Kim Sengupta: Insulting Islam can have lethal repercussions on battlefield

Identifying Western troops with the desecration of the most holy of writings would help insurgents to win support

Share
Related Topics

It may seem strange that General David Petraeus should take time off from running the war in Afghanistan – currently the West's most crucial foreign policy challenge – to get involved in a row over an obscure American church carrying out an anti-Muslim stunt. But in a volatile and unstable Afghanistan, the burning of Korans may well have lethal and severely damaging repercussions at a particularly sensitive time in both the military and political landscape of the country.

General Petraeus's warning that the stunt is likely to put the lives of American troops in danger is not far-fetched. Five years ago 15 people were killed and dozens injured in riots in Afghanistan after Newsweek magazine claimed that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had flushed copies of the Koran down a lavatory to intimidate detainees. Two years later there were more deaths during weeks of protest against cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed published by a Danish newspaper.

Afghanistan was not the only place to experience violent reactions to these perceived insults against Islam. But it is a country where insurgents are waging a jihad against infidel forces. Identifying American, and, in effect, other Western troops with the desecration of the most holy of writings would undoubtedly help them to win support within the population and recruit more fighters for the cause.

Afghanistan remains a deeply conservative country where those deemed to be offending the tenets of Islam face draconian retribution. Apostasy is punishable by death, those suspected of proselytising other religions have been murdered. Even attempts to debate social reform can be highly dangerous as Pervez Kambaksh, a student, found out when he downloaded an article on women's rights from the internet. A religious court sentenced him to death after a four-minute trial, his life only saved after a long international campaign. And President Hamid Karzai – as support from his American and European sponsors weakens – seeks to come to an accommodation with the fundamentalists.

It is against this background that news of burning Korans will be received by the Afghans. There is even a possibility that the fact such a thing was ever even considered could incite violence, with the internet, one of the manifestations of the modern world that reactionary Islam seeks to keep at bay, playing a key role.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

CRM Developer (MS Dynamics 2011/2013, JavaScript)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: CRM MS Dynamic...

IT Teacher

£22000 - £33000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: ICT TeacherLeedsRandstad ...

Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL) Su...

Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ukip leader Farage with former Tory MP Carswell, who has defected to his party  

Could Douglas Carswell be a Trotskyite in disguise?

John Rentoul
Richard Attenborough, who died on 25 August, attends a film premiere  

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

DJ Taylor
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution