sharia law might be accommodated within the British legal
system. "My doomed enterprise the other day was to try and introduce that bit of
perspective. Let that be a warning to you all," he joked.
He warned against demonising Muslims and their religion.