Angry Afghans rally over burnt Qur'an

2012-02-21 19:43

Kabul - More than 2 000 angry Afghans protested outside an American air base on Tuesday after they learned that copies of the Qur'an, the Muslim holy book, were burned in a pile of garbage at a sprawling US military base north of Kabul.

"Die, die, foreigners!" the demonstrators shouted. Some fired rifles into the air. Others threw rocks at the gate of the base and set tires ablaze.

The burning of the Qur'an and other religious books was unintentional, said John Allen, the top commander of American and Nato forces in Afghanistan.

The incident stoked anti-foreign sentiment that already is on the rise after a decade of war in Afghanistan and fuelled the arguments of Afghans who claim foreign troops are not respectful of their culture or Islamic religion.

Early on Tuesday, as word of the incident spread, about 100 demonstrators gathered outside the sprawling Bagram Air Field in Parwan province. As the crowd grew, so did the outrage.

One protester, Mohammad Hakim, said if US forces can't bring peace to Afghanistan, they should go home.

"They should leave Afghanistan rather than disrespecting our religion, our faith," Hakim said. "They have to leave and if next time they disrespect our religion, we will defend our holy Qur'an, religion and faith until the last drop of blood has left in our body."

Ahmad Zaki Zahed, chief of the provincial council, said US military officials took him to a burn pit on the base where 60 to 70 books, including Qur'an, were recovered. The books were used by detainees once incarcerated at the base, he said.

"Some were all burned. Some were half-burned," Zahed said, adding that he did not know exactly how many Qur'ans had been burned.

Stupid mistake

Zahed said five Afghans working at the pit told him that the religious books were in the garbage that two soldiers with the US-led coalition transported to the pit in a truck late on Monday night. When they realised the books were in the trash, the labourers quickly worked to recover them, he said.

"The labourers there showed me how their fingers were burned when they took the books out of the fire," he said.

In a statement, Allen said he had ordered an investigation and offered his apologies to the president and people of Afghanistan. He thanked local Afghan workers "who helped us identify the error, and who worked with us to immediately take corrective action".

"We are thoroughly investigating the incident and are taking steps to ensure this does not ever happen again," Allen said. "I assure you, I promise you, this was not intentional in any way."

Abdul Jalil Rahimi, the commander of a military co-ordination office in the province, said he and other officials met with protesters, tribal elders and clerics to try to calm their emotional response. "The protesters were very angry and didn't want to end their protest," he said.

Later, however, the protesters ended the rally and said they would send 20 representatives from the group to Kabul to talk with Afghan parliamentarians and demanded a meeting with President Hamid Karzai, Rahimi said.

The governor's office in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan called the incident a "shameful move by some stupid individuals".

Zia Ul Rahman, deputy provincial police chief, said between 2 000 and 2 500 protesters demonstrated at the base.

"The people are very angry. The mood is very negative," Rahman said while the rally was going on. "Some are firing hunting guns in the air, but there have been no casualties."

Four beheaded

Police said a similar protest on Tuesday just east of Kabul ended peacefully.

In April 2011, Afghans protesting the burning of a Qur'an by a Florida pastor turned deadly when gunmen in the crowd stormed a UN compound in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif and killed three staffers and four Nepalese guards.

Separately, officials in Helmand province in the south said insurgents beheaded four people on Sunday night in Washer district on the charge that they were spies.

"The militants told the local people that they were guilty because they were carrying satellite phones," provincial spokesperson Daoud Ahmadi said.

Taliban spokesperson Qari Yousef Ahmadi said that the militant group was not involved in the killings.

Also in the south, a Nato service member died on Tuesday as a result of a non-battle related injury. The US led coalition gave no further details about the death.

So far this year, 44 Nato service members have been killed in Afghanistan.

  • Paul - 2012-02-21 20:23

    Just like Pakistan we could spend billions on this country and they will still hate us for being non muslim!

      cameronrh1 - 2012-02-21 20:41

      Exactly but these ME countries all know who to call when they need aid and money. (The west)

      Shaun - 2012-02-21 20:51

      Cameron nobody asked the Americans to occupy their country and nobody is forcing anybody to give aid. On the other hand I always thought helping people in need without seeking recognition or reward was a good thing? Hypocrite much sir? Perhaps the "aid" which the west is offering is not really that needed?

      rhamiid - 2012-02-21 21:07

      Hi Paul, as a muslim we taught not to hate people if they are not muslim. Please understand that the Afgaan people are still trying to rebuild their lives, and they seek progress rather than occupation. Just as us in SA we seek progress rather than occupation of a government since 94'. Burning the Quran whether intentional or not will only amplify the problem and create instability....your comment that islam hates non muslim is true if you follow the propoganda we see on TV, hear on news. I have too also tell you that hating people is not part of fundamental values as muslims if I could simply and respectfully say it is "live and let live". I dont intend this to be a paradigm shift in perception of Islam but perhaps to also let you see the other persons view........god bless!

      Fred - 2012-02-22 04:19

      I think it's important to differentiate between Muslim extremists and the truer Muslim religion.

      cowbwouy - 2012-02-22 07:20

      If some has a mental problem or an addiction you dont hate the person but that addiction or mental quality.But as a person do not attack someone's religion and beliefs and expect them to sit quiet in a corner smiling at you.

  • Charmaine - 2012-02-21 21:17

    Education ; Quran means Wisdom, Allah Means God, Islam means Peace, Muslim Means A Believer in One God. Quran reveals the Truth about God and the second coming of Jesus Christ, One can burn the Words of God or The holy books, but The Woed will endure forever. So, Let them burn the books of God, God's word and His Flame will never be put out. They claim that they are Muslims, but they are not all really believers.

      Jaba - 2012-02-21 22:44

      Islam does not mean peace. it means submission. thus all the violence.

      cowbwouy - 2012-02-22 07:23

      @ Jaba: Correct at the submission thing but the root word for Islam is Salama from the word salaam which means peace thats why all the peace.Get your facts right mate.

  • Diaan - 2012-02-22 03:06

    Wish I could give guys a planet of their own , or for that matter a plaet for each religion so that they can leave each other alone . I have come to the conclusion that as long as different religions have to share one planet there will never be peace

      cowbwouy - 2012-02-22 07:25

      @ Diaan: The problem is not the different religions but its us humans ; even atheists who dont have a religion have the same thing an same problem.

      Diaan - 2012-02-22 12:18

      Cowboy , I have never seen or heard of atheist that strap a suicide bomb jacket onto himself, held spanish type inquisitions , go on crusades ect . But what you say holds true ,a lot of killing has also been done in other names , look at South Africa, North Korea , Russia and Zim to name a few We are really a very sad spesies

  • Enlightened - 2012-02-23 17:38

    This had to happen. Troops from all over the world are being sent to these sh-t holesI to try and maintain some kind of law and order they can not maintain themselves. In return, those very same foreign troops get shot and tortured when caught. I'll tell you what. The West pulls out...completely.Then stop these animals from migrating to the west (heaven knows what for in the first place if allah has gifted them with such riches?)they can then carry on with tribal warfare, barring women from studying, removing their clitoris when they reach puberty, use stadiums as execution platforms and all thos other nicerties their little religion promotes. Where ever they migrate,And if it doesen't, why do they do it anyway and disobey? they are an absolute nuisance, they move to England, Holland, denmark, wherever and want to promote their religious rights. If I go to their countries, I am asked to obey the local laws and respecte their culture. I say; go home where you came from and be happy if you can not settle this side of the world and adapt to 21st century values.

      Fred - 2012-02-28 07:46

      I hear your frustration, but I for one could not just allow them to do those horrible things, especially to women.

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