1 year, 9 months ago
There is something strange about the uproar over the apparently accidental burning of Korans at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
This article from the Associated Press is headlined for Newt Gingrich’s criticism of President Obama’s apologies to Hamid Karzai over the Koran burnings. Whether you agree or disagree with Gingrich’s points, the defense offered up by White House is thought-provoking:
Even before Gingrich’s comments, White House spokesman Jay Carney sought to counter any criticism of the president’s apology.
“It is wholly appropriate, given the sensitivities to this issue, the understandable sensitivities,” Carney told reporters traveling to Miami with the president on Air Force One. “His primary concern as commander in chief is the safety of the American men and women in Afghanistan, of our military and civilian personnel there. And it was absolutely the right thing to do.”
There are at least two, underlying assumptions in the White House messaging on this.
First, Obama’s apology to Karzai was “wholly appropriate” due to “the understandable sensitivities” of the Afghanis. Presumably Carney is really referring to the Afghani’s muslim sensitivities. In Obama’s view, then, Islamic “sensitivities” are to be given such respect that any offense– even an indisputably unintentional and accidental one– demands contrition and a grave apology from a United States President.
What is this sensitivity that requires an American President to bend the knee and humbly seek forgiveness? It is the apparent veneration of a book by muslims that forbids any act of disrespect or dishonor. This is medieval thinking and, while we can comprehend that Afghanis inhabit a culture and religion that is largely mired in the 7th Century, it is not incumbent on Americans or America’s President to cater to or endorse such magical thinking.
We feel no need, for instance, to apologize to muslims for the dogs that American soldiers often use for bomb detection or even companionship on bases in Afghanistan despite the fact that dogs offend many muslims’ “sensitivities.” Admittedly, there is no need to go out of our way to unnecessarily offend, but it would seem that we give validity to magical thinking when we apologize for inadvertent offenses to that thinking to which we, ourselves do not subscribe and even hold, privately, in contempt.
Note, too, the contrast in the way Obama treats Islamic beliefs about a book and his treatment of the Roman Catholic beliefs about contraception. He is frankly not concerned about the Catholic sensitivities when it conflicts with his agenda and, most disturbing, is willing to ride roughshod over important First Amendment rights in the process.
The second rationale provided by the White House is that the apology emanated from the need to protect our military forces in Afghanistan (and probably elsewhere in the Middle East). The underlying assumption is that muslims will resort to random and not-so-random violence against Americans if they are not placated and appeased.
Comparing the treatment accorded the Afghan government and the Roman Catholic Church, the lesson here seems to be that if you are a religious group that respects the law and addresses its grievances through debate and political action, then your sensitivities– even ones protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution— can be abused and violated by Obama and his myrmidons on the Left. But if you happen to belong to a religious group that will readily and predictably resort to violence at any unintentional or even accidental slight to your sensitivities, then you are pursued like a wounded child, begged for forgiveness and placated.
This incident should be yet another clear marker for all of us that the West, so far, is on the losing side of the war with Militant Islam as we are willing cede our own cultural beliefs to them simply because they readily resort to violence. This is like parents who defer and pander to their 17 year-old because they fear his violent temper and unpredictable tendency to violence. Such a scenario never ends well.
It will not end well for America, either, if we persist in these behaviors.
UPDATE: An interesting contrast to the U.S. position on the accidental burning of the Koran and the intentional burning of the Bible by U.S. forces in 2009. I do not subscribe to the notion that the Bible– as a collection of paper and ink bound with a cover of some sort is invested with mystical qualities that render the book itself as inviolate. To do so would be to engage in the same sort of magical thinking that muslims have toward the Koran. At the same time, the article makes good points about the perception of Afghans who see Americans falling over themselves to seek forgiveness for a few, mistakenly burned Korans while holding their own sacred book, the Bible, in apparent contempt.