03.04.2012 _____________________

” …; Our attempts to democratize those corrupt savages are rewarded by the “honor killing” of several innocent GIs in retaliation for the burning of some Qurans by some misguided soldiers elsewhere in that Godforsaken place. The natives there have always been good at uniting in warfare against intruders, but if we get out, the tribal hatreds will almost certainly re-emerge and they’ll revert to killing each other…;”

Those words recently appeared on the Portsmouth Herald letters page. Written, presumably, from the warm, well-lighted shelter of a Seacoast home, perhaps with a fire in the fireplace, we take for granted our privileges and comforts — water, heat, health care, computers, the freedoms of discourse and dissent, and of the ballot box.

Words roll right off our tongues, get processed and appear on a printed page. Imagine the freedom to punch a keyboard, “Send,” or affix a stamp to an envelope addressed to the Editor, Portsmouth Herald, Portsmouth NH, and know it will get there, and be read.

I love this freedom, even when I oppose the sentiments expressed by some writers. I love going to my inbox. Letters attacking Islam, or “The Other” or me, or my column, are not uncommon, and I read them all. I think everyone, inspired either by intellect or ignorance, inspired by love or hate, should have their say.

This published letter was different, and I am thankful for it. It reflected not only the author’s provincialism and predilections but reflected America’s ignorance over the Qur’an burnings in Afghanistan and the subsequent rioting and violence that tragically took the American and Afghan lives.

“Corrupt savages… “, “Godforsaken place… “, “… The burning of some Qurans… ”

Remember the outrage in America over “Piss Christ,” a 1987 photograph by Andres Serrano that depicted a plastic crucifix immersed in urine?

Remember the attempts by some Americans to circumvent the First Amendment by trying to get a Constitutional Amendment against flag burning?

Remember this week’s attempts by some American politicians to circumvent the protections of the Affordable Care Act by trying to attach the Blunt Amendment to a highway bill.

Be careful how we judge.

“He it is who has bestowed upon thee from on high this divine writ, containing messages that are clear in and by themselves — and these are the essence of the divine writ — as well as others that are allegorical. Now those whose hearts are given to swerving from the truth go after that part of the divine writ which has been expressed in allegory, seeking out [what is bound to create] confusion, and seeking [to arrive at] its final meaning [in an arbitrary manner]; but none save God knows its final meaning. Hence, those who are deeply rooted in knowledge say: “We believe in it; the whole [of the divine writ] is from our Sustainer — albeit none takes this to heart save those who are endowed with insight. Qur’an 3:7

Read Carefully:

The Qur’an is to Muslims as Jesus is to Christians. As Jesus is the Sacred Presence, the Prophet Muhammad delivered the Sacred Presence to man.

It is the Sacred Presence — it is not just a book: It is the Word of God.

Handle it with the same care you would the Torah. Venerate it as you do Jesus.

When Sacred Scripture is disposed of, indeed, even when disposing of a well-worn American flag, there are protocols to follow. Burning is acceptable — when done with respect, not by burning in a dumpster, or mixing with trash.

Treat all Scripture with reverence and respect. As Rabbi Hillel said, “What is hateful to thee, do not unto thy fellowman.”

Consider America’s recent history in Afghanistan. Through surrogates, weaponry and tactical training was provided to the Afghan resistance opposing Soviet occupation. After nine years the Soviets withdrew, leaving behind a desolate, impoverished, war-scarred country.

In the resultant void America ignored Afghanistan and gave little or no assistance to its healing or rebuilding. It became a failed-state, ruled by the Taliban and enabling Al-Qaeda to move into its voids.

In 2001, the United States attacked Afghanistan, justly using its might to go after Al-Qaeda and the 9/11 perpetrators.

I supported that war, and sadly watched as America lost its focus in its aftermath.

Osama escaped from Tora-Bora and fled into Pakistan. Blinded by NeoCon aspirations, President Bush took his eyes off Afghanistan and went into Iraq. The Afghans, most of whom welcomed the elimination of Al-Qaeda, and thankful for being released from Taliban oppression, were left to their own inadequate devices.

Finally, when the United States recommitted itself to Afghanistan, it was too late. U.S. and NATO forces were not designed to do nation-building, and the Afghans no longer saw America as a savior but as an occupier. The new American-led commitment to stabilize Afghanistan was heavy on technology, light on tact and nuance. Drone attacks, often resulted in civilian “collateral damage,” scarred landscapes and bitter memories.

Today, Afghans are powerless, humiliated and angry. They know about Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, extraordinary renditions, water-boarding and indefinite detention.

They know fear and anger.

When Americans decide to protest something, they have choices. They can use the ballot box. They can use economic pressure, boycotts, information campaigns, Twitter, Facebook, recalls, OccupyWallStreet, and even write letters to the editor, no matter how ignorant or angry. We always find room for our voices.

When Afghans want to protest there are few choices. Humiliated, impoverished, illiterate, unemployed and exploited by both the occupiers and their own governments, they are easy prey for local rabble-rousers to exploit their ignorance and get them to riot in the streets.

Perhaps, they may think, they’ll get lucky and get shot, killed, and find a path to Heaven.

Perhaps, they may think, that amidst the sacred Presence, that away from all the suffering they experience on this earth, they may find peace.

This column appeared originally in the Portsmouth Herald.