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Allen West May Have a Totally Legitimate Point About the Afghanistan Qur'an Burning

When Congressman Allen West starts talking about Islam, people whose livelihoods depend on pageviews usually break out their camcorders, because the odds are pretty good someone's going to get really offended.


But West has posted several Facebook messages about the recent uproar over the burning of several Qu'rans... and his "tell it straight and offend whomever I feel like" strategy doesn't seem horribly Islamophobic this time.

The brouhaha has been caused by the burning of several Qur'ans at a prison facility in Afghanistan last week; the violent reaction throughout the country has left...
... an ever-rising number of dead or wounded; just this morning, a suicide bomber killed nine Afghans at a NATO base in Jalalabad in what the Taliban said was "revenge" for the burnings.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai "initially responded to the Koran burnings with outrage," according to the Washington Post, but after his citizens started exploding people because of the incident, he backed off and asked for peace. What a fella.

Blame thus far has been leveled mainly at errors made by commanders at the base, but amid all this mess was one paragraph in a long story from the Post last week:
A senior U.S. military official, who asked to remain anonymous, said Tuesday that the Korans were removed from the prison library because they had radical or anti-Western messages scrawled in them.
The idea that the Qur'ans were being used to pass illegal messages inside the prison has been largely lost amid all the rioting and setting of fires and Republican outrage over President Obama's apology, but West isn't letting it go.

"When tolerance becomes a one-way street it leads to cultural suicide," West wrote on Facebook earlier today. "This time it immediately led to the deaths of two American Warriors... America is awaiting the apology from President Hamid Karzai."

He, like several of the Republican presidential contenders, criticized Obama's response.

"If we had resolute leadership in the White House, we would have explained that these Islamic terrorist enemy combatants detained at the Parwan facility used the Koran to write jihadist messages to pass to others," he wrote. "In doing so, they violated their own cultural practice and defiled the Koran and turned the Koran into contraband."

(In a second post today, he tried to connect the bombings to the U.S.-mandated contraception controversy, but that's a whole different story. Suffice it to say it's not the first time he's been off-base on the issue.)

Still, is it unreasonable to be aggravated by the Obama administration's response to the Qur'an outrage? At the risk of sounding culturally insensitive, it seems at this point that the debate has devolved into "you burned a book, so we're going to burn everything," and then Obama apologized for the book thing as American servicemen were killed over it.

We rang the Pentagon to see what the deal was with properly disposing of Qur'ans and if anything had been confirmed about the books being used to pass secret messages. Commander Bill Speaks wrote in an email that "the investigation into that incident is still underway. I can tell you that, regardless of the reason they were removed from the detainee library, ISAF's procedure for disposing of these texts requires involvement of the proper Islamic religious authorities."

So, nothing yet. But the issue right now looks to be that the Qur'ans were accidentally burned and were potentially being used to illegally pass messages among prisoners -- which certainly changes the tone of the debate. And, for once, West might be on the side of reason.


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