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April 4, 2011

The Afghan Riots: A Chilling Study in Cause and Effect

Topics: Political News and commentaries, Understanding Islam

As has been widely reported in the media and in the blogosphere ... including here at Hyscience, in two days of riots in Kandahar, Afghanistan, over a hundred people were injured; over twenty were killed... and that's just from the preliminary reports. The casualties are sure to grow. They tell us it all happened just because an obscure American preacher burned a book. John F. Di Leo offered his thoughts on the matter in his Illinois Review column yesterday.

Di Leo writes:

In a small town in Florida on March 20, the pastor of a small church held a public event: burning a koran for his audience and a video camera. His American Christian audience reacted as one would expect from them: they were happy to be a part of this provocative event; they returned to their homes and jobs after the service, and went on with their lives.

The world continued to turn ... nobody of substance cared about Pastor Jones' latest attempt at news coverage ... until almost two weeks later, when it made the news half a planet away, in Afghanistan.

The president of Afghanistan denounced the event; imams and mullahs hammered it in their mosques. Their Afghan muslim audience reacted as one would expect from them: they streamed out into the streets, hunting down foreigners, beating hundreds of UN aides, NATO staffers, contractors, travelers, journalists, soldiers' rioting in the streets, burning the shops in their own neighborhoods, destroying property, attacking innocent bystanders. At least a hundred injuries and dozens of killings were confirmed by the second day of the riots.

In a world in which thousands die tragically every day -- from starvation to murder, from disease and neglect -- these events might not seem particularly newsworthy. When aren't there riots in that part of the world? When aren't innocents killed? It happens every day.

But this story is indeed noteworthy for several reasons, a chilling study in cause and effect, and in the difference between western civilization and the barbarism that still flourishes in the third world.

The Catalyst?

For over a year, Pastor Jones had been talking about burning a koran to make a point. Under western jurisprudence, you generally have the right to destroy your own property -- buy a book, and it's yours to dispose of as you wish. Whether you choose to keep it in a bookcase, donate it to a library, trade it at a used book store, toss it in the garbage or the recycling bin, or use it for kindling, is your choice. That's what it means to live in a free country that respects property rights.

Whether one shares Pastor Jones' publicly stated disapproval of the koran or not, one cannot deny that this was a peaceful demonstration, making a couple of political and theological points. And whether one agrees with those points or not -- a rational case can be made on either side -- in a free country, one can make one's point peacefully. Perhaps he'll convince more people to join his side of the debate; perhaps his methods will drive people away. That's the nature of a free and spirited public forum in America; there's no guarantee how the public will respond to your argument.

The Reaction

Afghan President Hamid Karzai denounced this koran-burning. It was used as the subject of sermons in mosques across the Kandahar region and elsewhere. It is probably impossible to know for sure who in Afghanistan is responsible for spreading it ... no doubt Karzai will say he addressed it because imams had raised the issue, and the imams will say that they addressed it because Karzai did. Who knows.

These Afghan leaders capitalized on a public mood, coarsened by thirty years of war and tyranny, radicalized by the jihadists. They used one unimportant pastor's gimmick, half a world away, to stir up riots and cause injury and death. And yes, they knew what they were doing.

Continue reading ...

Posted by Richard at April 4, 2011 3:02 PM

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