Burning the Holy Qu’ran: No Big Deal?

16 Apr

Burning the Holy Qu’ran: No big deal

The mass-burning of the Qu’ran and other Islamic texts on February 22nd this year at the Bagram Air Base wasn’t the first instance in which the holy book of Islam was incinerated by American authorities. It’s happened before at Guantanamo bay, and it is likely to happen again. The presence of American forces in Afghanistan should be reassuring for the average Afghan civilian but, over the last ten years, it has been anything but. But more about the safety of the Afghan people in a later post.  We find that the sentiments of the Afghani people are rarely being considered when an action such as this is carried out. American troops are in Afghanistan to try and win hearts, and yet, the Afghanis are probably feeling more alienated since the 22nd.

It seems like the American government and military leadership maintain the same principle that has been a cornerstone of U.S. involvement in the Middle East over the last twenty-one years; Samuel Huntington’s theory of Clash of Civilizations. This is the theory that that there is an inherent difference between “Islam” and the “West”. It proposes that Islam is totalitarian and intolerant by its very nature; that Islamism has replaced communism since the Cold War as the greatest threat facing the West and only the use of military force will eradicate this threat. It also purports that global conflict used to be ideological (e.g. The Cold War), but is becoming increasingly cultural. There are deep irreconcilable cultural differences that will lead to conflict in the new millennium.

The American Benevolent Supremacy, is unable to work its magic in Afghanistan and is failing miserably.  America neither rules by principles of generosity and kindness, nor promises to lead Afghanistan into democracy as the Karzai regime runs into a period of further turbulence and instability; this is largely due to the government’s “failure to bring to the Taliban to the discussion table”.  Furthermore, Afghanistan used to be under the control of the former U.S.S.R. in the mid-80’s, which was a time of subjugation,  but the American involvement in the country hasn’t translated to delivering freedom from oppression.

Since the Qu’ran burning, one would think the Afghans would be up in arms, and a nationwide agitation would be brewing. Aside from protests in Kabul in the north, which is Tajik-dominated, the rest of the county has been fairly quiet in spite of the sensitive nature of the Qu’ran burning, as highlighted in “Unsettlement in Kabul”. In fact, the protests in Kabul have less to do with the Qu’ran burning and more to do with the Tajiks, “the second largest ethnic group”, having a problem with U.S. army trying to have a dialogue with the Taliban, which is Pashtun-dominated. The protests cause is basically the long standing enmity between Tajiks and Pashtuns.

One can then deduce that crimes against Islam are something that the Afghan layman have become used to. Taliban extremists use violence and massacre to protest it, but despite the attention they receive in the U.S. media, they are simply a minority. The “Taliban way” is not a solution, and shouldn’t become one for other Afghans, especially for other Pashtuns. America clearly has a Hegemony over the Afghans. This is because the U.S. army presence is a dominant feature of life in the majority of Afghanistan; the presence of the army in villages, in trading cities, and in the capital ensures that the American presence is taken for granted, and that the Afghan culture is subdued. The U.S. army can burn a Qu’ran and Afghans do anything about it. America’s leaders and army have chosen to see Afghanistan as a “playground for terrorists in the War on Terror” rather than a nation with its own complex culture and history. Gramsci’s notion of Hegemony has been achieved through the production of “common sense” that America’s presence and actions are a reality that the Afghans feel they can do very little about, so it is taken for granted. While Hegemony works through force, such as the action of burning the Qur’an, “it’s effectiveness depends on subordinated peoples accepting the dominant ideology as “normal reality of common sense”” (Lull, 63). The Afghans have learned to live with the threat of violence, whether it is to themselves or to their religion. Over a period of ten years, with the constant attacks, collateral damage, and killing of innocent civilians, the “U.S have continually won and secured Hegemony over time” (Lull, 64).

The unfortunate situation is that the American occupation of Afghanistan doesn’t seem like it will come to an end any time soon.  The Karzai government wants America and NATO to remain in Afghanistan, for fear of an overthrow by the Taliban. This is clear instance of where this U.S.-backed government has become so molly-coddled and infantalized that it cannot survive without big brother to support; the lack of confidence that the government has suggests that U.S. presence will not end in 2014. The American government for knows that this ten year war is going nowhere; the Taliban are not willing to recognize the existence of the Karzai government, let alone sit at a table and talk peace . America does not want another Vietnam, whereby the Vietnam Syndrome recurs after the war. The U.S. cannot be seen globally as “failing in nerve” or “masculinity”. After having invested over $400 billion and 1,848 American lives – cannot afford Afghanistan to erupt into civil war. The damage failure in Afghanistan could, both in terms of image and sunk costs, be irreparable.

Additional Citations:

Lecture slides from Evelyn Alsultany, Professor of American Culture at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: