Nine dead and 81 wounded. This is the bloody aftermath of anti-American – or, sooner, anti-Christian and anti-Western – riots in Mazar-i-Sharif and Kandahar City that were provoked by the desecration of the Quran by Terry Jones, an obscure U.S. pastor from Florida. Burning books is always a bad thing, but to burn a book that has been venerated for a considerable portion of human history seems simply uncivilized. Indeed, it follows a certain logic of idolatry: worship one's own icons and destroy those of outsiders. It has nothing to do with religion. It is rather a modern manifestation of a deeply primitive and even pagan worldview.
What Jones has is not a church, although it is often described as such. His congregation of 50 to 70 people qualifies it more accurately as a very small fundamentalist sect. Normal Muslims should, therefore, not take broader offense, but they, too, have their own such sects at the other end of the confessional spectrum.
Hamid Karzai, the keeper of the faith
The most amazing thing is that nothing like this would have happened if it had not been for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Internet, and the derisive "War on Terror," in which tens of thousands of Afghans have been mistakenly killed by the allied forces. The Afghans are sick and tired of this war. After all, it wasn't only the burning of a Quran that provoked them to stage a massacre in Mazar-i-Sharif, which was formerly considered among the safest and most comfortable cities in Afghanistan. There were also demonstrations in Kabul, but they were peaceful.
Mainstream American media – the neutral CNN, the right-wing Fox, the NBC, and the AP – announced in advance their decision not to broadcast the Quran's desecration.
At this point, social networks demonstrated their power. Pastor Jones uploaded graphic images of the event on Facebook and on YouTube pages with comments in Arabic. He did this on March 20. The protest took place on April 2. How does one explain such a delayed and outraged response?
Perhaps, the incident with the Quran would have been forgotten if President Karzai had not suddenly decided to discuss it. He demanded that the U.S. Congress denounce the Quran's desecration and issued a special statement in that regard that was disseminated among the faithful after the Friday prayer.
As a result, both U.S. President Barack Obama and Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the NATO-led and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, denounced the Quran burning. According to a recent poll, 44.7% of Americans consider it an act of provocative blasphemy and an insult, whereas 55.3% believe that it is a lawful manifestation of freedom of speech. At any rate, under American law, Jones has not committed a crime. He doesn't consider himself guilty of anything and puts all the blame on Muslim extremists.
Both U.S. Ambassador in Kabul Karl Eikenberry and Gen. Petraeus were very upset about Karzai's decision to return to an event that had taken place almost a week earlier. They believe that he did so with a political agenda and is playing a very dangerous game with the sympathy of his disenchanted compatriots. In brief, he is trying to sidetrack their attention from the sins of his own regime.
Karzai's government is notorious for its rampant corruption. And while it is in command of huge cash flows, in terms of geography, its control is limited to thoroughly protected government districts in Kabul.
Under Obama's program for the transfer of the national security system to Kabul in 2014-1015, the Afghan security forces should be put in charge of Mazar-i-Sharif this summer. Now, the turnover is again in question. During the deadly riots, the local police simply fled the scene. The authorities in the provinces of Kandahar and Balkh (Mazari-i-Sharif is its main city) blame all such riots and murders on the Taliban, yet they instantly rebuffed accusations of inaction where normally they assume responsibility for controlling major protest actions.
Relations between Karzai and Washington have been tense for about a year. Americans know the regime is corrupt, but can't find a viable alternative. Afghans are displeased with Karzai and consider him a puppet. But what else can the president of an occupied country be? Under pressure from the top and bottom, he has to find some support, and the protection of the faith can be a useful tool.
Jones promises a trial of Mohammed
This is not the first time such actions have occurred. Something similar has already taken place, but was soon forgotten. Riots were staged in western Afghanistan in May 2008, when it was revealed that U.S. soldiers in Iraq had practiced target shooting with a copy of the Quran. Two Afghan civilians and one NATO officer were killed.
Protests against the desecration of the Quran at Guantanamo Bay were held in Jalalabad in 2005. When Danish newspapers published Prophet Mohammed cartoons, 11 people were killed in the subsequent riots in Afghanistan.
Unfortunately for Obama, this latest incident may affect his 2012 reelection campaign. He was to announce his candidacy on Monday, April 4, or in the next two days. His campaign headquarters will be in Chicago, and after the announcement, he will begin raising his election funds in accordance with law.
Recent polls show that up to 60%-76% of Americans consider themselves Christians and 0.6%-2.7% identify as Muslims. For dedicated Christian radicals, Barack Hussein Obama is a tacit Muslim by virtue of his personal background (his father was a Muslim). Although Obama himself is a Protestant, his denunciation of the Quran burning may prompt some hot heads to consider him insufficiently Christian. So Jones burnt the Quran for Obama as well.
Perhaps the worst part, however, is that Jones has no intention of stopping his personal crusade against Muslims. He has now announced his decision to stage a trial of the Prophet Mohammed in the near future, which will only spell more trouble for the Obama administration.
The views expressed in this article are the author's and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.