Muslim world turned into a tinderbox

Muslim world turned into a tinderbox

Haroon Siddiqui says US is fooling no one over use of Qur’an as instrument of torture

Toronto Star, 22 May 2005

Iraq. Uzbekistan. The Qur’an. These issues in the news expose American double standards, hypocrisy and outright lies. They also help explain how George W. Bush has turned the Muslim world into a tinderbox.

It is his policies, not a Newsweek item on the desecration of the holy book at Guantánamo Bay, that sparked the anti-U.S. protests that killed 17 people. What the magazine reported, albeit sloppily, is not new.

Four Britons, one Moroccan, one Kuwaiti and at least one Afghan released from the American base last year have said, separately, that the Qur’an was routinely stomped upon, ripped apart and strewn about toilets. They spoke of three hunger strikes in protest.

The International Red Cross has confirmed it repeatedly told the Pentagon, starting in 2002, that detainees were complaining of Americans using the Qur’an as a tool of torture.

Whom are Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and others fooling, other than their pliant half of the American electorate, with phony pronouncements about how America would never tolerate such criminality?

The Qur’an episodes are but one part of a broad offensive of violating the religious sensibilities of Muslims in Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Some had pork or alcohol forced down their throats; they had tape placed over their mouths for reciting the Qur’an; many Muslims were forced to be naked in front of each other, members of the opposite sex and sometimes their own families,” said The Times of London.

Physicians for Human Rights also cited forced nudity, masturbation and other transgressions of religious and cultural norms.

The perversions recorded in the infamous Abu Ghraib photos, for which Lynndie England and eight others are being prosecuted, were not the work of an isolated few but part of a widespread program to break down the inmates. Yet here is the administration asking Newsweek to “repair the damage done by its reporting.”

Who will fix the destruction unleashed by the administration when it sent the U.S. war machine abroad; killed, maimed or uprooted hundreds of thousands; violated the property, privacy, dignity and religious values of thousands picked up at random, including women and children; and psychologically tortured inmates and shipped others for physical torture to Egypt, Syria, Uzbekistan and other regimes it is in cahoots with?

It was no surprise, then, that Washington’s initial response to the killings in Uzbekistan was to join Russia and China in soft-pedalling the biggest state crime in Asia since Tiananmen Square. It echoed Uzbek tyrant Islam Karimov who dismissed the popular uprising against his reign of terror as the agitation of “Islamic terrorists.”

Karimov is Bush’s man. For providing a military base, not just for the war in Afghanistan but as the last outpost of an oil-rich region, he got $500 million. And a licence to brand opponents as Muslim militants. So, even as Bush hails democracy in Georgia, Ukraine and the Baltics, he’s mute on Uzbekistan. (But why is Canada?)

Meanwhile, Iraq – the main theatre of American endeavour – is beginning to look like Algeria in the 1990s.

That was a time of a brutal civil war, triggered by the cancellation of elections there. Civilians were routinely slaughtered and the military regime sat back and stopped counting the dead. The American liberators of Iraq never started the count. But they have presided over the same number of dead, as did the junta in Algiers: about 100,000.

As the insurgency gets bloodier, the American response has been to take maximum steps to minimize their own casualties and let the Iraqis take most of the hits from the terrorists. And to double up the propaganda.

The July 1 handover of power to the Iraqis was to be the turning point to peace. Then the fall assault on Falluja, the second one in eight months, was going to do it. Then it was the Jan. 30 election. Then the formation of the new government.

In reality, the insurgency kept escalating and is worse than at any time. And the Americans have no clue how to contain it. When there’s a lull in fighting, they say the rebels are in retreat. When the going gets bloodier, they say the rebels cannot possibly keep it up.

Iraq may or may not be another Vietnam. But can anyone recall a time when an American president made such a mess on so many fronts?