Kathleen Parker

Reaction to an inaccurate Newsweek report that led recently to rioting and death in Afghanistan suggests that hysteria is, indeed, contagious.

To briefly recap, Newsweek reported in a small blurb (May 9) that American interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had flushed a Koran down a toilet in attempts to get Muslim terror suspects to talk. Once the Newsweek story was broadcast abroad, the usually reticent hate-America crowd erupted in mass pique. Havoc ensued. At least 15 Afghans died and many more were injured.

All because of a story that may not have been true. The "knowledgeable U.S. government source" who told Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and John Barry about the flushing apparently wasn't so knowledgeable. At the risk of seeming insensitive, may I suggest that c'est la guerre, and urge everyone to follow Dr. Lamaze's always-useful advice: Breathe deeply and focus.

What we need here is a little perspective.

First, we all can agree that flushing a Koran down a toilet, if physically possible, would be both insensitive and rude, though Westerners generally have a higher tolerance threshold for such offenses. Put it this way: You could flush a Bible down the toilet in front of Goober in Kabul, and it's unlikely that Mayberry suddenly would be awash in blood.

Without disrespecting true believers of Islam, one also could debate the relative miseries of seeing our favorite scripture disappear into the plumbing versus, say, watching airplanes fly into buildings, killing thousands of innocents. Remember, these are terrorist suspects captured after 9/11, not kidnapped members of an Afghan boys choir.

The apparent Newsweek mistake was regrettable, but we should beware allowing ourselves to mirror the emotional reactions of people who were by no measure justified in their response - even if the story had been proven true. The same people foaming over a reported act of blasphemy didn't flinch while executing women for stepping outside sans burqa. I'm afraid my moral outrage in favor of the morally outrageous is all tapped out.

While the world was reacting in righteous indignation to the Newsweek report, another story was circulating about Turkish women in Germany being executed by family members in "honor killings" sanctioned by certain interpretations of the Koran. Their offense? Acting like Western women. Or, in the pithy words of a 14-year-old Turkish boy who was justifying an execution: "The whore lived like a German."

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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