Soldier Uses Koran for Target Practice

Front page of CNN: a U.S. soldier was caught using the Quran for target practice. Critics of the Iraq war and the occupation, I suppose, are meant to look at this incident as one more reason why it was all unjustified and needs to end asap.

Let’s be serious though. Specifically, this was a dumb, disrespectful thing to do, not to mention one harmful to the goals of the U.S. occupation. But statistically, it’s neither surprising nor notable that some young American men pull crude and silly stunts, especially given the tremendously stressful situation they’re in. And if you are in the position of having to achieve military goals with young American men, rather than robots, then this sort of thing is a known and generally inevitable cost of doing business. Add it to the long list of downsides to war and occupation, but don’t pretend that it’s particularly special to this war, this occupation, or this military.

And then there’s this:

Another military official kissed a Quran and presented is as “a humble gift” to the tribal leaders.

Assuming that this was a non-Muslim official acting in an official capacity, this seems to go too far in the other direction: respecting the fact that local Muslim believers think the Quran is sacred does not and should not require someone to participate or symbolically prostrate themselves to it. In some ways, that’s disrespectful in its own way: a causal kiss-and-make-up insincerity.

Also, while the middle of a war is probably not the time or the place where anyone wants to debate it, the story notes that what the soldier did is a crime, both in local law, and according to the U.S. forces’ commander, Jeffery Hammond. I can’t let that pass without pausing to note how absurd and unconscionable it is.

Finally, the story ends with a reaction from the Association of Muslim Scholars:

“As the Association of Muslim Scholars condemns this heinous crime against God’s holy book, the Constitution of this nation, a source of pride and dignity,” the groups statement said, “they condemned the silence by all those who are part of the occupation’s agenda and holds the occupation and the current government fully responsible for this violation and reminds everyone that God preserves his book and he [God] is a great avenger.” (emphasis added)

The first part of the bolded part is factually untrue, given this story. The second part is basically a threat of divine retribution. Both parts deserve little but scorn.

And besides, everyone knows that it’s Iron Man who is a great Avenger.

19 Responses to Soldier Uses Koran for Target Practice

  1. Abdul At-Tawwaab says:

    May Allah bestow His Blessings and Mercy upon those who seek Truth and Guidance

    Good evening,
    There is no justification for soldiers doing such thing to the Qur’an or any holy book. According to President Bush, we’re not over there fighting against Islam. We’re suppose to be fighting terror. While that in itself needs much clarification with the policies and antics of the current administration, the U.S military, it’s soldiers and all of its allies should at least abide by that and not condone such an act. That soldier does not need to be on the front lines. What is his aim? To kill and insult muslims and their religion? The quote of the Association of Muslim Scholars shouldn’t be scorned in my opinion. In fact the first part is true, the 1st ammendment on the bill of rights gives American Citizens freedom of religion. That soldier doing such a thing is a violation and threat to the freedom of all muslims in America. What is that shooting the Qur’an for target practice implying? Doesn’t the soldier know there are muslims in America, in the military even?
    The second part was not a threat but a fact. God doesn’t like ugly. But if you do not believe,then you believe what you believe and I’ll believe what I’ll believe.

    May Allah bestow His Mercy and Blessings on those who seek Truth and Guidance

  2. Bad says:

    Just to be clear, I’m not endorsing what the soldier did as a smart or good thing. It’s not something I would have done, and it’s not something I praise in any way shape or form. But it also has no business being called a crime, in Iraq or anywhere.

    Abdul At-Tawwaab Says: In fact the first part is true, the 1st ammendment on the bill of rights gives American Citizens freedom of religion.

    You are mistaken about this. The 1st amendment gives people the freedom to practice their religion. But that does not mean that you get to control what other people do or don’t do. And the 1st amendment also protects people’s right of expression, including the destruction of their property, including books. If that outrages you, tough. That’s what freedom of expression (including religious expression) means: not just freedom for you and what you endorse, but for everyone, even people who say or do things you don’t like.

    And the claim of the first part, in any case, is that God preserves his book. But this book was shot up, and so, not preserved. God did not prevent it. It happened.

    That soldier doing such a thing is a violation and threat to the freedom of all muslims in America.

    Nonsense. No one’s freedoms were violated or threatened. Again, your right to practice your religion is not the same thing as your right to impose your wishes on all of the rest of us. It does not trump other people’s freedom of expression. It does not force everyone to respect your particular rituals and ideas about what is or isn’t sacred.

    Of course, we should be clear here that we’re talking in the abstract to some extent. This soldier is under special jurisdiction in regards to his conduct in the military, and is not acting as a free citizen. They can and will punish him for various offenses that do not apply to ordinary citizens.

    The second part was not a threat but a fact.

    Of course it’s a threat: even if its just threatening people with the idea of a vengeful, petty God. And now that you mention it, who really is most likely to try and carry out “God’s” vengeance?

  3. Chris says:

    Somehow a comment on my blog about this lead me to your article about this. :) I gotta say I agree with all your points, and thank you for mentioning what I forgot to: Hammond kissing the Koran. Unless he’s a Muslim himself, I don’t think that’s appropriate. Even if he IS, he can do that with his imam, and not as a representative of the United States government.

  4. youbadboy01 says:

    I’m sorry, perhaps I’m missing something. This article states that a soldier shot the Koran? A book? A book, right? Granted, a holy book, but still a collection of paper bound together by glue, in essence. Not a child, not a mother and wife, not an honest man, but a collection of paper held together by glue. You know when the russians invaded Afghanistan, they routinely dropped stuffed animals, and when the children there rushed to pick them up they blew those kids into pieces. Stuffed animals, blowing children into a pink mist. Think about that, when you post stories about some overzealous jarhead who uses a book as a target. There is the world of worlds, and then there is the real world – which has nothing to do with words.

  5. Bad says:

    youbadboy01: well, yes, that’s sort of the point (if you read my post). It is just a book. And thus, it should not be a crime to destroy it or do just about anything to it. It’s a pity: I wouldn’t do that to any book, but not a crime.

    And I do think that Muslims can legitimately be outraged at the desecration of their sacred text. They really do believe it’s a terrible offense against all that is good and right. I don’t, but again, I also don’t see a reason to go out of one’s way to insult and offend them to no good purpose.

  6. Bad says:

    Chris: I think it auto-trackbacked my post when I linked to yours. Totally with you on the Koran-kissing of course. The military should be an organization without a position on religion, because positions on religion are things reserved for private citizens to hold, not government organizations.

  7. parallelsidewalk says:

    I have a lot of problems with what the US is shooting and blowing up in Iraq. As much as I think it’s a dick move to shoot their holy book, I worry a lot less about that and a lot more about the flesh and blood, living people who are dying because of this stupid war.

  8. THETRUTH says:

    To be honest who really cares???? It is all about not offending the muslims. You know what…….Screw the Qu’ran, koran whatever way you want to spell it. You think if someone shot the bible that I would be up in arms. You know what. These people over there burn the bible and say its false when in all reality it is the koran that is full of lies about a guy who was epileptic and said he had visions. I hate to turn this into a religious thing because I do not practice avidly. I believe in God being jesus. And I can tell you that from when I read the Koran I couldnt even get through it cause I wanted too. I pushed myself through it because it is so full of crap I couldnt stomach it. So in all reality After I READ IT I WANTED TO SHOOT IT TOO.. I would like to go back and say again. The guy shot the Koran. whoopty ding. it is not a crime to shoot a book that is your property.

  9. Bad says:

    I believe in God being jesus.

    Okay, but can you accept that other people believe different things just as strongly, and that they also believe that there are all sorts of special rules against things like, well, desecrating the Koran? From my perspective, I don’t believe in any of these things, but I also don’t think it’s nice to go out of my way to insult or desecrate something that doesn’t mean anything to me, but might be hurtful to you.

    That said, yes, of course it shouldn’t be a crime.

  10. J Myers says:

    And I can tell you that from when I read the Koran I couldnt even get through it cause I wanted too. I pushed myself through it because it is so full of crap I couldnt stomach it.

    Ever read the bible? Same deal.

  11. Glazius says:

    These people over there burn the bible and say its false

    Actually, much as Christians pulled the Jewish Torah into their Bible, the Christian Bible is a holy book to Muslims. They just don’t buy the divinity of Jesus.

    But please, don’t let that get in the way of your anger.

  12. Panda Power says:

    The only thing the Koran is good for is to be riddled with bullets since it was written by a false prophet. At least now THAT copy of the book is holey!

  13. J Myers says:

    …since it was written by a false prophet.

    As opposed to….?

  14. don says:

    Have a loved one in the Armed Forces? My son is in the US Army, though not in Iraq, thank God. A young American boy, probably just out of high school, now has the commander in chief apologizing for his action and promising his prosecution. Talk about an ant being burned up under a magnifying glass on a hot summer day. Okay, the poor kid did something stupid. He certainly had no idea that he was putting himself in front of a freight train. I feel sorry for the kid.

  15. Ivan says:

    I just retired after 20 years in the Army…they were the best 17 years of my life. The last 3 were filled with brown nosing, chronic agreement with “the old man”, and lack of dignity. The “old man’s” staff is there to correctly and morally advise him not just agree and find precedence to justify his decisions. Poor kid…and folks this is just the tip of the iceberg or, in this case, sand dune. We have great commanders over there, warriors and patriots, but among them are the “politicos”. These are the “men” who appease those “faithful” Muslims. The message we are sending is clear: WE’RE SORRY, DON’T WORRY, WE’LL HANDLE THIS…DON’T BE MAD”. He’s just a kid! OK, send him back to a rear detachment and put him on extra duty. Don’t bring the hammer down on some boy who doesn’t know any better…I don’t care if he did sit in on “briefings and training”. It should have just been left up to his leadership, but some suck-“butt” went and told on him.
    Godammit people, right or wrong, we’re over there now! They are beginning to view us as weak and the more we continue to appease their objections the more they will view us as non-confrontational and weak…it’s their culture. I have family that are currently serving over there…some are Infantry soldiers who are escorting convoys…GiVE ME A BREAK! They hate life, they’re not trained for that…they want confront the enemy…let them.
    You know, each time Muhtada al Sadr’s Mahdi militia is on the brink of getting their tail kicked they call a “CEASE FIRE”. This isn’t the first time, but they know the “politicos” will appease them on the grounds of “humanity”. We’re going to be there for a long, long, long time and a lot of young lives are going to be ruined.
    That’s my rant.

  16. themessenger says:

    I just wonder what the right wing religious freaks in this country would do if someone used the Bible for target practice.

    Whatever karma is in store for this soldier will fit his stupidity.

  17. backyardBBQ says:

    Panda Power…Perhaps the only thing the Bible is good for is to be riddled with bullets since it was written by false prophets.

    Just remember that ALL religions are fake. They are based upon fear, war, death and destruction and nothing more. Nothing good has ever come out of any religion.

    For example, the Christians have been murdering people for over 2,000 years because they didn’t believe in some cloud being. Do you get my point?

  18. Ivan says:

    I don’t think the point is whether Christianity or Islam are “true” religions or whether this is good or bad Karma for that matter (dude!). I believe the issue here is the way the military leadership (Bush included) is reacting to this ignorant, juvenile act. Why aren’t these clerics publically condeming suicide bombers targeting innocent women and children in market places? Why are they silent on violence done in the name of Allah? Because they are a cowardly bunch who would rather target some young dumb ass in an American uniform knowing good and well that the military weenies in leadership will over react. This, my friends, is the problem.

  19. Bad says:

    I do have to feel sorry for the kid. What he did was stupid, counter-productive, and even though it shouldn’t be a crime, certainly isn’t conduct becoming of an officer (particularly not one using government weapons, as he likely was). But that’s the end of it. And young men his age do stupid things all the time. What’s remarkable about the US army is not that these sorts of things happen but that they happen so rarely compared to most armies in history.

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