In the Name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful
As I am sure you are all aware, Newsweek magazine had to retract its story about alleged Qur’an desecration because the anonymous source could not be sure he saw references to the alleged desecration of the Qur’an at Guantanamo Bay. The magazine was under enormous pressure from an angry Bush Administration, and now the White House is calling upon Newsweek to help repair the damage to the image of the United States in the Muslim World. Good luck.
Yet, this brings up a very important point. Although Newsweek had to retract its story, this is not the first time allegations of Qur’an desecration have been made. Several current and former detainees have accused American interrogators of desecrating the Qur’an, as reported by several media:
In August 5, 2004, the Independent in London reported that ex-Gitmo detainees Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed, and Shafiq Rasul said “one inmate was threatened after being shown a video in which hooded inmates were forced to sodomise each other. Guards allegedly threw prisoners’ Korans into toilets, while others were injected with drugs, it was claimed.”
On the same day, James Gordon Meek and Derek Rose for the Daily News in New York reported that Asif Iqbal said “They would kick the Koran, throw it into the toilet and generally disrespect it.”
On March 6, 2003, Marc Kaufman and April Witt in the Washington Post that released Afghan detainees “complained that American soldiers insulted Islam by sitting on the Koran or dumping their sacred text into a toilet to taunt them…Ehsannullah, 29, said American soldiers who initially questioned him in Kandahar before shipping him to Guantanamo hit him and taunted him by dumping the Koran in a toilet.”
In the Financial Times on June 28, 2004, it reported “Former prisoner Airat Vakhitov told ORT about alleged mistreatment while he was at Guantanamo. ‘They tore the Koran to pieces in front of us, threw it into the toilet,’ Vakhitov said.” The same newspaper reported on December 30, 2004 that a released Moroccan detainee said: “They watched you each time you went to the toilet; the American soldiers used to tear up copies of the Quran and throw them in the toilet.”
In the March 17, 2004 edition of the Independent, released prisoner Jamal al-Harith, a computer programmer from Manchester, said 70% of the inmates had gone on hunger strike after a guard kicked a copy of the Qur’an.
On May 1 of this year, the New York Times reported that a released Kuwaiti detainee spoke about a major hunger strike touched off by “guards’ handling copies of the Quran, which had been tossed into a pile and stomped on. A senior officer delivered an apology over the camp’s loudspeaker system, pledging that such abuses would stop. Interpreters, standing outside each prison block, translated the officer’s apology. A former interrogator at Guantanamo, in an interview with the Times, confirmed the accounts of the hunger strikes, including the public expression of regret over the treatment of the Qurans.”
The Associated Press reported on May 19 that “The International Red Cross told U.S. authorities about American personnel at the Guantanamo Bay detention center showing disrespect to Islam’s holy book, the Quran…” Red Cross spokesman Simon Schorno told AP: “We’re basically referring in general terms to disrespect of the Quran, and that’s where we leave it.” To be fair, he also said: “We believe that since, U.S. authorities have taken the corrective measures that we require in our interventions.” Although the Red Cross delegates did not personally witness any instances of disrespect, they did receive “an unspecified number of reports from detainees that this had occurred.”
Do you see a familiar pattern here? Detainee after detainee say the same thing: Qur’ans are being flushed down the toilet, etc. Furthermore, I only cited the accounts of detainees already released. Why is this important? Because the Army is suggesting that detainees are lying about the Qur’an desecration: “If you read the Al Qaeda training manual, they are trained to make allegations against the infidels.” That’s according to Col. Brad Blackner, a Colonel and U.S. military spokesman. Presumably, the released detainees are not Al Qaeda, otherwise they would not be released, right? So, either every detainee is making up the same story, or it is likely that desecration of the Qur’an has taken place at Guantanamo Bay.
All this is on top of the already confirmed instances of female interrogators using sex during questioning, such as wearing thongs, rubbing against detainees, and wiping fake menstrual blood on their faces. Which begs the question: What the hell is going on at Gitmo? What are we doing there? It has been almost four years since the war in Afghanistan. What has the detention of nearly 600 Muslims at Gitmo accomplished?
The common perception is that those held at Guantanamo Bay are the most hardened anti-American terrorists. Thus, who cares if we lock them up and toss away the key? But, there are indications that the majority held there are not “the worst of the worst.” Erik Saar, an Army sergeant and former Gitmo Arabic translator, said in the Christian Science Monitor: “I thought these were ‘the worst of the worst’ hardened terrorists, but I soon realized many didn’t fit that category, not only by talking to detainees, but by having access to intelligence which said that.” He estimates that only “dozens among the 600 or so [detainees]” fit the category of the “worst of the worst.”
So, I ask again, what the hell is going on at Gitmo? Now, what I am saying here? Should we end the fight against Al Qaeda? Should we stop hunting the terrorists who will stop at nothing to shed innocent American blood? Absolutely not. But, we need to seriously re-examine our mission at Guantanamo Bay. The longer we keep innocent Muslims caged up at Guantanamo Bay, the more our credibility across the Muslim World is decimated. Muslims pay attention to our actions; our words are meaningless. If we truly believe in freedom, human rights, and the rule of law – which, I fundamentally believe, we do – then we must act in accordance with those beliefs, and it should begin with Guantanamo Bay.