- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 21, 2005

Newsweek reported military confirmation of a U.S. interrogator at Guantanamo Bay flushing a Koran down a toilet, and Muslims demonstrated worldwide. In Afghanistan, the fury and chaos took 17 lives.

Three years ago in Pakistan, Islamic fascists aiming to destroy Western civilization captured a cultivated, fair-minded, very intelligent Wall Street Journal reporter, tormented him, cut off his head and issued a video of the proceedings titled, “The Slaughter of the Spy-Journalist, the Jew Daniel Pearl.”

There were no violent demonstrations in the West leading to deaths. Consternation from Muslims was hard to detect.

Because of the Newsweek story, which was in error and has since been retracted, governments in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bangladesh and Malaysia issued condemnatory statements. The supposed action of a single U.S. representative desecrating a copy of the Muslim holy book had become a major international incident, further threatening U.S. standing in a large part of the world. U.S. officials insisted in the loudest possible voice we respect the Koran.

When an enthusiastic Fallujah mob was filmed beating and dismembering the burned bodies of four ambushed American civilians — and hanging two of the mutilated corpses on a bridge over the Euphrates — there was no reaction among Western governments anywhere comparable to that of Saudi Arabia and friends to a false report. This desecration of the bodies of brave, noncombatant, humane men trying to serve a war-torn nation’s needs did not rise to an international incident.

After the single sentence of the short Newsweek item was drawn to the attention of the Arab world by Muslims with tyrannical ambitions, Islamic clerics in Afghanistan announced they were considering a holy war against the United States. Abusing the Koran is punishable by death, observers noted.

In the United States, after 28-year-old American Marla Ruzicka was killed in Iraq by insurgent bombers attacking nongovernmental volunteers trying to make life better for Iraqis, there was an outpouring of grief from family and friends. The press called her “an angel of mercy,” and the beautiful young woman had fought fiercely to help Iraqi war victims and won the hearts of military leaders and U.S. politicians. But her tragic death led to no calls by anyone for acts of revenge.

The question about mistreating the Koran has largely been addressed as a matter of media irresponsibility. But as some writers have observed, it points to something else as well — the contrast between the West and the fanatical element within Islam that threatens our Western civilization. This is a throwback to a Middle Age-mentality or something more primitive, that might someday equip itself with weapons of mass destruction and visit calamity on us far exceeding anything experienced in the September 11, 2001, attacks.

A friend of mine, Ross Kaminsky, has noted in a letter to a newspaper that it is unimaginable that an American cleric, even a religiously radical one, would call for killing someone who desecrated the Bible. Many of us cringe at the burning of the American flag, but would not call for war because of it.

In fact, U.S. political leadership reacted little to a series of unprovoked, Islamic-fascist terrorist incidents preceding September 11, 2001, thereby making that day’s horror likelier.

In the press and the government, we have castigated ourselves endlessly for the humiliation of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. But on Palestinian TV, a writer named Bruce Thornton reports, a Palestinian Authority employee speaks of the need to eliminate every Jew in the world. Where is the self-castigation for suicide bombings that take the lives of Israeli civilians?

We are now in a war in Iraq condemned by many Americans but almost certainly necessary if we are to protect ourselves. Our enemy demonstrates barbarity by beheadings and the daily massacre of fellow Muslims, many of them children, and has once again displayed its nature by the violent mob reaction and clerical hysteria to a false story about the Koran.

Jay Ambrose is former Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard News Service.

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