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On Handling the Koran
Andrew L. Jaffee, May 30, 2005
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Concerns over the sensitivities of Muslims have once again taken members of the American media – even its government – over the top. Some in the media have decided that Islam should be treated differently from other world religions, and some in American government are spending too much time worrying about Muslim sensitivities, as opposed to concentrating on crushing the Islamist enemy.

An article published in the Washington Post on Tuesday, May 17 highlights examples of the mistakes being made by the media as well as in government.

Robin Wright, author of the Post’s article, “U.S. Long Had Memo on Handling of Koran,” refers to the Koran no less than three times as a “holy book.” The Washington Post is supposedly one of the pillars of American journalism.

Ask any of its writers, and I am sure they would tell you that the Post is objective and fair, and is steeped in the rules and science of journalism. But if this were so, would its writers confer special properties on the religion of Islam? Calling the Koran a “holy book” inside the pages of the Post is not responsible journalism. This term is de facto recognition that Islam and the Koran are intrinsically sacred or inspired by the divine. This is quite a leap of faith for an “objective” newspaper.

I am not questioning whether people of faith hold the Koran as "holy," but has the Washington Post decided that all its readers should consider it so? Is this official policy at the newspaper? What happened to objectivity? A full text search of the Post's archives for the terms "Bible" AND "holy book" returns, "Your Search for bible "holy book" returned 0 results."

The Associated Press’ “Stylebook and Libel Manual” and The University of Chicago’s “Manual of Style,” two books which professional journalists are taught to adhere to when writing, make no mention of a requirement to refer to the Koran as a “holy book.” There is no mention of a requirement that writers assume that Islam was inspired by the divine. The two stylebooks certainly do not require that Hinduism, Christianity, or Judaism be imbued with spiritual properties, nor is there any mention of calling the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible, or the Torah “holy books.”

In a profession in which concerns over diversity and political correctness are out of control, it seems that some journalists have decided that one religion is more important than others. What about concern for the sensitivities of Jews and Christians? Would these same “concerned” journalists encode value judgments regarding a subject’s wealth or physical attributes? I doubt it.

Ms. Wright’s editorializing about which religion is truly “holy” tells us about her fears and those of her politically correct, compatriot journalists. Explicitly, these news writers would tell you that their motivations lie in cultural sensitivity. Implicitly, the truth of the matter is that these people are afraid, very afraid, of being blown up by crazed Muslim suicide bombers, and they hope to maintain their cushy lifestyles in the land of the free, home of the brave by placating the enemy.

But the Washington Post article goes farther than just revealing the bias of its author. It also shows to what lengths our government and military have been willing to go to placate the angry, Muslim hoards:

More than two years ago, the Pentagon issued detailed rules for handling the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, requiring U.S. personnel to ensure that the holy book is not placed in "offensive areas such as the floor, near the toilet or sink, near the feet, or dirty/wet areas."

The three-page memorandum, dated Jan. 19, 2003, says that only Muslim chaplains and Muslim interpreters can handle the holy book, and only after putting on clean gloves in full view of detainees.

The detailed rules require U.S. Muslim personnel to use both hands when touching the Koran to signal "respect and reverence," and specify that the right hand be the primary one used to manipulate any part of the book "due to cultural associations with the left hand." The Koran should be treated like a "fragile piece of delicate art," it says.

In the Muslim and Arab world; where violence has become so endemic; where strength is measured by the size of a gun and the number of civilians one is willing to slaughter; these moves on the part of the U.S. military will be surely seen by Arabs/Muslims as weakness -- e.g., “Look at how we’ve got the Americans jumping through hoops.”

Weakness is not a luxury we can afford. Strength is the image we must cultivate and prove. Of course we should never intentionally defile anyone’s religious text – this is just common sense and common decency. But putting on gloves to handle a book?

Need it be said that many in our media have been advertising the weakness of their “liberal” belief system? A bevy on opinion polls show it obvious that the American media is disconnected from the American public – just look at the CBS’ Dan Rather and his “memo-gate” fiasco or Newsweek’s false and retracted story about flushing a Koran down the toilet.

Time for a reality check: Placating a vicious enemy is always counter-productive. The war against Islamist terrorists will not be won based on our handling of books, but on searching out and killing all the members of the terrorist organizations, as well as their supporters – just as we defeated the Germans and Japanese in WWII.


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