May 27, 2005
QUR'AN DESECRATION ALLEGATION: ANGRY WRITERS INSIST IT 'DID HAPPEN'
** Muslim observers stress the "credible evidence of desecration" of the Qur'an.
** Dailies say the desecration reports jibe with the U.S.' "scandalous mistreatment of Muslims."
** Conservative analysts assail Newsweek for being so "ignorant of Muslim sensitivities."
** Leftist papers wonder "where is the real free press of the U.S.?"
A 'puerile cover-up'-- Citing reports emanating from Bagram and the International Red Cross, Muslim analysts agreed that "evidence of the desecration of the Holy Qur'an has been found." Pakistan's center-right Nation stated it is "beyond doubt" that such "desecration has been committed repeatedly," while India's independent Nadeem judged Qur'an desecration a "regular practice and part of the American detention manual." Pakistani dailies foresaw a "strong wave of anger" among Muslims, for whom dishonoring the Qur'an is the "most humiliating and degrading thing." Government-influenced Utusan Malaysia "congratulated Newsweek because it had the courage to publish" the report, which was "no surprise."
A 'credibility crisis'-- Papers referred to the U.S.' "scandalous treatment of Muslims" to explain why "most Arab voices remained skeptical" of the retraction. Pakistan's centrist News said the U.S.' "severe trust deficit with Muslims" came from its "clear pattern of cruelty and mistreatment" of prisoners, which the liberal Japan Times described as "serious, widespread and systematic." Tanzania's Islamic An-Nuur added that the situation in Guantanamo violates "all norms of the civilized world." Moderate Muslim observers denied that Newsweek's report produced "anti-U.S. hatred"; India's centrist Asian Age blamed "Bush's wrong policies, and not the magazine." Hardline Muslim writers blasted the U.S.' "sustained campaign" of "contempt and hatred of Muslims."
'A greater expression of regret would be more appropriate'-- Focusing on "media soul-searching" after Newsweek's retraction, dailies criticized the weekly's "cultural myopia" for causing an "international firestorm." These critics held the magazine "carelessly released information...offensive to Muslims." Canada's nationalist Ottawa Citizen found it "most disturbing" that Newsweek "did not recognize the explosive nature of the material" it printed. Moderate Muslim editorialists countered that Muslims must "take responsibility for their own reprehensible conduct," as exemplified by the "bloody, fiery riots" following the reports.
'Newsweek's apology is suspect'-- Assailing Newsweek for "apparently buckling" under government demands, critics alleged the "U.S. media hit its lowest point" with its "haste in responding" to official pressure. Manila's independent Business World blasted the White House's "attack on the freedom of the press." Vietnam's official Nhan Dan sarcastically noted that Americans "always boast that their press is absolutely honest, fair, and never submits to threats," when in reality U.S. journalists are "docile." The controversy "proves that the American media is vulnerable to state pressure," concluded Pakistan's liberal Friday Times.
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 42 reports from 18 countries over 19 - 27 May, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
DENMARK: "Newsweek Retraction Does Not Alter Truth Of GITMO Torture"
Ole Damkjaer wrote in center-right Berlingske Tidende (5/20): "Newsweek's retraction of its story on the Koran does not alter the fact that American interrogators have, on several occasions, violated the Muslim detainees religion, say human rights organizations."
HUNGARY: "Irresponsible, Sinful Ignorance"
Levente Sitkei thundered in right-of-center Magyar Nemzet (5/27): “It turned out once again that America never took the trouble to learn about its opponents, that is, the people they were going to flood with the blessings of the Pax Americana.... This example [of the desecration of the Koran] does not prove malevolence, only the American stupidity and large-power insensitivity.... Based on what happened, no wonder the Iraqis do not believe anything that is published in American papers, and they particularly question the American military’s commitment to democracy. In their opinion--and in the opinion of many Westerners, too--the fight of the U.S. is not for the spread of beautiful ideas, but for much less noble financial interests and power. In their pursuit, Washington would do anything, either with weapons or by exerting its economic superiority. The shameful elements of the war, such as the torturing of prisoners or the above-mentioned desecration of the Koran on Guantanamo, could have been avoided. Only a little more attention ought to have been paid to the preparation of the occupying soldiers, and the unsuitable ones ought to have been filtered out.”
ISRAEL: "Suspicion Over Newsweek's Apology"
Rafik Jabarin wrote in left-leaning Arabic-language weekly Panorama (5/20): "Newsweek's apology is suspect, and was given under pressure.... What has been published about the investigators is true, since the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib is normal.... Therefore, the mistreatment of the Koran is also to be expected from them, despite the Pentagon's statement two years ago requiring the investigators to respect the Koran. It seems like the American statement and the apology came only to calm the anger of the Muslims and nothing more."
SAUDI ARABIA: "Has The U.S. Committed A Mistake In Provoking Muslims?"
Riyadh’s conservative Al-Riyadh editorialized (5/22): "Although the U.S. has acknowledged its mistakes in Abu-Gharib, Guantanamo and Afghanistan, it has not addressed those issues in a way that calms angry sentiments. Furthermore, reports of desecration of the Holy Qur’an confirm that those mistakes were not isolated.... Although nobody denies Saddam Hussein was a merciless tyrant, portraying him in a disparaging way makes the Iraqi people perceive him as a citizen who represents them. They must offer Saddam Hussein trial according to laws and punish him without personal insults."
ALGERIA: "Your Honored Excellency"
Chikh Achrati wrote an open letter to the U.S. Ambassador to Algeria in pro-moderate Islamic Arabic-language Echourouk El Youmi (5/25): "I have to recognize that it is hard, if even impossible, for a U.S. diplomatic mission abroad to justify the daily use of its power.... The letter of (Your) Excellency Ambassador to the Algerian press on the issue of (desecrating) the Koran in Guantanamo did not have its desired effect because we were expecting the holder of the flag of democracy in the world to let us know the (judicial) status of the residents of Guantanamo; what is the charge against them there, and what should they expect?.... Excellency Ambassador, you cannot justify the practices that have restricted and embarrassed your supporters in the Arab world. These practices are considered by Arab advocates of liberalism to be the creation of Saddam or people like Saddam in the Arab world.... I will not return to the lie about WMD, which warranted the world’s provocation against Iraq and which the world swallowed without digesting.... You have therefore proved that you are no different from our leaders.... Excellency Ambassador, if you did not state these things in your reports to your government, keep them in your notebooks. Remember that the practices of ‘Bush’s America’ have devoured all the accomplishments left by American democrats from George Washington to Carter."
MOROCCO: "Two Communiqués On The Condition Of 'Salifiya Jihadiya' Detainees"
Islamic Arabic-language Attajdid contended (5/20): "The desecration of the Holy Koran adds to the bad record of U.S. policy toward the Islamic nation since the invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq and the Abu Ghraib scandals.... Actions by investigators at Guantanamo are crimes against humanity for which the U.S. Administration assumes direct responsibility. We call on the U.S. administration for an official apology, to end its occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, to stop threatening other Islamic nations and to reconsider its policy towards Islam, Muslims and its unconditional support for Israel. We call on Morocco's students and peoples from the Islamic Arab world to actively protest and condemn the desecration of the Holy Koran."
SYRIA: "The Problem Is With Them"
Izzeddin Darwish opined in government-owned Tishreen (5/22): "The US denial of desecration of the Quran did not stand for more than a few days after the Red Cross notified US authorities about the occurrences of a few months ago.... Newsweek's haste in responding to the Bush Administration's pressure was the most exciting part of this case.... The latest Red Cross announcement of the US forces' violations blew open the whole issue despite the recurring attempts to contain it. Will Newsweek regret its previous regret? Will it continue to cast doubt on the Red Cross story as the US Administration did?.... As usual, the US Administration is lying to the American people and is seeking to spread lies to the world community as a distorted commodity of globalization.... the US media hit its lowest point with its muddled performance."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
CHINA: "Anger Against the U.S. Continues: If The U.S. Doesn’t Change Its Egotism, Troubles Will Be Endless"
Zhou Yijun commented in official Xinhua Daily Telegraph (Xinhua Meiri Dianxun): (5/26): "One year after the Abu Gharaib prisoner abuse scandal, troubles continue for the U.S. in the Middle with Koran desecration.... In a move to win back public opinion, U.S. First Lady Laura Bush is sent to a place that she does not understand.... Who should be responsible for the media’s mistaken reports? Both CBS and Newsweek have paid for their lessons.... If the U.S. doesn’t change its egotism, the situation can hardly improve.”
CHINA (HONG KONG AND MACAU SARS): "Koran Desecration Crisis Can Hardly Subside"
Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked (5/24): "The U.S. military issued guidelines in January 2003 stating that 'the Koran is not allowed to be placed in offensive areas such as the floor, near the toilet or sink, or dirty and wet areas.' Unless there is a problem or disagreement, U.S. military would not issue such a guideline.... Many Muslim countries disregarded Newsweek's retraction, which they suspected was a result of pressure from the Bush administration.... The Bush administration criticized Newsweek for damaging the U.S. plan to 'improve' its image in the Muslim world. The U.S. image has in fact been damaged by the U.S. administration. As long as the U.S. does not change its discrimination in international affairs against specific nations, specific countries and specific religions, U.S. power politics will continue to face trouble."
"Moral High Ground Sinks With Abuse Scandals"
The independent English-language South China Morning Post editorialized (5/24): "Winning the war on terror depends on winning hearts and minds, especially those of the world's Muslims. This will only be possible if those representing the U.S. set--and maintain--the highest standards. The invasion of Iraq without UN support, the legally dubious detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and the Abu Ghraib scandal have all fallen far short of the mark. They have created a negative image that is proving difficult for the U.S. to shake off. The recent allegation that the Koran had been defiled by guards at Guantanamo Bay has now been retracted by Newsweek magazine. But the worry for the U.S. is that the report was believable--and believed. It sparked riots in Afghanistan that left at least 16 people dead."
JAPAN: "Stop The Torture And Abuse"
The liberal English-language Japan Times held (5/25): "The steady drip of revelations about the abuse of prisoners in the global war against terror is doing serious damage to the U.S. image and efforts to win that battle. Contrary to official claims, the instances of misbehavior are not episodic or exaggerated; they appear to be serious, widespread and systematic.... A credible and public assessment of the abuse must occur.... The reports about abuse in Afghanistan follow controversy over Newsweek magazine's report that U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had desecrated a Quran by throwing it into a toilet. That news set off riots throughout South Asia.... Last week, thousands of hardline Muslims in Indonesia protested the report of the desecration, shouting 'destroy America and its allies' and 'Kill those who desecrate Islam.' Newsweek has since retracted the allegation.... The U.S. administration has gone on the offensive since, demanding an apology and arguing that the report caused the unrest and blackened the U.S. image. While the mistake raises serious questions about journalists' use of unnamed sources, to blame the media for the violence is disingenuous. There have been multiple allegations of desecration of the Quran, yet Pentagon officials concede that there was no thorough study of the allegations before the Newsweek report. Moreover, every report of prisoner abuse in U.S. custody--and indeed the very policies that the U.S. uses to get information from prisoners--has included techniques that seem designed to inflame Muslim sensitivities. The abuse is too widespread and too close to sophisticated behavior designed to inflict psychological damage for it to be the work of a few.... Torture, abuse and humiliation of suspects in U.S. custody do great damage to the institutions that permit or condone these crimes and the country for which they work.... Success in the fight against terror requires that the U.S. win allies among the Muslims whose resentment and anger have provided the cannon fodder for this battle. Instead, the U.S. seems intent on fanning the flames."
MALAYSIA: "Washington Must Bear Responsibility"
Government-influenced, Malay-language Berita Harian opined (5/24): "The anti-U.S. protests in Indonesia, sparked by the report in Newsweek about the degradation of the Koran by Guantanamo prison guards and investigators, shows that the anger felt by Muslims have not abated. Similar protests have occurred in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Egypt. These acts by U.S. investigators will only spur more violent anti-U.S. protests. What is worrying is that the extreme measures are being condoned by the White House and the Pentagon, which do not think about the negative outcomes from humiliating Muslims and Islam. The failure of Washington to control such actions only worsens the situation. President George W. Bush should realize that the U.S. image has been damaged by the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the treatment of the inmates at the Abu Ghraib detention center. This stubborn refusal to admit any wrong doing will cast a dark cloud over the long-term relationship with the Muslim world."
"Desecration Of Koran No Longer A Surprise"
Wan Norazah Wan Chik concluded in Malay-language government-influenced Utusan Malaysia (5/22): "The coverage of Koran desecration by US interrogators in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is not a new story. The camp has indeed been full of scandals.... We need to congratulate Newsweek because it had the courage to publish the report even though it then had 'no other choice' but to retract the report due to intense pressure from the US government."
PHILLIPPINES: "Despite The Newsweek Retraction"
Basilio Alo argued in the independent, leading business-oriented Business World (5/27): "Newsweek has been compelled to retract its news item that made mention of the Koran being flushed down the toilet.... How did it come to the point where even the U.S. had to pressure Newsweek to retract such news? Isn't this already an attack on the freedom of the press? It is hard to say if the Newsweek story was based on fact.... But it inflamed Muslims around the world to protest such a disgrace on their holy book.... The earlier abuses by U.S. soldiers at the Abu Gharib prison in Iraq have now been further worsened by the Guantanamo prison report, which has made the U.S. even more hated by Muslims today, despite the Newsweek retraction."
"The Desecration Story"
Ma. Ceres Doyo wrote in the top-circulation, center-left Philippine Daily Inquirer (5/26): "The problem with the detail on the desecration...was that the reporter did not see this being done with his own two eyes. He was quoting someone who was not named. When things got out of hand, the source backed off.... The reporter and Newsweek were left holding the bag.... Granted that the desecration happened, must a wrong be corrected by another wrong (violence and bloodshed)? I believe something more complex was at work here. The pent-up rage (justifiable to a certain degree) was already there before the desecration item came out. Newsweek just stoked the fire of anti-U.S. hatred in Muslim areas."
The top-circulation, center-left Philippine Daily Inquirer said (5/25): “Violent protests have erupted around the world over allegations contained in a Newsweek story that the Koran was defiled by American interrogators in Guantanamo Bay. Lives were lost. And in the end, the newsmagazine issued a complete retraction of the story, since its sources subsequently denied having confirmed such incidents. Media practitioners, on the whole, have been kind to the Newsweek reporter...but a tremendous amount of media soul-searching has taken place.... While Newsweek, for example, has unhesitatingly decided in favor of the absolute responsibility of its reporters and editors, other journalists have issued a timely reminder on the responsibilities that should also be lived up to by sources, anonymous or not.”
SINGAPORE: "Guantanamo Transparency"
The pro-government Straits Times argued (5/20): "It is small comfort that Newsweek has apologized and retracted its story claiming that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre had desecrated the Quran. For the original assertion undoubtedly caused great damage.... We'd have thought a greater expression of regret would be more appropriate.... In the end, it may not be enough for Newsweek to apologize, or for the U.S. simply to assert that the desecration never happened. Many Muslims remain suspicious of the US. The American denial and Newsweek's retraction are likely to be insufficient for calming the uproar. Arguably, the best course would be for the US to allow independent investigators, such as respected Muslim leaders, access to the Guantanamo centre to meet and interview present detainees--rather than those now free, who might play up charges. However, given the secrecy that shrouds the holding centre and security concerns, this is not an option the US will easily agree to. Yet the problem it has on its hands can't be wished away. And neither is it enough to issue strong denials absent supporting testimony. For although the original claim might not have met sufficient testing, repairing the damage it caused requires an even higher level of evidentiary support.... The reality, however, is that within much of the Muslim world, the US has a credibility problem. No amount of explanation by the US, or by Newsweek, will be enough to end the uproar. People need to hear from those they trust that nothing happened. As usual, the key is transparency."
VIETNAM: "Press Freedom In The American Way"
Phan Quang wrote in official Communist party-run Nhan Dan (5/24): "Eventually Newsweek issued a short notice saying it retracted the news story about U.S. soldiers at Guantanamo prison desecrating Muslims' Qur'an book.... Americans always boast that their press is absolutely honest, fair and never submits to powerful threats.... The incident involving Newsweek leads to two questions. One is if the information published earlier by Newsweek, one of the most well-known weeklies in the U.S., does somewhat reflect the truth but it still has to retract its story, where is the real free press of the U.S. that Americans always ask the world to follow? Two, if the information published by Newsweek is actually wrong and baseless, what is the responsibility of the journalists before the society? Is it that a well-known weekly like Newsweek does not know lessons about printing sensitive information to attract readers without considering possible consequences?"
"Deadly Carelessness By U.S. And British Press?"
Linh An asserted in army-run official Quan Doi Nhan Dan (5/24): "The retraction by Newsweek even poured more oil into the anti-U.S. flame because there is news that the White House put pressure on the publication to retract the article.... Meanwhile Britain's Sun said it printed photos of Saddam Hussein.... No matter if Newsweek and the Sun deliberately or carelessly released information and images offensive to Muslims, one things is obvious, the image of the U.S. has deteriorated severely in the eyes of the Muslim world."
INDIA: "A Continuation Of A Crusade Against Islam"
Shahnawaz Farooqi wrote in independent Urdu-language Nadeem (5/24): "What else can one expect from Americans if not the flushing down of the holy Quran into toilet? It makes no difference that Newsweek has retracted the story after pressure from the White House. There are numerous denials by many other agencies of Newsweek's denial, reaffirming that the desecration of the Quran has indeed been a regular practice and part of the American detention manual.... The episode should be seen in the wider historic perspective of West’s animosity against Islam and Muslims, although, undoubtedly, Bush and his US is responsible for the latest show of hatred against Islam. It is only a natural outcome of the sustained campaign launched for the last few years by the US against the Islamic ideology and Muslims practicing that ideology. Be it the desecration of the holy Quran at Guantanamo or the support to Salman Rushdie’s anti-Quran remarks or other incidents of affront against Islam, they are all in continuity with the West’s long history of animosity against Islam that includes the 200 year long crusade to later years academic dishonesty of the so-called Orientalists.”
The centrist Asian Age observed (5/21): "The Muslim world has understandably been outraged by the publication of a report in Newsweek about the desecration of the Holy Quran by the American interrogators at Guantanamo Bay.... Apparently buckling under the Bush administration’s pressure, the US weekly retracted the anonymously sourced story after grudgingly admitting that parts of it may not be correct.... Ms Rice’s...pious pronouncements are not enough. Nor is Washington’s effort to make Newsweek the fall guy at all convincing.... It was President George W. Bush's wrong policies and not the magazine which have tarnished the U.S. image in the world. The US standing took a beating following the expose of the horrendous abuses of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. If the neocons sincerely wish to repair the damaged US image, they should punish those who ordered or condoned these abuses, not target whose who have merely reported them.... U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sanctimoniously observed, 'People need to be very careful about what they say, just as they need to be careful about what they do.' If only he had given this sage advice to President Bush before he launched a patently unlawful war against Iraq on a totally false and fabricated casus belli, the lives of over 100,000 Iraqis and 1,600 American soldiers would have been saved.”
"Newsweek's Embedded Explosion"
P. Sainath wrote in the centrist Hindu (5/21): "Newsweek is learning that being embedded with the U.S. establishment does not keep you out of the line of fire.... All in the establishment are clear that mere groveling won't do.... The report...harmed the U.S.' ability to reach out to Muslims. That too, at a time when it was fighting insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.... The U.S. standing in the Muslim world was not lowered by the report. It's the other way around. Such reports are believed because the U.S. standing in the Muslim world is so low. And with good reason. Countless thousands have died...since America went to war.... It is easy for people to believe the worst. The U.S. is in an illegal war. It holds prisoners in violation of international law and conventions. It does not allow them to meet lawyers of their choosing or human rights groups. All that has happened at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo suggests that the 'disputed' act was just one among a long list of atrocities.... Let's face it, the victims of such wars draw their beliefs from direct, solid experience. Not from Newsweek. They are not just likely to believe the story of the Quran going down the toilet. They know that those behind it and other crimes will likely evade punishment, too. The notion that the U.S. was doing fine until the Newsweek story came along is bizarre.... What's funny, though, is that Newsweek carried many false stories on the Iraq war. No retraction was ever sought or given on any of these. That's because the lies those stories spewed favoured the White House in its drive to war against Iraq.... Newsweek was thus part of the huge U.S. media effort in planting fake WMD stories. All those have proved fraudulent beyond doubt. No retractions required. No apologies either.... And how many in the U.S.' docile media will now have the guts to follow up on the memo--with Newsweek twisting, slowly in the wind, from the gallows in front of them?”
PAKISTAN: "Desecration Of The Holy Quran: U.S. Should Tender Apology To Islamic World"
Karachi-based, pro-Taliban/Jihad Urdu-language Islam contended (5/27): "There is no consolation for the Muslim world in the assurances held out by the visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca that the U.S. would investigate the incident of the desecration of the Holy Quran in Guantanamo Bay. This is a very legitimate demand of the Muslim world that the U.S. should admit the desecration of the Holy Quran at the hands of its troops and offer its apology over the same and assure the Muslim world at large, through comprehensive guarantees, that such incidents would not be repeated in future so that the world could know that such type of sacrilegious acts are not the official policy of the U.S. and that U.S. really believed in the principles of religious tolerance."
"Channel The Truth, Not Block It"
The Lahore-based English-language liberal independent weekly Friday Times concluded (5/27-6/2): "Newsweek's 'retraction' proves that the American media is vulnerable to state pressure, not that the allegations were misplaced. President Bush should stop being in denial. Guantanamo Bay should be closed down, due process of law must apply to all prisoners and the offenders must be punished. An urgent cleansing program for many officers of the U.S. government is needed. And public diplomacy should be used to channel the truth, not block it."
"Americans Should Apologize On Desecration Of The Holy Quran"
Center-right Urdu-language Pakistan declared (5/27): "The country’s acclaimed religious scholars demanded at Honor of the Holy Quran Convention that those involved in the desecration of the Holy Quran should be handed over to Muslims.... If American government thinks that the Holy Quran’s desecration was a crime then there should be punishment for it. The Muslim community should demand for an apology coming from President Bush. The President should form a commission to probe such incidents in the past, which should include Muslim investigators. This commission should also see whether the desecration has stopped.... The important advice is that the Muslim world should remain peaceful while registering their protest against the desecration and should not indulge in harming American citizens or American installations.... America should not take this confrontation to its limits and should apologize on the desecration."
"Warning To America"
Karachi-based, right-wing pro-Islamic unity Urdu-language Jasarat maintained (5/27): "The U.S. government’s claim of unawareness about the incidences of desecration of the Holy Quran in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay have been belied by the International Red Cross Society and the FBI itself when it said that it had brought this to the attention of Pentagon several times. This shows that it was not an individual act of few troops but it had the backing and support of the Bush administration. A folly of the U.S. has brought the hatred of the entire Muslims of the world against it to its height."
"Beyond The Desecration"
Farhan Bokhari commented in the centrist national English-language News (5/27): "The wave of anger across the Muslim world including Pakistan over the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran by U.S. troops in Guantanamo Bay, could easily be characterized as a significant setback to relations between a number of Islamic countries and the United States, with long term implications.... For many Muslims in countries like Pakistan, the bottom line is indeed that Washington's efforts to patch up with Muslims following the desecration issue is more an attempt to fight an unexpected fire of anger, rather than a genuine effort to come clean. In brief, the U.S. suffers from a severe trust deficit with Muslims of the world as never before.... Such sentiments have been additionally fuelled by the already widespread belief among Muslims that the U.S. is the principal backer of the state of Israel in its denial of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians. The long drawn Israeli-Palestinian conflict has not won many friends for the U.S. among Muslims. Now, Washington's search for friends in the Islamic world is bound to suffer more."
"American Credibility Crisis"
The centrist national English-language News declared (5/26): "American officials will have to work overtime to manage the public-relations crisis they face around the world.... Photographs showed Saddam...washing clothes by hand, and asleep on his bed. This followed the reported desecration of the Holy Quran at Guantanamo Bay by American guards deputed to extract information from the prisoners in cages. The unfortunate incident stirred riots in Muslim countries, leaving around 20 dead in Afghanistan alone. Reports of abuse and torture in custody by Americans have already become a regular matter. There seems to be a clear pattern of cruelty and mistreatment of people under U.S. custody.... Amid a credibility crisis that is deepening, explanations may not be enough to persuade people that the Americans are telling the truth. Those in the Arab states will be harder to convince. The feeling of helplessness is fast turning into anger, which is now manifesting itself in violent forms. Even sections of society, particularly in the Arab world, which were earlier complacent at the American presence in the region, are realigning their positions. But this is essentially what the Americans have earned for themselves. They must now think of ways to improve their country's image and raise its credibility among people in whose name they are fighting their war for universal freedoms and liberty. It must not stop at taking some action here and there for such abuses, which, considering their frequency, appear to be systemic and institutionalized. The U.S. needs to bring about reforms at the institutional level in order for its soldiers to abide by the international law and the global protocols that on the rights of prisoners as well as rules of war."
"America’s Dangerous Designs"
Second-largest Urdu-language Nawa-e-Waqt argued (5/25): "Following Newsweek’s withdrawal of the Holy Quran desecration report, other papers reported that the incidents of the Holy Quran desecration are common.... American military has been guided into a deliberate Holy Quran desecration campaign to test the anguish and anger of the Muslims. Many analysts believe that America and Israel want to gauge the height of Muslim reaction for implementing their nefarious designs. America has seen the inaction of Muslims on the bombing of sacred places in Karbala and Najaf and by desecrating the mausoleum of Ghausul Azam in Iraq.... Now it (U.S) is to take such dangerous steps, which could further erode the importance of Muslims sacred places. The Muslims should create unity among their ranks as America and Israel have planned to further humiliate Muslims of the world."
"America Is Its Own Enemy"
Karachi-based, right-wing, pro-Islamic Unity Urdu-language Jasarat commented (5/24): "Despite America's denial, evidence of the desecration of the Holy Quran has been found, not only in Guantanamo, but at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, and it seems to be a routine with the American soldiers to desecrate our Holy Book. The basic aim behind such activities is to humiliate and insult the Muslims.... Now if the outraged Muslims kill any of these culprits, they will be called murderers and terrorists. By such acts, the U.S. is inviting the hatred and wrath of the Muslims."
"Vile Desecration And Cover-Up"
Mazhar Qayyum Khan contended in the center-right national English-language Nation (5/24): "Human Rights Watch, a New York-based NGO monitoring human rights violations in different parts of the world, has also confirmed having received complaints about GIs desecrating the Holy Quran at Gitmo as well as jails in Iraq.... The interrogators’ idea, obviously, was to not only show disrespect to Islam but also extract evidence and compel the detainees to accept the charges against them to prevent further desecration, even if they were untrue. On refusing to oblige they would suffer the humiliation of helplessly seeing their religious book cavalierly dumped in the filth of the toilet and the soldiers would have the sadistic pleasure of trampling on their deepest feelings. It seems that President George W. Bush’s message of respect for the values and beliefs of all religions and declared intentions of guiding his policies by moral principles and spreading the doctrine of democracy around the world have not filtered down even to his Generals, not to talk of the rank and file.... More likely, though, they were able to read, behind the façade of pious declarations, the actual text spelling out contempt and hatred of Muslims and their faith and unwittingly acted it out in extreme in a true soldierly fashion.... The confirmation of desecration by the ICRC and HRW just when the weekly was retracting its story must have come as a bombshell for the Bush administration. The U.S. protestations that it is not anti-Islam or anti-Muslim but only wants to eliminate the menace of terrorism looks thin on the ground. It needs to do a lot of soul searching and radically change its attitude towards Muslims before its word can be accepted on its face value. Otherwise, its whole strategy of winning over Muslims would have little success."
Irfan Siddiqui asserted in second-largest Urdu-language Nawa-e-Waqt (5/24): "America tries hard to keep the mask of double standards and hypocrisy, but stormy wind makes it difficult to conceal the ugliness of its face.... This flag-bearer of freedom of expression and press freedom has forced Newsweek to withdraw its report, although the magazine had sent the report to the Pentagon before printing it and the Pentagon had not objected to the report.... Now we have come to know that New York Times has acquired a copy of the confidential report that was compiled after the custodial murder of two Afghan prisoners at Bagram airport.... Newsweek withdrew its story, but ICRC broke its silence to confirm the desecration of Holy Quran.... New York based Human Rights Watch says that it has on record complaints of Muslim prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay on the desecration of the Quran and insulting of their religious beliefs.... Muslim silence has emboldened the predatory nature of America.... Until when?"
"Truth About Sacrilege"
Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn maintained (5/23): "However, what seems to have gone largely unnoticed is the fact that prior to publication, the article was vetted by a senior Pentagon official. Also, the allegations regarding the desecration of the Holy Quran are nothing new and have been reported in newspapers worldwide since 2003 quoting prisoners released from U.S. military custody. In fact, one prisoner had alleged that similar acts of desecration had occurred at a U.S. military prison in Afghanistan as well. The proportion of prisoners released from US military prisons who have made such allegations cannot be a coincidence or an accident. However, whenever such allegations surfaced in the media, Washington always dismissed them as baseless. If America really wants to clear the doubts that persist in the minds of many in the Muslim world, it should make public its internal reports on the alleged prisoner abuse and hold senior civilian and military officials accountable."
"Desecration Did Happen"
The center-right national English-language Nation opined (5/22): "The International Committee of the Red Cross has given a lie to Pentagon spokesman Whitman’s stand.... An ICRC spokesman has asserted that Red Cross representatives visiting Gitmo during 2002 and 2003 found credible evidence of desecration on receiving multiple complaints from inmates. After the ICRC had repeatedly approached it, the Pentagon issued guidelines about how US personnel should handle the holy book. Human Rights Watch has gone a step further and said it received reports not only from Gitmo detainees, but also from Iraqi and Afghan prisons of U.S. personnel repeatedly offending their Islamic beliefs and showing disrespect to the Holy Quran.... If the U.S. thought the retraction would work as ‘damage control,’ it clearly failed. Obviously regarding it as a puerile cover-up, Muslims worldwide felt outraged and protested. The demonstrating crowd in Afghanistan became violent, leaving 15 dead and over 100 injured. Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, Palestine, Libya and many other places in the Muslim world witnessed a strong wave of anger. Worldwide protests are planned for May 27; there are calls for an apology from the U.S. and condign punishment for the guilty; and the Bush administration’s claim, never really considered credible, of respecting all religious beliefs, lies in ruins."
"Desecration Of Holy Quran And Domestic Politics"
The Lahore-based liberal English-language Daily Times contended (5/22): "In the event, even if the practice stopped, it is important to know how people through the chain of command were dealt with by the administration after it came to know of what was happening. At the minimum an apology is needed from the administration followed by a transparent inquiry into the allegations and punitive measures against those found guilty. In the meantime, however, let us remind the right wing that this is not an issue that it should use for domestic political reasons. The statements emanating from the camp clearly show that its leaders are not only gunning for America but also hitting out at Islamabad’s larger policy of allying with the U.S. This is counter-productive and smacks of rank political opportunism aimed at confusing the issue."
Humayun Gauhar noted in in the center-right national English-language Nation (5/22): "If a dog is so loveable, why does Tony Blair hate being called Bush’s poodle?.... Americans wonder why everyone hates them. The most humiliating and degrading thing for Muslims is desecration of the Holy Quran. It makes their blood boil. That such desecration has been committed repeatedly as psychological torture in the Guantanamo concentration camps and in Afghanistan is beyond doubt.... We don’t have a voice. Our politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, landlords, journalists, everyone, thinks it is a great honor if a lowly U.S. Embassy official calls at their residence. They beg editors to print photographs of the exalted visit. They think it some kind of recognition if the US Ambassador invites them to a reception.... Would it be asking too much to start a voluntary social boycott of U.S. Embassy officials.... Given that our elite is in cultural limbo, disconnected at home and bad clones in the West, I think it would be asking for too much. How else would they get their B1-B2 multiple entry visas and admission for their children in American universities? How would they be invited to seminars in Washington? How would they get stints in America’s think tanks, to write and say what America wants said, all the better by Muslims for it adds great authenticity to U.S. doctrines and strategies?"
TANZANIA: "Madame Rice, We Have Heard You"
Independent Kiswahili-language pro-Islam tabloid weekly An-Nuur stated (5/20): "Madame Rice, your statement has been heard. But what is more important is the release of Muslims you are holding in Guantanamo. What have they done? If it is a question of power, America has got it. America is now the only superpower in the world. It can do whatever it wants, even against the wishes of the rest of the world. This was demonstrated by the invasion of Iraq.... Desecrating the Koran is now being perceived as the only bad thing America has done against Muslims. But there are the Muslims being held in Guantanamo against all norms of the civilized world. For the fourth year now, these Muslims have been separated from their families. They are in handcuffs and do not know how their wives and children are coping with life. This is not the kind of civilization America wants the rest of the world to emulate.”
CANADA: "Blaming The Victim For Qur'an Desecrations"
Haroon Siddiqui said in the liberal Toronto Star (5/25): "It is hard to believe but there are commentators who are berating those who protested the desecration of the Qur'an, not those who did the desecrating.... The pundits are being even more bizarre than the Bush administration, which skewered Newsweek for reporting the sacrilege, not those who committed it. As the Bush administration continues its cover-up for presiding over one of the most shameful chapters in prisoner abuse...orientalists are entitled to their views, as also their logical contortions to continue rationalizing the war on Iraq. But their myopia does cause concern.... The protests over the Qur'an episodes have been presented as the utterly incomprehensible actions of illiterate and irrational mobs. They are at one level. But on another, they are understandable--not justifiable but understandable--given the scandalous mistreatment of Muslims in America, Iraq and in Afghanistan, day after day, for more than three years. Human Rights Watch, joining the international chorus of condemnation, confirmed this week that religious humiliation of Muslims has been widespread in American-run jails..... Yet the media mostly ignored those reports. They were busy baiting Muslims. One longs for the day in the future when we will be ready to look back at this dark period and hang our heads in shame."
"Selective Ire A Blight On Islam"
Salim Mansur commented in the conservative tabloid Ottawa Sun (5/23): "This week's news of organized Muslim mobs on the rampage in Afghanistan, Pakistan and various other parts of the Muslim world--in the wake of the erroneous Newsweek report--is as stale and tiresome as another round of suicide bombing in Iraq. There would be news of much interest if we learned of demonstrations in those countries against the regular desecration of Islam by leaders of fundamentalist Muslim organizations who preach the politics of intimidation and violence in the name of religion to their fanatical followers. The Newsweek story, since retracted, was irresponsible and mischievous.... But it was seized upon by political opportunists such as Imran Khan--a former Pakistani cricket star and opponent of General Musharraf, Pakistan's military dictator--for a show of force by unleashing a mob in quest of their own ambitions. These mob rampages--some 16 dead and many more injured, with considerable property damaged in Afghanistan and elsewhere as well--only confirm mob psychology as being readily inflammable and destructive. The more revealing aspect of such events is the role of those igniting mob passion in the name of Islam. The damages that result are always disproportionately higher than excuses which trigger them.... It is violence done by Muslims under whatever pretext, politics or religion, that continues to cause greater harm to Islam than any real or imagined insult hurled by non-Muslims towards Muslim faith or culture.... It is only if, and when, Muslims take responsibility for their own reprehensible conduct--the record is too long to list--that others might genuinely consider any merit in Muslim grievances arising from any alleged insult against Islam by non-Muslims. In the meantime, Muslims should remind themselves that those who greatly defame Islam's message of belief in a merciful God of all creation come from within their midst and, as the Koran instructs, upon them rests a mighty burden of repentance and warnings of eternal damnation."
The nationalist Ottawa Citizen remarked (5/21): "Under tremendous pressure from the U.S. government, Newsweek has retracted a story that said copies of the Koran were being desecrated at Guantanamo Bay. This is troubling on several fronts. The main concern is that neither the U.S. government nor Newsweek is denying that Korans were flushed down toilets at Guantanamo--only that Newsweek failed to properly support the allegation.... Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the Koran story, however, is that Newsweek's editors did not recognize the explosive nature of the material, or anticipate the international firestorm it would spark. Had they done so, they wouldn't have run the piece as a tiny brief, and would have verified their facts and sources more carefully. Still, this particular brand of cultural myopia has plagued the Bush administration's interaction with the Muslim world time and again.... We've come to expect cultural myopia from our insular and all-powerful American neighbour. But to see a major U.S. news publication similarly ignorant of Muslim sensitivities and potential flash points does not bode well for prospects of global understanding and world peace."
"Riots And Rage Won't Salvage Islam's Honour"
Irshad Manji commented in the liberal Toronto Star (5/19): "So Newsweek has retracted its report about the defiling of Islam's holy book, the Qur'an, by interrogators at Guantanamo Bay. But it's too late. Muslims everywhere are questioning America's respect for all religions. Journalists are wondering what standards allowed the charge to be printed without proof. Foreign policy analysts are asking how the riots incited by the charge will affect the war on terrorism. Still, at least one more question needs to be asked: Even if the Qur'an was mistreated, are violent riots justified?.... One can appreciate the Qur'an's inherent worth, as I do, while recognizing that it contains ambiguities, inconsistencies, outright contradictions--and the possibility of human editing. This is not simply a reform-minded Muslim speaking. This is Islamic tradition talking.... Many will insist that I'm undermining the dignity of Muslims by challenging a pillar of their identity. By urging my fellow Muslims to consider these questions, I'm showing faith in their capacity to be thoughtful and humane. I'm appealing to their heads rather than only their hearts. Ultimately, I'm fighting not Islam but the routinely low expectations of those who practise it.... When people believe that certain aspects of religion are off-limits to questions, it doesn't take much to incite violence--or to withhold forgiveness.... Muslims worldwide are scheduling demonstrations for the end of this month against those who insult Islam. They'll peacefully protest not just the possibility of the Qur'an's desecration at Guantanamo but the proven torture at Abu Ghraib as well as civil rights violations suffered by ordinary Muslims in the U.S. They have every right to condemn these injuries. Will they also speak out against the bloody, fiery riots that, in the name of honouring Islam, are killing an increasing number of Muslims and non-Muslims? It's a question worth asking."
BARBADOS: "Not Playing By The Rules"
The leading Nation averred (5/23): "The U.S is quick to accuse other countries of abuses but failed to realize that by not respecting the religious feelings of people in other countries regardless of how poor they are will bring a reaction that dispels fear of even weapons of ‘shock and awe’.... Despite Newsweek’s retraction of an article claiming desecration of the Koran most Arab voices remained skeptical, viewing the retraction as an attempt at damage control.... In the minds of many Iraqis and the Arabs the ongoing conflict is one of fighting the “infidels” and all who support them, rather than the bringers of democracy. It is an animosity that is grounded in religious beliefs and could be existing on all sides.”
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