"A wave of anti-American demonstrations swept the Islamic world from the Gaza Strip to the Java Sea," killing at least nine people Friday, the London Times reported. -- The cause was a single sentence in a one-paragraph story in Newsweek International, which reads: "Among the previously unreported cases [of abuse at Guantanamo], sources tell NEWSWEEK: interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, placed Qur'ans on toilets and, in at least one case, flushed a holy book down the toilet." -- With "16 people . . . killed and 100 injured," this was "the most serious public display of anger against the U.S. in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001," the Independent (UK) reported. -- A report in Libération (Paris), translated below, remarked that "It's in the Pashtun city of Jalalabad, near the Pakistani border, that the most violent clashes occurred Wednesday, when 10,000 demonstrators attacked U.N. agencies, NGOs, and the Pakistani consulate, which was burned. . . . In that province, demonstrations that at first were incited by students were picked up by small well-organized militant groups that reconstituted themselves for the occasion. The harsh eradication campaign waged this year against poppy plantations, which has hit the peasantry hard, is one of the sources of discontent that has made this region especially volatile." ...
NEWSWEEK SPARKS GLOBAL RIOT WITH ONE PARAGRAPH ON KORAN
By Catherine Philp
** Claim that the Holy book was defiled by US guards at Guantanamo Bay has incensed Muslims **
May 14, 2005
[GRAPHIC: Map of anti-American demonstrations]
At least nine people were killed yesterday as a wave of anti-American demonstrations swept the Islamic world from the Gaza Strip to the Java Sea, sparked by a single paragraph in a magazine alleging that U.S. military interrogators had desecrated the Koran.
As Washington scrambled to calm the outrage, Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State, promised an inquiry and punishment for any proven offenders. But at Friday prayers in the Muslim world many preachers demanded vengeance and afterwards thousands took to the streets, burning American flags.
Although the original report in Newsweek was small, it was re-broadcast by television networks such as al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya and in Pakistan it was quoted by Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician, at a press conference. He said it would strengthen the impression that Americas War on Terror was against Muslims.
The most violent protests were in Afghanistan, where the death toll in clashes between demonstrators and security forces reached fourteen after a third day of rioting. Three people were killed and twenty-two injured near Faizabad, in Badakhshan province, when a thousand rioters burnt down aid agencies offices.
Worshippers in Pakistan poured on to the streets after prayers, chanting Death to America, and burning American flags. In Jakarta, hundreds gathered noisily at a mosque. Thousands marched through the streets of a Palestinian refugee camp in Gaza.
The unrest began this week after Newsweek published an allegation that American military interrogators had desecrated the Islamic holy book in an effort to rattle detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The report said that they had placed the Koran on the lavatory inside inmates cells and had in at least one case, flushed a holy book down the toilet.
The report was condemned by the Pakistani Government, and Khurshid Kasuri, the Foreign Minister, demanded an apology and severe punishment for any soldier found guilty. Hardline Islamic groups said that they would hold protests but before that could happen violent protests erupted in Afghanistan.
Significantly, Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. regional ally which is usually slow in speaking out, became the first Arab state to comment officially yesterday, expressing deep indignation and calling for a quick investigation and for the perpetrators to be punished.
The report was denounced initially by the U.S. chargé daffaires in Kabul and then by the Pentagon and the State Department. As unrest gathered pace, Dr. Rice issued an appeal: I want to speak directly to Muslims in America and throughout the world. Disrespect for the Holy Koran is not now, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be, tolerated by the United States. Disrespect for the Holy Koran is abhorrent to us all.
There have been recent allegations about disrespect for the Holy Koran by interrogators at Guantanamo Bay and that has deeply offended many people. Our military authorities are investigating these allegations fully. If they are proven true, we will take appropriate action.
Guaranteeing religious rights is of great personal importance to the President and to me. During the past few days, we have heard from our Muslim friends around the world about their concerns on this matter. We understand and we share their concerns.
Sadly, some people have lost their lives in violent demonstrations. I am asking that all our friends around the world reject incitement to violence by those who would mischaracterise our intentions.
The riots in Afghanistan were the worst displays of anti-U.S. sentiment since the fall of the Taleban in 2002. Four protesters were shot dead on the second day of demonstrations in Jalalabad, a stronghold of the rebel commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyer, and at least three others died in protests the next day. Aid offices were attacked in the capital, Kabul, and more people died yesterday when protests spread to Ghazni and Badakhshan.
Thousands of Muslims gathered in Pakistans main cities yesterday after sermons in mosques denouncing the desecration, and effigies of President Bush and of their leader, President Musharraf, were burnt.
Hardliners also led the protest in Gaza, where Hamas organized a march of thousands of Palestinians through the Jabalya refugee camp yesterday. The Holy Koran was defiled by the dirtiest of hands, by American hands, a protester shouted as others burnt American and Israeli flags.
The Muslim Council of Britain said that the Bush Administration had to take responsibility for the anti-Muslim climate they have been fostering through their actions; Guantanamo Bay itself is a scandal of the highest order.
May 4 -- Newsweek report claims Gauntanamo interrogators descecrated the Koran
May 6 -- Imran Khan demands U.S. apology
May 7 -- Pakistan foreign ministry expresses dismay at report
May 10 -- 2,000 students demonstrate in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. State Department condemns desecration if true and says Pentagon has started investigation
May 11 -- Four killed in Afghanistan after police open fire on demonstrators. Government and aid agency offices in Kabul attacked
May 12 -- Three more die in Afghan demonstrations. Hundreds march in major Pakistan cities. Saudi Arabia calls on U.S. to investigate claims. Condoleezza Rice urges end to violence and says report is being investigated
May 13 -- More unrest in Afghanistan. Protests spread to Indonesia and Gaza
--Additional reporting by Zahid Hussain in Islamabad, Michael Theodolou in Nicosia and Richard Beeston in Baghdad
U.S. TOLD TO ACT AS DESECRATION REPORTS INFLAME AFGHAN RIOTS
By Justin Huggler
May 14, 2005
At least 16 people were killed and 100 injured as violent protests spread across Afghanistan after reports that U.S. interrogators in Guantanamo Bay had desecrated copies of the Koran.
In neighboring Pakistan, Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri demanded that the U.S. punish those responsible and take "much stronger action" than it did over the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq.
Yesterday's protests represent the most serious public display of anger against the U.S. in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. The unrest comes at a dangerous time, when the level of violence has started to rise again, and there are signs that the Taliban are regrouping.
The violence follows a report in Newsweek's 9 May edition that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had defiled copies of the Koran by placing them on toilets -- and in one case flushing a copy down a toilet -- in order to subject the detainees to psychological pressure.
Mr. Kasuri said: "Even the worst enemy of the U.S. could not harm the image of the United States in the Muslim world as effectively as they've done if this is correct." Desecrating the Koran is regarded as blasphemy in Islam. But part of the reason the report has provoked such an emotional reaction in Afghanistan, and to a lesser extent in Pakistan, is that the majority of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay are Afghans and Pakistani Taliban volunteers rounded up during the 2001 war in Afghanistan.
There has long been deep concern in Afghanistan and Pakistan over their treatment at the hands of U.S. interrogators, especially since the scale of the abuse at Abu Ghraib in Iraq was revealed. The reports of desecration of the Koran by Americans at Guantanamo have touched a raw nerve.
It comes as the Taliban resumed their underground radio broadcasts. The level of violence is also noticeably rising -- recent battles between U.S. troops and Taliban fighters in the south left more than 70 dead. Even the capital, Kabul, which has generally been immune to the worst violence, has been affected, with a bomb attack on an internet cafe.
There have been protests in Pakistan as well, but they have been more muted. On a visit to Australia, Mr. Kasuri said: "It's abominable the reports that emanated from Guantanamo Bay. It's unthinkable that someone could be so debased, inhuman, depraved as to provoke the feelings of not just those people there but all over the Muslim world."
"I have no doubt that the entire Muslim world is outraged. So I urge the U.S. administration to take very strong action against the culprits, in order to send a message, particularly about prison abuses.
"I hope this time they take a much stronger action because the indignation and rage is universal."
[Translated from Libération (Paris)]
GUANTANAMO: THE KORAN OF FURY
By Étranger Service & Jean-Luc Allouche
** The reported desecration of the holy book on the American base is inflaming the Muslim world. **
May 14, 2005
ISLAMABAD & JERUSALEM -- Even before being confirmed, the reported desecration of the Koran on the American base at Guantanamo is in the process of igniting the Arab-Muslim world. Afghanistan, where the scandal is crystallizing a latent discontent among the population since the 2001 American invasion, has seen the most violent demonstrations. They have followed one after another since Tuesday and have already taken 14 lives, half of them on Friday alone; about a hundred have been wounded. At first confined to the southeastern part of the country, demonstrations have so far occurred in 10 out of 34 provinces.
On Friday, a day of prayer, the mullahs fanned the flames of outrage by delivering virulently anti-American sermons. Extremely aggressive demonstrations occurred as people left mosques. Four persons died and about twenty others were wounded in clashes with police in the southern provinces. In the north of the country, three demonstrators died and about twenty others were wounded. After the sack and torching of many NGOs in Faizabad, expatriates have been evacuated. In Kabul, on the other hand, about fifty persons demonstrated peacefully.
It's in the Pashtun city of Jalalabad, near the Pakistani border, that the most violent clashes occurred Wednesday when 10,000 demonstrators attacked U.N. agencies, NGOs, and the Pakistani consulate, which was burned. On Thursday, 126 expatriates, including 7 French, were evacuated by plane to Kabul. In that province, demonstrations that at first were incited by students were picked up by small well-organized militant groups which reconstituted themselves for the occasion. The harsh eradication campaign waged this year against poppy plantations, which has hit the peasantry hard, is one of the sources of discontent that has made this region especially volatile.
In Pakistan, the agitation also culminated after Friday prayers, but no notable incident was reported. Demonstrations occurred principally in the big cities, gathering only a few hundred people each time, to cries of "Death to America" and slogans hostile to President Musharraf, an ally of the United States in "the war against terrorism." The extremist religious party of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), which called for a demonstration and demanded that the American ambassador be expelled if Washington did not apologize to Muslims, was not, it seems, very successful. In a Peshawar refugee camp, however, 6,000 Afghans marched.
Elsewhere in Asia, hundreds of radical Islamists gathered peacefully in a Jakarta mosque to denounce the "insult committed by American soldiers, not only to the Holy Koran but to all Muslims."
'THE DIRTIEST HANDS'
The largest demonstrations in the Arab world took place in the Palestinian territories. Nearly 2,000 persons demonstrated in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza against "the desecration of the Koran by the dirtiest hands, those of the Americans." Brandishing copies of the holy book and green Hamas flags, the demonstrators wanted to express "their anger at the desecration of the Koran by the enemies of God at Guantanamo, just the way the Zionist enemies do in occupation prisons," according to Nizar Rayan, one of the leaders of the Islamist organization. In Hebron, hundreds of the faithful marched after prayers to the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
Several organizations and governments have spoken out about the reported desecration. Hezbollah expressed its anger in a communiqué issued in Beirut: the Lebanese Shiite party emphasized that "the horrible American act constitutes an outrage against the feelings of all Muslims" and called for a "strong reaction." In Iraq, Shiite and Sunni imams alike protested energetically. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood demanded public excuses from Washington. Several countries have officially reacted. Saudi Arabia demanded a "rapid" investigation. Libya denounced "irresponsible and immoral acts," judging that they were likely to feed terrorism. The Indonesian minister of foreign affairs demanded "an investigation," saying that if the alleged acts were verified they would be "immoral." All this will not improve the image of the United States in a region where it is already deplorable.
Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447-0003
Home page: http://www.plu.edu/~jensenmk/