With so many U.S. troops still serving in Afghanistan, it is important for everyone to understand the cultural differences between the two countries.
I had a WWII veteran ask me why U.S. Forces didn’t explain that in the U.S. burning is an accepted way of disposing of a damaged U.S. flag and it’s not a sign of disrespect.But that’s still an American tradition that is not acceptable for a damaged Koran.
Disposing of a Damaged Koran
The New York Times article, “Chain of Avoidable Errors Cited in Koran Burning,” describes two accepted ways to handle an old or damaged Koran:
- Wrap it in a clean cloth and bury it in holy ground where people don’t walk.
- Wrap it and place it in the sea or river or flowing water.
Steps that Led to the Burning
The Times article is worth a read to better understand the several decisions and events that led to the burning and the missed opportunities that could have stopped the event before it started.
- Suspicion that detainees were passing notes, plotting by writing in the margins of library books.
- Two Afghan-American interpreters given the task to sort out all library books with handwriting deemed a security risk.
- 1,652 books are pulled, set aside including some Korans, religious texts
- Deemed “sensitive” material, there’s too much to store, so, it’s decided to burn the material. But, established procedures including holding onto the materials for a while were not followed.
- Afghan soldiers who saw the religious books piled in boxes notified their commander who went to his U.S. counterpart, but the truck had left for the incinerator before they could investigate.
- An Afghan laborer at the incinerator saw the books as they were being loaded into the incinerator and sounded the alarm.
The Times reports that the Koran burning incident is being investigated by a joint commission of U.S. and Afghan military officers, a formal United States military inquiry and the Ulema Council, a group of Afghan religious leaders.