MONAWAR: Taliban’s ‘Burn a Koran Day’

Extremists torch everything - even their own holy book

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I have always said that the Taliban are a bunch of hypocrites and unsophisticated individuals that used Islam as an ideology to promote a fabricated cause, attract like-minded criminals and inflame the emotions of innocent civilians. Furthermore, the Taliban have miserably failed to demonstrate that they are good for a progressive, democratic Afghanistan. Certainly, my notion of partiality is questionable since I have a clear aversion for the Taliban and what they stand for - but perhaps my prejudice is justified.

On July 12, an American Christian pastor from a small congregation in Gainesville, Fla., Terry Jones, fired off a series of messages on Twitter disparaging Islam as repressive and lambasting President Obama’s support for a new Kenyan constitution that could permit abortion and codify Islamic law. His final message or tweet for the day read: “9/11/2010 International Burn a Koran Day.”

Mr. Jones fatwabegan a campaign that quickly went viral and caught the attention of groups including the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the State Department. Even Gen. David H. Petraeus, the current commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, warned that the images of burning Korans could endanger U.S. troops. Mr. Jones‘ act precipitated anger among Muslims, ending in deadly riots in Afghanistan, threats from jihadists and pleas from world leaders that he call off his provocative stunt.

In Afghanistan, an imam convened a demonstration in which protesters burned an effigy of Mr. Jones and chanted, “Death to America.” Some threw stones at a passing U.S. military convoy, but organizers quickly reined them in. Similar protests happened across the country later that week.

In Pakistan, where at that time national attention was focused on devastating floods and deadly bombings, this issue surged to the forefront. About 200 lawyers in the central city of Multan burned a U.S. flag in a protest of the plan, and several Pakistani officials and religious leaders lined up to denounce it.

Mr. Jones finally overcame his sophomoric slump and canceled his “Burn a Koran Day” stunt. You definitely cannot blame Mr. Jones, who had little knowledge of Islam and, according to a court deposition obtained by CBS News, he hardly knew any Muslims.

Please forgive my inanity, but here is a group of extremists, the Taliban, who have made a living out of so-called “defending” Islam. But in reality, they have hijacked this peaceful religion, created a fictional cause and become slaves to Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) as well as to Saudi Wahhabi lunatics, killed thousands of innocent Afghan and Pakistani civilians and intimidated women and children. To top off all these unabashed atrocities, the Taliban burned the Holy Koran. The sham defenders of Islam burned the sacred book that they claim to defend.

Recently, a group of Taliban descended upon the province of Laghman, Afghanistan, to intimidate feeble villagers and to carry out their Pakistani masters’ order and perform what they do best: burn schools. As these thugs approached to burn a newly built school, the school headmaster, risking his life, warned the Taliban that there were at least 400 copies of the Holy Koran in the school and if they burn the school they will, obviously, burn the Holy Koran. The Taliban commander laughed off the warning. So up in flames went the newly built school and all the copies of the Holy Koran. Nangyalai Seddiqi, the district governor, told CNN that the school was built by an American provincial reconstruction team.

This story has received excellent coverage throughout the country from one of Afghanistan’s leading media groups, ToloTV, which clearly showed half-burned copies of the Holy Koran. I am sure it was broadcast in Pakistan and, perhaps, throughout the Muslim world. Nonetheless, I have yet to see one condemnation from the imams in Afghanistan, from the 200 lawyers in Pakistan or from any Muslim throughout the world. Where is the Muslim world’s outcry?

The deceitful world of extremists continues to unveil itself - from an arrogant supreme leader in Iran to a gluttonous Saudi king. Yet there is a lesson for all of us in this, especially those who would like to see peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and an end to the 32-year conflict. While, as freedom-loving citizens of the world, we would like to see a peaceful settlement to end the war in Afghanistan, it is quite necessary to factor in the imponderable wickedness of the Taliban. Negotiating with a group that has no respect for its own religious law raises a serious red flag and tilts one’s judgment that the conflict, probably, will recur after a negotiated settlement.

Wahid Monawar is a former chief of staff of the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a former permanent representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations in Vienna, Austria.

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