It appears strange that after more than three years of complaints and protests from the captives held by the USA in the concentration camps of Kandahar, Bagram and GuantĂĄnamo Bay, that there is finally an acknowledgment that it is the faith of the detainees that is targeted: the religion of Islam.
However, what astounds us is the belated, duplicitous and hypocritical remonstration proclaimed by nations that were the foremost in doing Americaâs bidding: abducting and surrendering Muslims, with utter disregard for the explicit injunctions prohibiting such behaviour, stated in that same desecrated Qur`an that they now display indignation for. US spokesman Richard Boucher, commenting in response to angry anti-American demonstrations throughout the world over the alleged desecration of the Qur`an at the GuantĂĄnamo prison, has said that copies of the Qur`an were available to Muslim detainees, along with the opportunity to worship. That is true, but under what conditions?
The ridiculing of the athaan (call to prayer); forcible shaving of the beard â as punishment; use of sexual enticement during interrogations; derision of the Prophet; withholding of food in Ramadhan; prohibition of Quranic recitation, proscription of athaan and congregational prayer in Bagram, Afghanistan - a Muslim country; derision of Islamic rituals and supplications; forcible removal of prisoners whilst in the act of prayer, in addition to the degradation of the Qur`an have all been categorically reported by men formerly detained by the US military. The reports are far too recurrent, concurrent and consistent to deny, particularly as former US interrogators and soldiers have corroborated these reports.
The desecration of the Qur`an began from the outset, as I learned in February 2002, with the notorious incident in Kandahar, where it was widely known that a soldier of the US Marine Corps had torn up a copy of the Qur`an and thrown it into a bucket used for urination and defecation. In Bagram, that same year, I saw incidents that provoked fury, including the placing of Qur`ans in an area used as a latrine. As cells were entered and searched I witnessed an occasion when a Qur`an was snatched from a captiveâs hands and thrown to the ground. When distributing the Qur`ans to detainees, I remember clearly that one guard went around shoving
them through the cages, singing out in a newspaper-boy style, âExtra, Extra! Come get your Qur`an â your holiest of Holy Books. Learn how to kill Americans!â
In my final months at GuantĂĄnamo I was put in a cell close to a prisoner who was not even allowed a Qur`an. Instead he had an English translation consisting of photocopied pages crudely stapled together. It was filled with deliberate mistranslations and omissions â including whole chapters and verses. Surah al-Baqarah (the Heifer): 30, was blatant: âAnd when your Lord said to the Angels, âVerily I shall place upon the earth for you a lesser God (khalifah)âŚââ No Muslim
scholar, or translator â however deviated â could make such a flagrant error as to mistake ârepresentativeâ for âlesser Godâ. I recall so often making the duâaa (supplication), âO Allah, you have said, âIndeed We have revealed the Remembrance (the Qur`an), and We shall maintain its protectionâ, so protect it this day my Lord, for we cannot!â
Whilst in custody several soldiers and interrogators tried to propagate Christianity to me, not knowing that back in the UK I ran an Islamic bookstore. Nevertheless, I entertained their entreaties and accepted a copy of the Bible that they had perhaps thought that Iâd never read. Every detainee that saw my bible was acutely aware of the respect that we, as Muslims, accorded that book â because it contained therein the word of God, and despite our rejection of its authenticity, must not be disrespected. In fact, I believe we treated it with higher regard than
those who claimed to be its protagonists.
Boucher further states that US personnel assigned to GuantĂĄnamo went through cultural training to ensure that they understood the procedures for protecting the rights and dignity of detainees of all faiths. It is telling then, that after such âtrainingâ exercises US military personnel are regularly reported defiling the sanctity of all that is considered sacred to those whose right to freedom they have already violated. It is precisely because they know the sensitivities involved that they continue to target them. And the orders come from the apex: the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces, George. W. Bush.
14 th May 2005