"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Monday, May 23, 2005

What is racist these days?

Mark Steyn came up with his usual fair this week, criticising Newsweek for their mis-informed story which resulted in the yet more deaths in the Arab world. However, as per every other article Mr. Steyn manages to throw together, he omits several important facts. Firstly, "Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker said the magazine showed the report to Pentagon officials before it was published and made it clear that it would have agreed not to publish the item had they so requested" (4); secondly, their are many substantiated reports of coalition desecration of the Koran; thirdly, if reports such as this cause unnecessary anger in the the middle east, then the same criticism should be leveled against the Sun's latest offering 'Tyrants in his pants'.

What makes this piece sightly different from Steyn's usual attempts is that he forgets to disguise his own prejudice. He says, the "Muslim street" is not angered by the "arrest [of] their terrorists" and "[d]espite the best efforts to rouse the Muslim street, its attitude has remained: start the jihad without me...they're nuts but not that nuts." (1) Replace Muslim with Irish/Jewish/Catholic and try not to be offended. Unfortunately this is yet more evidence of the demonisation of Muslims.


"The International Committee of the Red Cross gathered "credible" reports that US personnel at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba abused the Koran, and raised the issue with the Pentagon several times, according to a Red Cross and US government officials in Washington." (3)

"Shocking and detailed accounts have emerged of how two Afghan prisoners were tortured to death by American interrogators and prison guards at Bagram air base, outside Kabul.

A 2,000-page report on an internal investigation by the US military leaked to The New York Times and published yesterday provides exhaustive detail on how the two were kept chained in excruciating positions and kicked to death." (2)

1. The Irish Times
2. The Independent
3. The Irish Times

["A former interrogator at Guantanamo, in an interview with the Times, confirmed the accounts of the hunger strikes, including the public expression of regret over the treatment of the Korans." (Neil A. Lewis and Eric Schmitt, "Inquiry Finds Abuses at Guantanamo Bay," New York Times, May 1, 2005, p. 35.)

The hunger strike and apology story is also confirmed by another former detainee, Shafiq Rasul, interviewed by the UK Guardian in 2003 (James Meek, "The People the Law Forgot," The Guardian, December 3, 2003, p. 1.) It was also confirmed by former prisoner Jamal al-Harith in an interview with the Daily Mirror (Rosa Prince and Gary Jones, "My Hell in Camp X-ray World Exclusive," Daily Mirror, March 12, 2004.)

"Ehsannullah, 29, said American soldiers who initially questioned him in Kandahar before shipping him to Guantanamo hit him and taunted him by dumping the Koran in a toilet. It was a very bad situation for us, said Ehsannullah, who comes from the home region of the Taliban leader, Mohammad Omar. We cried so much and shouted, Please do not do that to the Holy Koran. (Marc Kaufman and April Witt, "Out of Legal Limbo, Some Tell of Mistreatment," Washington Post, March 26, 2003.)

Also citing the toilet incident is testimony by Asif Iqbal, a former Guantanamo detainee who was released to British custody in March 2004 and subsequently freed without charge:

"The behaviour of the guards towards our religious practices as well as the Koran was also, in my view, designed to cause us as much distress as possible. They would kick the Koran, throw it into the toilet and generally disrespect it." (Center for Constitution Rights, Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, August 4, 2004.)

The claim that US troops at Bagram airbase prison in Afghanistan urinated on the Koran was made by former detainee Mohamed Mazouz, a Moroccan, as reported in the Moroccan newspaper, La Gazette du Maroc. (Abdelhak Najib, "Les Americains pissaient sur le Coran et abusaient de nous sexuellement", April 11, 2005). An English translation is available on the Cage Prisoners web site.

Tarek Derghoul, another of the British detainees, similarly cites instances of Koran desecration in an interview with Cageprisoners.com.

Desecration of the Koran was also mentioned by former Guantanamo detainee Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost and reported by the BBC in early May 2005. (Haroon Rashid, "Ex-inmates Share Guantanamo Ordeal," May 2, 2005.)]

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