On May 9th, Newsweek magazine published a small sideline article on the conduct of American interrogators at the "enemy combatant" detention camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Among other interrogation methods mentioned, the article devoted a single sentence to the purported practice of flushing a Koran down the toilet as a method of psychologically traumatizing the religiously devout detainees into eventually revealing information.
At any other time in human history, such a minor blurb in an American publication would likely go unnoticed, or at least only noted in passing by English speakers, in the rest of the world. In this age of globalization, however, an era of international multi-lingual publishing, the internet, and satellite telephones, this otherwise insignificant detail has lead to something of a firestorm in the Islamic world. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, rioters have taken to the streets in unruly demonstrations condemning the slight against Islam. In Afghanistan, American trained local security forces fired on the mob, killing 17 protestors, mainly students.
Especially disturbing is the fact that the major Afghan cities have been considered largely pacified for some time now.
The violence in South-Central Asia as well as the more muted voices of protest in the Middle East proper over the flushing of a holy book (a story that Newsweek has since rescinded, have said their source may have not been entirely accurate. After all, how powerful are those Marine toilets?) are indicative of a trend that has been underway in that area since 1979 in various forms. It is the surrogation of rabid Islamic faith and anti-Westernism for the traditional notion of nationalism.
While attempts in the past to stir up cross-border feelings of unity and purpose in the Arab and wider Islamic world have, for the most part been failures in about every area except...