Hundreds of angry protesters in Afghanistan's capital today burned an effigy of President Obama, acting on rumors that American troops had desecrated the Koran.
U.S. military officials emphatically denied that any copies of the Muslim holy book had been mishandled, and accused the Taliban of spreading falsehoods to incite hatred against Western forces....
And while it is perfectly reasonable and understandable that the military would issue such denials, it also serves to validate the ridiculous and dangerous assumption that it is perfectly legitimate to go beserk if a Koran were desecrated.
The incident also pointed to a strong undercurrent of anti-American sentiment at a politically fraught time in Afghanistan, less than two weeks before a runoff to settle a divisive, fraud-tainted presidential election.
The Nov. 7 face-off between President Hamid Karzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah was agreed to only after heavy U.S. pressure on Karzai to accept the results of an international audit. The investigators found as many as one-third of the ballots cast for Karzai in the Aug. 20 election had been fraudulent. That put the Afghan leader below the threshold of victory, 50%.
On Sunday morning U.S. news shows, both candidates ruled out a power-sharing agreement to avoid the runoff. Against this political backdrop, the Koran protest reflected a rising religious conservatism even among some members of Afghanistan's educated elite, such as the university students who made up most of the crowd of about 1,000 demonstrators.
Police fired warning shots into the air when the demonstrators marched from Kabul University toward the parliament, but no injuries were reported.
Several marchers insisted they were certain that a Koran had been desecrated by U.S. troops in Wardak province, just outside the capital, even if they could not provide particulars of the incident, such as when it was believed to have taken place.
"Muslims were disrespected!" said Zabiullah Khalil, an engineering student. "The foreigners shot the Koran, and then they burned it. They should be tried for this."
The demonstration, like many in the capital, had a heartfelt yet orchestrated feel to it. Khalil, like a number of other participants, expressed broad anger at the United States in connection with the election and its disputed aftermath.
"We don't want a slave government," he said. "We want a real Islamic country."...
And that you shall almost certainly have.