Afghanistan: Deadly Response to Koran Burning

An area considered a critical bastion of security in Afghanistan is experiencing violent and fatal protests against foreigners in the country.  This past Friday, April 1, a United Nations mission in the town of Mazar-i-Sharif was invaded by protesters.  Seven UN staff members were killed, making this the deadliest attack on the UN in Afghanistan since the beginning of hostilities.  The violence continued Saturday in Kandahar where 10 people were killed and 83 injured, and also in Kabul where a NATO compound was hit by a suicide attack.  Many were shot, though some reports state that others had been beaten and stoned.  The protesters claim that the attacks are in response to the Koran burnings that took place in Florida under Pastor Terry Jones.  Although the Koran burnings had largely gone unnoticed by most Afghanis, protests erupted following criticism and a call for justice from Hamid Karzai on Friday. They are projecting their frustration onto any foreigners within their cities.  Many have been seen carrying Taliban flags and shouting anti-American/pro-Taliban slogans.  However, the Taliban denies any role in the violent protests.  The UN stated that this will not change their activities in Afghanistan, and President Obama has denounced religious intolerance as well as the wanton destruction of human lives.  The attacks come at a completely inopportune moment as the country readies for a security hand-over to Afghan troops.  This is certainly a tragedy in the wake of what could have been a peaceful transition.  In an interview this past weekend, Terry Jones remained defiant and stood by his actions.   Religious intolerance will not win wars.  Religious intolerance is in fact what created this situation beginning with the events of September 11, 2001.  There is blame on both ends as the burning of any holy text is an extreme of human intolerance and vengeance-seeking through violence is similarly unacceptable.  Unfortunately, the delicate balance of diplomacy and military force will have to continue amid such hatred.  One may only hope that intolerable and undignified external actors will allow the process to move forward as it will.

Photo Credit:  Flickr, Maks Karochkin