What interested me most about the official reaction to this month's Koran Sniper story -- apologies galore, a kissed Koran for probable former insurgents, a punished soldier -- was what it made vivid about our society: American deference to Islam, from the sacralization of Islam's book to the ideology of anti-infidelism, supremacism and totalitarian conquest within it. After all, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Hammond called the sniper's action "criminal behavior," but the only law broken was Islamic law.
Contrast that, I wrote last week, with the repudiation Americans once displayed toward a similarly anti-Semitic, supremacist and warlike ideology as codified in "Mein Kampf" -- the treatise Winston Churchill dubbed "the new Koran of faith and war, turgid, verbose, but pregnant with its message." Had a mid-century GI used "Mein Kampf" for target practice, I noted, Gen. George S. Patton would hardly have kissed one to appease a band of former Nazis.
Suffice to say, I've received considerable comment, both positive and negative about this analogy. One letter compared the post-Hitler, U.S. policy of de-Nazification in Germany with the post-Saddam, U.S.-fostered enshrinement of Sharia in new constitutions in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Naturally, "Mein Kampf" would be vilified in the former, and the Koran protected in the latter. We have approved the religious rules to do so.
But other responses made clear the extent to which we also protect the Koran here. I don't mean from target practice, or other acts of desecration -- permitted, not incidentally, for the symbols of other religions, not to mention those of the nation itself.
I was particularly struck by this on reading Contentions, the blog of Commentary magazine. In a post about my recent column, Contentions blogger Abe Greenwald wrote: "This won't do, Diana. While the Qu'ran is sacred to our enemies in Iraq, it is also sacred to our allies."
Amazing that this fact is seen as a rationale for silence, not as a cause for concern. It is also never, ever contemplated in our debates about "democratizing" the Islamic world. Apparently, "enemies" and "allies" alike being inspired by the same Koranic message doesn't call into question the nature or potential of the "allies." It only seems to inspire reticence about the nature or potential of the message.
While I hardly claim originality in comparing central tenets of the Koran and "Mein Kampf" (see Winnie's comment above), Greenwald didn't care for that, either. "Yes," he wrote, "there are many nasty injunctions in the Qur'an. Yes, there are calls to anti-Semitism and supremacy. But ... there are nasty parts in the foundational works of other major religions. Second, there are Qur'anic passages promoting humanity and understanding. ... If you're going to wage wholesale war on an entire religion, you'll need more than a tabulation showing that the religion's core text is, on balance, nastier than the next."
How can it be, nearly seven years after 9/11, such thin gruel is still being served as an argument? Without citing sura and verse, the first point fizzles in the absence of Jewish and Christian terrorists justifying acts of violence with references to their scriptures. As for the second point, I hereby introduce the Commentary blog to the Koranic doctrine of "abrogation," according to which Koranic passages are abrogated (canceled) by subsequently "revealed" verses that, as Ibn Warraq writes in his book "What the Koran Really Says," convey a "different or contrary meaning."
Warraq continues: "This was supposedly taught by Muhammad at Sura II.105: `Whatever verses we (i.e., God) cancel or cause you to forget, we bring a better or its like.'" While resolving the abundant contradictions to be found in the Koran, abrogation, he writes, "does pose problems for apologists of Islam, since all the passages preaching tolerance are found in Meccan (i.e., early) suras, and all the passages recommending killing, decapitating and maiming, the so-called Sword Verses, are Medinan (i.e., later)." His conclusion: "'Tolerance' has been abrogated by 'intolerance.' For example, the famous Sword verse ... at Sura IX.5, `Slay the idolators wherever you find them,' is said to have canceled 124 verses that enjoin toleration and patience." So much for Greenwald's "passages promoting humanity and understanding."
More perplexing, however, is Greenwald's assumption that a frank appraisal of the Koran is akin to waging "war on an entire religion." On the contrary, such an appraisal is simply the basis of any rational defense against the war Islam is waging on the West.