Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

U.S. Soldier Shoots at Qur'an

The gravity with which religious texts are handled is on full display in this CNN article about an American soldier in Iraq who used a Qur'an for target practice and the wide-reaching political responses following the act:
A soldier used the Quran -- Islam's holy book -- for target practice, forcing the chief U.S. commander in Baghdad to issue a formal apology on Saturday.

Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad, apologized to leaders in Radhwaniya, in the western outskirts of Baghdad, for the staff sergeant who was a sniper section leader assigned to the headquarters of the 64th Armored Regiment. He also read a letter of apology by the shooter.

[. . .]

Copies of the pictures of the Quran obtained by CNN show multiple bullet holes and an expletive scrawled on one of its pages.

[. . .]

Sheikh Hamadi al-Qirtani, in a speech on behalf of all tribal sheiks of Radhwaniya, called the incident "aggression against the entire Islamic world."

The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq also condemned the shooter's actions and the U.S. military's belated acknowledgment of the incident.

[. . .]
The incident provides another example that a book is often understood as much more than merely its contents, and that to damage a book is to wage war on the ideas articulated within its pages and on the people who value those ideas.

1 comment:

Mike B said...

Sadly, in America, a land where religious freedom is proclaimed, religious tolerance has rarely been the norm. And to underscore the intensity of religious bigotry among "God-fearing" Americans, it often comes right down to celebratory desecration of anything seen as holy by people of differing faiths.

Within our own land, for example, Mormons were hunted, driven, and murdered, yet have remained loyal to the principles of our country. I have seen anti-Mormons tear apart and stomp upon the Book of Mormon right before the eyes of members of the LDS faith.

Does it surprise anyone that a backward idiot from the US would make such a stupid maneuver in Iraq with regard to the Qur'an, and threaten to undermine the progress and security of America and its troops?

Send the guy back home and hand him a Book of Mormon to rip apart, shoot, burn, urinate upon, etc. before a Mormon. That kind of behavior gets no coverage in the press here, and Mormons don't shoot back. Let him do it in the name of whatever being he calls God, and let him eventually answer to whatever true God there is someday.

If there is a God, that being will surely instruct this good American upon the fact that such behavior makes man a proud and haughty god unto himself, devoid of any reliance upon a higher power to which he humbly submits himself.

When a Mormon friend of mine took me to a musical performance being put on by his people I had the unsavory opportunity to personally witness the things of which I am speaking. It occurred right before one of their temples. My friend simply walked away. He didn't even address the behaviors of the people.

I, however, was shocked and enraged. I couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing. Unable to look away I stopped and asked the fellow what justified such behavior, and he attacked me with more radical religious insanity than I think I have ever heard in my life.

Somewhere during his spewing he asked me if I were a Christian. I responded by asking him if that is what he calls himself. He responded that he was indeed a Bible-loving saved Christian. I replied that I am certainly no Christian, nor will I ever be, for I am not and could not be what he is.

Mormons ... Muslims ... Jews ... Catholics ... I would venture a guess that their books, their piety, and their faiths couldn't possibly be any worse, as represented by their people, than what I have seen among many traditional Protestant Christians.

This man was no true "Christian" as an idyllic definition of the word would suggest. He was no American, as an idyllic representation of what we believe would require. And he was no true soldier, as a commitment to the interests of his leaders, to his oath, to the the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and to the safety and welfare of his fellow troops would demand.

He was and is a foolish individual, defended by fellow close-minded religious bigots, and justifiably condemned by those with greater vision and purpose.