What US Army says about handling the Quran
This week's protests in Kabul, sparked by rumors that the US Army planned to burn Qurans, have raised questions about what US military teaches its soldiers about respecting Islam.
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In her May 17, 2005 article, Washington Post reporter Robin Wright – a Christian Science Monitor alumnus, it must be pointed out – quoted from a 2003 Army training manual that suggested that US soldiers treat the Quran as a “fragile piece of delicate art.”Skip to next paragraph
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She also quoted Richard Boucher, the spokesman of the US State Department at the time, saying this: "They're not supposed to in any way disrespect or desecrate the Koran, and there are a very specific set of rules the military has on handling the Koran. We made it clear that our practices and our policies are completely different" from the Newsweek article’s allegations.
A subsequent US Army training manual, published in January 2006 and used for training at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, was even more specific about how US soldiers should handle the Quran. (The Monitor has obtained a digital version of this training manual.)
Handling the Qur’an
Anyone who touches the Qur’an must have clean hands.
Keep Qur’ans out of latrines.
Keep the Qur’ans off the floor.
Use a cloth or plastic dustcover for the Qur’an when not in use.
Muslims will keep Qur’an texts on the highest bookcase shelf.
Place nothing on top of the Qur’an.
Prior to reading the Qur’an, Muslims will often recite the following, "I seek refuge in God from Satan, the rejected enemy [of mankind]."
When reading while sitting on the floor Muslims, place the text on a book rest or
holder. If no holder is available, hold the Qur’an above the lap or waist.
Fallout from the current Quran-burning controversy has led a number of Islamic scholars, including the University of North Carolina’s Omid Safi, to come forward with insights into what the US military should have done with all those Qurans.
Unfortunately, the 2006 training manual does not offer specific guidance about how to dispose of Qurans. But given the manual’s comments on respect for Islamic culture, and its acknowledgement of the importance of honor and shame in Islamic countries, it’s curious that no one at Bagram seemed to think that burning Qurans in a garbage dump might be a bad idea.
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