Friday, March 16, 2012

To Muslims...religion is much higher a concern than civilian or human casualties..."

He said it.

From the New York Times March 14 by Rod Nordland

In Reactions to Two Incidents, a U.S.-Afghan Disconnect

KABUL, Afghanistan — The mullah was astounded and a little angered to be asked why the accidental burning of Korans last month could provoke violence nationwide, while an intentional mass mass murder that included nine children last Sunday did not.

“How can you compare the dishonoring of the Holy Koran with the martyrdom of innocent civilians?” said an incredulous Mullah Khaliq Dad, a member of the council of religious leaders who investigated the Koran burnings. “The whole goal of our life is religion.”

That many Americans are just as surprised that what appears to be the massacre of 16 people at the hands of an American soldier has not led to mass protests or revenge killings speaks volumes about a fundamental disconnect with their Afghan partners, one that has undermined a longstanding objective to win the hearts and minds of the population. After more than 10 years, many deaths and billions of dollars invested, Americans still fail to grasp the Afghans’ basic values. Faith is paramount and a death can be compensated with blood money.

“To Muslims, and especially to Afghans, religion is much higher a concern than civilian or human casualties,” said Hafez Abdul Qayoom, a member of Afghanistan’s highest clerical body, the Ulema Council. “When something happens to their religion, they are much more sensitive and have much stronger reaction to it.”

The attack by a still unidentified United States Army soldier near his base in the Panjwai district, in southern Kandahar Province, has certainly infuriated Afghans and added to already strained relations. But the anger has been more polemical than violent — at least so far.

“We have to hold our breath here — people are jumping too fast on this idea that Afghans don’t care about 16 people being killed, compared to, say, the Koran-burning episode,” said Haseeb Humayoon, who has studied the phenomenon of mass protests.

There have been delayed reactions to past foreign offenses, like when a Florida evangelist deliberately destroyed a Koran last year. And Friday Prayers, which often touch off mass protests, have yet to take place this week. Still, the contrast with the reaction to the Feb. 20 Koran burnings is striking. Within a day of the burnings, violent protests outside NATO bases broke out, and apologies from top officials did little to stem two weeks of violence that took at least 29 lives.

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