By Dale McFeatters
How many times do we have to learn this lesson?
Muslims, especially the deeply religious, believe the Quran is a unique text, sacred above all others and containing the verbatim word of God. You do not have to share this belief to respect it.
A principal tenet of radical Islamic propaganda is that the U.S. and the West are fighting a war, not just against Saddam Hussein, al-Qaida and their Taliban allies, but against Islam itself.
Any insult to the Quran was cited as proof of that. Any rumor out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that the Quran was disrespected ― a popular charge was that guards were flushing them down the toilets ― was amplified and embroidered by the radicals' propaganda network.
Distance doesn't make the insult any less harsh. In Afghanistan last April, 20 people died, including seven U.N. workers, in protests following a Florida preacher's widely self-publicized public burning of the Quran.
But it makes the insult much worse when the burning of Qurans and interpretive texts also considered sacred takes place just outside of Kabul and in front of Afghans working for NATO forces.
You have to wonder what kind of lapse in attention and common sense led NATO personnel at Bagram Airfield to haul bags of trash that also contained Qurans to be incinerated in burn pits.
Afghan workers saved the unburned books and salvaged partially burned Qurans from the fire pits. Word spread quickly when the workers left the base and an angry mob quickly gathered to denounce the infidels and chant, "Death to America!" The clear consensus of those in the crowd was that they want us gone. And if we behave like that, who can blame them?
NATO commander Gen. John Allen, a four-star U.S. Marine who is in charge of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, apologized to the president of Afghanistan, the government of Afghanistan and, most of all, "the noble people of Afghanistan." He swore that the destruction was not intentional, that an investigation was under way and that measures were being taken to see that this never happened again.
All of this is undoubtedly true and sincerely meant, but through sheer carelessness the Taliban won a major hearts-and-minds victory without ever firing a shot.
Dale McFeatters is an editorial writer of Scripps Howard News Service (www.scrippsnews.com).