Mar 3, 2012

Not following standard process has heart-wrenching consequences

You must have heard on the news that some copies of the Koran were burned in Afghanistan, horrifying and angering Muslims who revere the holy book. Christians feel the same about the Bible, just as Americans have strong feelings about how following a standard process to dispose of an American flag.

As described in the New York Times article, Chain of avoidable errors cited in Koran burning, the process of selecting these particular copies of the Koran and preventing their use as a means of communication among prisoners was noted for its ignorance and blatant insensitivity if not deliberate insult. The lack of training in cultural respect and linguistics all along the line was said to be insufficient.

There is a standard process for how a copy of the Koran should be handled, and any imam would have been able to describe it if consulted:

"What should have happened was far different, Maulavi Dad said. He gently lifted up his Koran, a beautifully bound one with dark blue ornamentation, and described the religiously approved way one would dispose of it if it were damaged or too old to use. 
"'We have two suggestions: You can cover it with a clean cloth and bury it on holy ground, a shrine or a graveyard, a place where people don’t walk,' he said. 
"'Or you can wrap it and place it in the sea, the river, in flowing water.' 
"He added, 'You see, we believe the earth and the water are the two cleanest elements on the planet, and since we give great value to holy books and papers, this is where we bury them.'
If there really was a problem with these copies of the Koran at the prison, if sorting was handled according to objective criteria, if local Muslim authorities had been asked for help, if standard processes were provided to personnel, and if they had been properly trained to follow those processes, things could have been far different. Instead, violence and outrage have followed, individuals have been singled out for blame and punishment, and the divide between the U.S. and the Muslim world has increased. It breaks my heart to think about it.


Michel Baudin said...

Objects that are sacred to a group of people only deserve special treatment from that group of people, not anybody else. If everybody had to respect what is sacred to everybody else, we might not be able to feed ourselves. Anybody to whom broccoli are sacred could forbid everybody else from eating them. There would be no end to it.

If confiscated from prisoners of war, personal effects should probably be kept safe until returned to their owners, simply because they are personal effects, not because of their possible religious significance.

Don said...

Hi Karen--

Yep, really appreciate your closing insight so clearly illustrated by 'thinking with your heart', seems to shift this particular story from knowledge/reason to wisdom. Perhaps a path that links us all together ; )

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