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we’re sorry for being sacrilegious

February 22, 2012

The recent news that the White House is “apologizing for the burning of Muslim holy books in a pile of garbage at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan” has some people up in arms because they think it makes us look weak to have our president apologize for soldiers burning copies of the Quran while Muslims routinely burn our flag.

My opinion, on the other hand, is that it’s entirely understandable and appropriate for the current president to apologize for this incident, regardless of whether it was intentional (the military’s current position is that they were unintentionally burned, and that they’re investigating the matter in order to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again). For one, article 11 of the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli stresses that the US has (or at least had) a tolerant and respectful attitude towards Muslim nations and Islam in general:

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

The president is commander-in-chief of the military, and as such, he or she is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the US military. The desecration and/or destruction of a holy text by professional military personnel (as opposed to flag burning by random, irate individuals upset over foreign occupation) is not only disrespectful, it’s a danger to our troops that are still there considering the fact that it was done in a predominately Muslim nation by an occupying force that’s predominately Christian, which will undoubtedly increase the already high tension between the two groups. If the reverse were to happen here, with Bibles being burned by a predominately Muslim occupying force, I’m sure that Americans would be equally as outraged.

Instead of showing weakness, I think the official apology shows strength of character and sets a much-needed moral example (even if just superficially), and is the least the current administration should do.

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