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Foreign Media Reaction

May 19, 2005

QUR'AN DESECRATION ALLEGATION: DIFFICULT TO 'PACIFY ENRAGED MUSLIMS'

KEY FINDINGS

**  Liberal dailies term allegations "all too believable" given the "thoroughly dismal" U.S. record.

**  Hardline Muslim writers see more proof of a "Western campaign against Islam."

**  Conservative dailies cite the report to urge media to "behave more responsibly."

**  Skeptics argue that USG pressure led Newsweek "to recant" its story.

MAJOR THEMES

'Entirely consistent' after Abu Ghraib and Gitmo--  "Proven lapses" in U.S. treatment of prisoners caused papers to find stories of "desecration and denigration" of the Qur'an "all too believable."  India's centrist Statesman argued that "evidence of these widespread abuses is not lacking, it is plentiful," and Austria's independent Der Standard said the USG's "ill-fated Guantanamo policy" makes Newsweek's report "appear plausible."  Because Guantanamo's "lack of transparency" allows "all sorts of rumor and propaganda," papers urged a "thorough and systematic" inquiry.  Writers warned the allegations will cause "irreversible damage" to the U.S.' image and, noted Indonesia's Islamic Pelita, "incite anti-Americanism globally."

Part of the 'crusade against Islam'--  Angry Muslim commentators condemned new signs of the U.S.' "general policy of humiliation of Muslims."  Morocco's Islamic Attajdid said the reports confirmed the U.S.' "deep hatred for Islam," while Syria's government-owned Al-Thawra blasted the "deep disrespect for Muslims' feelings."  Editorialists demanded the U.S. make a "national and official apology" for its "standard religious and cultural abuse" of Muslims.  Moderate Muslim observers called on readers to "contain negative reactions"; an Afghan outlet cautioned "violent protests contradict" the Qur'an.  Other analysts stressed that the Afghan protests showed "how fragile stability is" in the "resentful" country.

An 'impermissible' mistake--  Labeling Newsweek's retraction the latest in a "long list of gaffes and errors" by journalists "eager...to smear the U.S.," conservative papers denounced the "criminal breach of journalistic ethics."  Germany's Westfalischer Anzeiger judged the "momentous mistake...reprehensible."  The report's "exaggerations and fabrications" gave fundamentalists a "pretext to voice opposition" to the U.S., added Afghanistan's independent Erada.  Conversely, liberal dailies assailed the USG's "exercise in cynicism" by trying to "absolve itself" while blaming Newsweek.  France's Liberation alleged that U.S. officials have "given in to the temptation" to hold the media responsible for "too many of their blunders." 

U.S. press 'continues to face government interference'--  Some outlets were "skeptical about Newsweek's retraction," which "must have been announced under pressure" from Washington.  Saudi Arabia's moderate Al-Watan opined that the USG "exercised great pressure" and "forced the journal to withdraw its report."  Bangkok's conservative Siam Rath judged the retraction "too convenient," joining other analysts to say no one "is ready now to believe the magazine's apology."  These observers doubted the "credibility of U.S. journalism."  Slovenia's left-of-center Delo cautioned, "if the press yields, democracy will no longer exist." 

Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, rmrmail@state.gov

EDITOR:  Ben Goldberg

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 110 reports from 33 countries over 9 - 19 May, 2005.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.

EUROPE

BRITAIN:  "Bad News Week"

An editorial in the left-of-center Guardian read (5/19):  "The U.S. administration and conservative media have been quick to claim the moral high ground and blame Newsweek.  But it is wrong to suggest that all war coverage is tarnished and that journalists must defer to a government not known for its own transparency or accountability, which has pursued highly controversial policies in Iraq and the 'war on terror'.  On the contrary, reporting in wartime requires an especially robust attitude.  In this case, the Pentagon did not comment on the allegation until uproar began in the Muslim world.  Now the State Department has instructed all embassies to put out the message that the US believes in religious tolerance--more than can be said for some of its enemies.  If that has any impact, it would be an unintended useful consequence of a very unhappy affair."

"Don't Blame Newsweek For Riots In Pakistan"

Joan Smith commented in the left-of-center Independent (5/18):  "In this instance, Newsweek took the reasonable view that the allegation came from a trusted source, offered a Pentagon official an opportunity to deny the allegation and, when he didn't, decided to go ahead and publish.  If people die as a result--and the link is not entirely clear--that is not the magazine's fault."

FRANCE:  "The U.S. Press On The Bench Of The Accused"

Jean-Louis Turlin wondered in right-of-center Le Figaro (5/18):  “Is the pen mightier than the sword? True or false, the ‘information’ came from a single source, an anonymous ‘U.S. official'....  Details of the controversy over Newsweek’s revelations takes nothing away from the fact that such incidents could have taken place; the magazine is not the first to have reported cases of desecration of the Koran....  Furthermore, Newsweek gave an advance copy of its article to the Pentagon, which did not criticize that particular aspect of the article.”

"The Rumor From Guantanamo"

Dominique Quinio asserted in Catholic La Croix (5/18):  “Very little is needed to spark anti-Americanism in many countries. Desecration of the Koran is not ‘little'....  In matters of torture, there are acts of physical violence, and acts which are psychologically destructive. They hurt those who are submitted to them, and debase those who commit them....  Did the Americans commit such acts? This is what Newsweek said. The rumor, which was already being circulated among former prisoners, has sparked serious demonstrations in Afghanistan. American officials, concerned about America’s image being once again tarnished in Muslim public opinion, denied Newsweek’s allegations and Newsweek has retracted. But the harm is done. Anger is spreading in the Muslim world....  We must also wonder about Newsweek’s executives who did not measure the consequences of publishing such stories....  In Guantanamo, a place where there is no law, the lack of transparency that surrounds the prisoners’ conditions of detention opens the door to all sorts of rumors and propaganda. And allows every doubt to exist. Truth or lies? America’s defense of democracy which it wants to promote everywhere is singularly weakened.”

"An S.O.B..."

Pierre Marcelle noted in left-of-center Liberation (5/18):  “The Pentagon’s way of making Newsweek and the U.S. press in general responsible for its disastrous handling of Iraq and Afghanistan is much like Patton’s tanks....  On Monday a Pentagon official allegedly called Newsweek’s informant an 'S.O.B’....  All U.S. officials, from the Pentagon to the White House have quickly given in to the temptation of making Newsweek and the U.S. press responsible for too many of their own blunders, from Abu Gharaib to Guantanamo....  Several previous reports from Gauntanamo prisoners which tend to give credit to Newsweek’s report do not seem to have troubled these officials.”

"Newsweek’s ‘Mea Culpa’"

Alexandra Voinchet opined in right-of-center France Soir (5/17):  “Was the information revealed by Newsweek an invention or was it false information? Or has friendly ‘pressure’ from the U.S. administration led the weekly to recant its story? While the story was practically ignored in the U.S., it caused much anger in the Muslim world...with the most violent reactions in Afghanistan....  The U.S. is somewhat shaken by the controversy and has launched an investigation....  The controversy has indeed fueled violent feelings of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world, already exacerbated by the scandal of Abu Gharaib.”

"America’s Embarrassment"

Thomas Cantaloube wrote in right-of-center Le Parisien (5/17):  “Who is to be believed? When an American ‘high official’ tells the story of the Koran having been thrown in a toilet in Guantanamo, the only thing new is that the revelation comes from an American official. Similar incidents had already been reported by former prisoners. And as Newsweek says, ‘considering other incidents, the act may appear shocking, but it remains in the realm of the probable.’ Furthermore, the draft had been shown to Pentagon officials who at the time had not denied the story.”

"Karzai Criticizes The U.S. Army"

Francoise Chipaux held in left-of-center Le Monde (5/17):  “Karzai has intimated that his neighbors were responsible for recent anti-American protest in Afghanistan, and Pakistan in particular....  Karzai who is well aware of the political stakes emanating from the anti-American demonstrations has criticized the attitude of the U.S. Army but has also reiterated that without it ‘Afghanistan would immediately return to chaos’....  In spite of his criticism of the Americans, Karzai has reaffirmed his desire to prolong the alliance with the U.S.: ‘we know that without our strategic partnership with the U.S., Afghanistan cannot succeed in becoming a sovereign and independent state.’”

GERMANY:  "Wrong News"

Caroline Fletscher asserted in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (5/19):  "Why did the Islamic world take to the streets over an alleged desecration of the Koran?  There weren't dozens of dead people during riots and unrests when the shocking torture pictures from Abu Ghraib made the news.  The answer is simple:  Torture in Islamic countries is not a scandal but normal....  To show disrespect for the Holy Koran is as if you torture all Muslims, according to an Imam.  This shocking statement characterizes the great scandal behind the smaller scandal of the wrong report....  The [Islamic] world knows bodily mistreatments, torture, so-called honor killings and the arbitrariness of rulers.  The mistreatment of dissidents, women and children is a common thing in Islamic countries, while human rights, international law and public debates are seen as a 'western invention'....  However, the U.S. is also responsible for the fact that Guantánamo remains a popular story in the media.  Camp Delta should be open to journalists in order to demysticize Gitmo.  It would lose its attraction, and the true problems such camps pose to democratic states under the rule of law could finally be discussed."

"If The Truth Becomes A Commodity"

Stefan Kornelius penned the following editorial for center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (5/18):  "It would be an insidious half-truth to blame Newsweek for the anti-U.S. turmoil in Afghanistan and Pakistan and many other parts of the Muslim world.  With its article about the allegedly disrespect of the Koran in Guantánamo, it only delivered the spark that caused the explosion.  Indeed, such reports have gone round for years and were spread by prisoners who were released.  The U.S. has lost confidence in the Islamic world not because of this report but because, ranging from Abu Ghraib to Guantánamo, the treatment of terror suspects in its own country and to the rendition of alleged terrorists, a system of injustice has developed for which it is no longer possible to show any understanding....  This affair will be the most damaging for the U.S. government because it reveals again the unbearable gray zone it claims for its fight against terrorism.  It also causes an outrage that the sensitivity for injustice seems to have been lost....  The lack of respect towards friendly or less friendly countries and cultures has been the central characteristic of the Bush administration….  In this context people totally ignore two ominous developments, which have come to the fore not only since the Bush administration:  Under enormous pressure from the markets, the media have turned into actors, and newspapers are increasingly falling victim to forgers and con men, while on TV, reports are becoming increasingly flat, more nationalistic, and narcissist because the Americans cannot be expected to understand complicated problems.  And second, there is an intolerable camaraderie between the media and politics, kept together by the bracket of patriotism.  It is no surprise that in this climate, mistakes like the Newsweek one happen.  The system is overheated--and in this situation it is of no use if the one side points its finger to the other."

"World Views"

Peter Sturm judged in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (5/18):  "[The fact that Newsweek retracted its report] did not impress the demonstrators in Pakistan and elsewhere.  They are now demanding the punishment of those who spread the article.  The leaders of the protesters are not primarily interested in the Koran.  They obviously seize every available opportunity to show what they allegedly know anyway: that America is evil.  The well-meant western offers for a dialogue will not help against these people and their ideas.  But maybe it would be a good idea to scrutinize the Guantánamo affair.  Did something happen in the camp?  If so, what happened?  What took place with Newsweek?  These questions will sooner or later be answered - in America, because sooner or later everything comes to the fore in America.  But this is something the demonstrators will then not be willing to accept because it does not fit their view of the world."

"Reprehensible"

Right-of-center Westfälischer Anzeiger of Hamm argued (5/18):  "As reprehensible as the momentous mistake of the U.S. magazine was: the core of the problem lies deeper.  The great America, which is even waging war to fight for democracy, has forfeited its credibility in the Islamic world. The flood of protests is showing the U.S. government the powder keg on which it is acting.  In Iraq, in Pakistan, but even in Afghanistan of the democratically elected President Karzai a spark is enough to cause an explosion of violence because distrust sits so deep.   The outrage of the White House at the journalist carelessness, may be genuine.  But it would be credible only if the U.S. leadership acted more openly:  with a free look behind prison walls and barbed wire--if it did not have anything to hide."

"Outrageous"

Dietmar Ostermann maintained in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (5/17):  "It is significant that even the U.S. governments considered the accusations (raised in Newsweek) to be true.  Last week, Secretary Rice said the matter would fully investigated.  After Abu Ghraib, everything seems to be possible.  People among Newsweek's staff seemed to have thought the same way.  But now the magazine withdrew its story.   The alleged Pentagon scandal is now threatening to turn into a new media scandal in the U.S.  Is it allowed to publish such precarious accusations if the only available source is an anonymous official?  The outrage of the Pentagon is understandable.  But it does not change the fact that the conditions in Guantánamo remain a scandal."

"A News Story Is Turning Into A Worst-Case Scenario"

Business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg editorialized (5/17):  "The events show the dilemma of reporting.  Be it from Guantánamo or Iraq, the sources in the trouble spots are unclear and vague.  Guantánamo prisoners who were released only recently, report in elusive words on their treatment.  And since we do not hear too much from an official side, their stories or the things that become known meet with great attention outside.  The reporter must now weigh, on the one hand, between a critical judgment on his sources and, on the other hand, on U.S. policy.  This problem often leads to stories, which easily paint a distorted picture of the U.S. The tenor is:  at the latest since Abu Ghraib, they stop at nothing: those who build pyramids of naked bodies also flush the Koran.  What we are missing is healthy skepticism, a critical distance to events."

"Nothing Is Impossible"

Bernd Pickert noted in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin (5/17):  "Following Newsweek's withdrawal of the Koran story...a feeling of unease is prevailing.  Is it an army scandal focusing on the contempt of the Koran or is a media scandal focusing on the publication of false information?....  For more than two and a half years, Guantánamo prisoners have been reporting of similar incidents.  U.S. authorities rejected all accusations by referring to Al Qaida manuals in which members were advised to make such accusations.  The fact that hardly anyone considers the most recent accusations to be not credible shows who has thus far lagged behind in this propaganda war.  And it is certain that the media cannot be blamed for this, but the proven lapses of the U.S. units, ranging from Abu Ghraib to Guantánamo."

ITALY:  "Newsweek Apologizes And Retracts On Koran’s Profanation"

Maurizio Molinari remarked in centrist, influential La Stampa (5/17):  “The next few days will tell whether Newsweek’s ‘full and complete’ retraction will be enough to calm the wave of anti-Americanism prompted by the article from Egypt to Indonesia.” 

RUSSIA:  "It’s Akin To World Revolution"

Vladimir Dzaguto commented in reformist Vremya Novostey (5/17): “The U.S.' opponents masterly used the publication to provoke a wave of anti-American actions in the Muslim world....  You can’t but wonder at the ‘naivete’ of the reporters and Newsweek.  They should have known that their story might have the effect of a bombshell in countries with Islamic fundamentalism as the prevailing religion.  To publish that with nothing to verify it was imprudent, mildly speaking....  The story has caused tremendous damage to the U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the pro-Western Karzai government, and America’s image in the Islamic world.”

"Control Yourself So Others Don’t Control You"

Reformist Izvestiya opined (5/17):  "As things are going, the responsibility of the mass media multiplies.  In the globalization age, information travels fast in the world.  One wrong word is enough to get you in trouble with unpredictable consequences.  Journalists have a double responsibility, to their audience and profession.  Any ‘slip’ by the free and independent media is a gift for their opponents....  Pressure can be delicate or crude.    Nowhere is the press free of pressure, not even in the most democratic countries.  Hence, the rule ‘control yourself so the government does not control you.’”

AUSTRIA:  "The Murky Waters Of Guantanamo Bay"

Foreign editor Christian Ultsch opined in centrist Die Presse (5/18):  "Clearly, Newsweek is guilty of a major blunder. But the real scandal is that the U.S. is keeping some of its prisoners in legal limbo....  Undoubtedly, things are happening in Guantanamo which were not on the agenda. This isn't the first time reports have surfaced about prisoner abuse. There has been talk, too, about desecrations of the Koran before. Or that Muslim prisoners were forced to eat pork. It's possible that we're dealing with horror propaganda. Anti-American forces are grateful for every opportunity to fuel animosity against the unloved super-power. One thing, however, is beyond all question: There is no better breeding ground for such stories than an area like Guantanamo where prisoners' rights are unclear or undefined. For more than three years, terrorist suspects have been held there without charges. This situation is unworthy of a constitutional state."

"Unholy Performance"

Christoph Winder observed in liberal Der Standard (5/17):  "The Newsweek affair shows mistakes and foolishness in the war against terror....  The uncomfortable realization: With its ill-fated Guantanamo policy in particular, the US government has succeeded in making reports like the one published in Newsweek appear plausible even if the story is pure invention. We are faced with an unholy but very educational drama here, which points out the foolishness and the tragic cause-and-effect ratio that seems to be on the agenda in the war on terror."

BELGIUM:  "Newsweek Article On Desecration Of Koran"

Ayfer Erkul contended in independent De Morgen (5/19):  "A general apology by Newsweek was not enough.  No, the magazine had to go down on its knees before George W. Bush and be abused....  Newsweek had to help repair the image of the U.S. in the Muslim counties and, as a punishment, it had to conduct propaganda for the White House....  Of course, there is something wrong with the image that the Muslim world has of the U.S.  It is true that the anti-American feelings in counties like Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan have exploded....  But, no one can take the allegation seriously that Newsweek angered those extremist and fundamentalist Muslims against the U.S.  Did the magazine urge the guards in the Abu Ghraib prison to force the prisoners to pose naked, to form human pyramids or to threaten them with dogs?....  It is not at all certain that the article that Newsweek retracted was that untrue…  Newsweek has apologized for the report.  Bush has never apologized to the Iraqi citizens killed in the war, the prisoners in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and the dozens of foreigners who run the risk of being kidnapped or beheaded.  The question is whether he will apologize should it become clear that Korans were indeed desecrated in Guantanamo.  Or, will he do what he always does when embarrassing problems arise: flush through to the next subject?”

CROATIA:  "Newsweek's Theorem"

Marina Seric postulated in Zagreb-based mass-circulation Vecernji list (5/19):  "Everyone who is smart will conclude from this that the story is true, and that the legally elected government [U.S.] and not a small group of journalists is the one bringing down its homeland’s reputation.  Journalists are only trying to warn about some of the atrocities, and it is part of their job descriptions.  Whitaker and his people have remained with a difficult burden on their souls, and with the eternal dilemma whether the world should have been warned about what Americans have been doing in Guantanamo, or whether they should have remained silent.  There would have been victims in both cases.  The only trouble is that such a heavy burden is lying on journalists’ backs, in a country which is bragging of having the most developed democracy in the world.”

"Distinguished Newsweek's Impermisslbe Beginner's Mistake"

Inoslav Besker commented in Zagreb-based mass-circulation Jutarnji list (5/19):  "Newsweek has allowed a beginner’s mistake to happen....  All this does not justify what ‘t has done:  in investigative journalism, one has to walk on eggs, as much as editorial pressure and one’s own vanity were pushing to be the first one, loud, sensational....  All this partly explains why victims demonstrated in Kabul (but even that does not explain why the police shot at them).  However, just as Newsweek’s mistake does not absolve the originators of crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan...these crises do not absolve Newsweek.  Its mistake is impermissible.”

CZECH REPUBLIC:  "Media And White House--Fierce Duel"

Daniel Anyz noted in leading mainstream MF Dnes (5/18):  "[Regarding Newsweek’s backing off from its story on desecrating a Koran in Guantanamo] the White House spokesperson is right when he says that the magazine has not met basic rules of journalism requiring all information to be verified from two independent sources....  When Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld now instructs journalists that 'people should be very careful what they say,' media could retort:  'What has the Administration done about this sensitive ethical problem itself?'  Politicians can hardly pretend that journalists are the only ones who sin.  WMD in Iraq is the most striking, but not the only, example of the difficult duel played between politicians and journalists....  In the case of WMD, even skeptical journalists believed Colin Powell’s presentation in the UN....  A year later, nothing was left of Powell’s evidence.  Newsweek released the information about desecrating the Koran only after this piece of news had been repeatedly mentioned by former prisoners of Guantanamo.  These may not be regarded as 'independent' sources, but the magazine may have qualified them as being equal to the official ones.  Following recent experience this may not be widely improbable. And was it a mistake?  Let us wait and see." 

"Punishment For A Lie"

Petra Prochazkova observed in center-right Lidove noviny (5/17):  "Even though reporters from Newsweek admitted that their story about the profaning of Koran might not have been based on true events, the outrage of Muslims in Afghanistan persists and they request punishment.  Some Afghans argue that the magazine is responsible for the lives of those who died in the ensuing riots; others claim that the subsequent statements of the magazine are lies only meant to pacify [the offended Muslims].  In some ways they are right.  If the news...was indeed based on unconfirmed testimony, then it was a criminal breach of journalistic ethics. And worse luck if it was only an attempt to pacify the situation with the help of a lie.  Muslims request punishment either for the lie or for the deed."

DENMARK:  "No Clear U.S. Vision For Iraq Or Afghanistan"

Center-left Politiken editorialized (5/17):  "The so-called Coalition in Iraq has long since ceased to be a reality and the U.S. seems to resemble, more and more, a country in confusion rather than a nation with any clear vision for the future in the region.  The situation in Afghanistan is similarly unstable.  Last week Karzai called for help from the U.S. and NATO to beat narcotics production.  Things do not look good." 

POLAND:  "Afghanistan Is Fragile"

Wojciech Jagielski wrote in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (5/13):  “The anti-American riots [in Afghanistan] will not be a turning point, but they show how fragile stability in this country is despite evident successes. [They show] how illusory the power of President Karzai is, and how deceptive the faith of his American sponsors is that Afghanistan can be checked off so soon so that the entire focus can be put on Iraq.”

ROMANIA:  "Further Rage"

Daniel Munteanu asserted in independent Adevarul (5/17):  "Most certainly, the authors of the [Newsweek] article...did not correctly estimate the impact of last week’s news...in Muslim countries....  That piece of news published in Newsweek runs the risk of stirring even further the feeling that already exists in certain communities that the U.S. war against terrorism is, in fact, a war against Muslims."

SLOVENIA:  "Newsweek Yielded To Pressure"

Barbara Kramzar observed in left-of-center Delo (5/18):  "Newsweek succumbed late in the afternoon on Monday....  Mark Whitaker had apologized for parts of the article in the morning; a couple of hours later, the article was officially retracted....  The White House demands that the retraction be just the first step.  It is okay that journalists examine their conscience....  However Newsweek should not go much further than introducing new guidelines on publication of articles based on [information received from] anonymous sources....  Anything else would draw water to the mill of politics, which likes to meddle in the media....  This is the price politicians have to pay for the development of democratic societies....  Fights between the press and government is dangerous, but--at least in democracies--it is indispensable.  If the press yields, democracy will no longer exist. Also anonymous sources are important. Without them there would have been no disclosure of Watergate, Iran-Contra...and many other affairs, which made the U.S. and the entire world better."

SPAIN:  "Left Carrying The Bag"

Left-of-center El País said (5/18):  "The leaders of Newsweek have behaved flippantly....  But to try and put the blame on the messenger after so much spilled blood and discredit of the U.S. is an exercise in cynicism by the Pentagon, Department of State, and the White House. A government that maintains a severely opaque informative policy in issues of terrorism and that also allows for the existence of a prison such as Guantanamo, a legal limbo apart from any civilized convention where the soldiers do and undo without any control, holds itself to be the last in line of those responsible for the mess....  It's not coincidence that the more demagogical results of the episode has happened in Afghanistan, a country that staggers in spite of a U.S. military presence, where Al Qaeda and its followers are strong, and whose President, a firm Washington ally, has serious difficulties in asserting his power outside of the capital."

TURKEY:  "News Like A Bomb"

Sami Kohen opined in mainstream Milliyet (5/18):  “The Newsweek story on the alleged desecration of the Koran has raised an important issue regarding the mission and responsibility of the media.  The storm generated by the story resulted in a statement of apology by Newsweek, which also withdrew the story.  The Newsweek editor apologized to the victims of violent demonstrations, saying that the story may contain some factual mistakes.  From a journalistic standpoint, can we possibly say that Newsweek has done the right thing by running such a story?....  If the story is incorrect, it is a shame both for those and journalists and for the magazine.  We remember how in the recent past The New York Times and USA Today were forced to fire reporters for writing invented stories.  But this debate is not over.  What if a potentially inflammatory story happens to be correct?  Should a reporter hesitate to write the story, or even hide it in an effort to protect the public interest?  This is an issue that calls for more extensive debate”

"The Conscience Of The Region"

Fehmi Koru wrote in Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak (5/18):  “Despite the retraction by Newsweek, the fury over the Koran desecration story continues to claim lives and cause unrest.  This is the result of the information age.  News travels in real time and reaches its audience immediately, but a denial of an incorrect story travels more slowly and may never reach its destination.  A story in an American news magazine and the incidents it sparked all over the world is a good example of this.  Whether the story is correct or not is another issue.  The most important thing is that this particular event is a warning for the U.S., especially regarding its war against terrorism.  The U.S. should realize the possible consequences if it does not display sufficient sensitivity to sacred principles in Islamic societies....  There is another important lesson in this incident.  The people of Afghanistan and Iraq have started questioning U.S. intentions for their countries.  The protests in Afghanistan are significant, because such events did not take place even during the US occupation.  More such events could bring us all closer to a real ‘clash of civilizations.’  We should bear in mind the fact that the violent demonstrations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan have something in common: both countries are ruled by pro-American regimes.  The intentions of the US and its allies are being examined, and the reaction to this small story is an indication of this.”

MIDDLE EAST

SAUDI ARABIA:  "Newsweek’s’ Retraction:  Was It For Political Reasons Or Professionalism?"

Abha's moderate Al-Watan editorialized (5/19):  "It is very clear that the U.S. administration exercised great pressure on Newsweek--using all political and humanitarian excuses including the fact that people have been killed because of the story....  The administration’s pressure was the main reason for the magazine's apology.  It seems that professionalism was not the real reason for the retraction....  These developments make people worry about the image of the U.S. press, which was an example to the entire world of press freedom and professionalism.  If politicians want to profit from concealing the facts about the reports of desecration of the holy Qur’an, there are other loses that the American nation will pay from its freedom and political independence."

"Do You Believe It Was Newsweek"

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed stated in London-based influential pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat (5/18):  "You are a big fool if you believe that Afghans read Newsweek and that its story of desecration of the Holy Qur’an irritated them....  Newsweek is not on sale in Afghanistan, it arrives late to a few subscribers....  Secondly, the news item itself was one line and half in English in a country a majority of whose citizens do not even read their mother language....  When thousands in Afghanistan get to know a news item in a magazine that does not reach them, is not in their language and was protested by no other English-speaking Islamic nation before them, it raises a big question.  It shows the danger of propaganda and its use by opposition groups more than it shows true public sentiment....  Another group tried to do the same thing in Iraq but nobody believed them.  By such exaggerations and fabrications they inflame hate and recruit the naive to serve ends that have no relation to the subject of the demonstrations.  This was exactly what happened in Afghanistan when defeated groups attempted to incite people."

"The Holy Quran After Abu Gharib!?"

Riyadh’s business-oriented Al-Eqtisadiah editorialized (5/16):  "America must know that the world did not believe that theatrical production called the Abu Gharib trial.  The U.S. is committing a double crime against good Americans and the world if it is thinking that it is possible to manipulate the truth about the crime of the desecration of the Quran....  The American administration must apologize clearly.  Otherwise, this crime will be considered an underestimation of the world. This underestimation means that the U.S. disavows any acts by its army."

"Desecration"

The pro-government English-language Saudi Gazette held (5/16):  "News that a copy of the Holy Quran might have been desecrated by U.S. troops holding Muslim detainees at Guantanamo Bay as part of a process to degrade and humiliate the latter was first broken by Newsweek.  While this is hardly an unimpeachable source it can hardly be claimed the latest allegations are the handiwork of Islamic fanatics....  The Kingdom appeals to the concerned American authorities to carry out a quick investigation....  Rice's response is, of course, what one would expect from any responsible government. Unfortunately, she speaks against the background of the Abu Ghraib experiences in which low-ranking soldiers clearly abused prison inmates apparently without authorization from either politicians or American officers....  Since the world knows less about what is going on in Guantanamo than it does about what happened at Abu Ghraib, Washington has left itself open to the most lurid speculation. Transparency about the status and standing of the remaining 520 Muslim inmates at Guantanamo, who have now been held in excess of three years without trial, charge or due process...might make Rice's exhortations more plausible....  However, the damage has already been done."

"We Do Not Accept Insults To Our Sacred Belongings"

Jeddah’s moderate Okaz editorialized (5/15):  "Although we trust the wisdom of the U.S. administration and its awareness of the grave consequences of the issue, or at least this is what we hope, this violation and its ramifications cannot be addressed by a mere statement from a military official saying that preliminary investigations showed that there was no evidence confirming the reports....  Although we respect an appreciate the confirmation by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that her country respects holy books...we maintain reservations about her suggestion that there are extreme elements that aim to use the issue to inflame hate against the U.S.  Our reservation centers on the possibility that her suggestion might be used to avoid dealing with the incident seriously if it is proven to be true."

"Anything But The Holy Qur'an"

Talal Banan Said wrote in moderate Okaz (5/15):  "Washington wants to portray its war on what it calls terrorism as a national security issue for her as well as for the stability and security of the world. In this, it ignores anything that might indicate that this war has cultural and religious dimensions that target Muslims and Islam....  Nothing harms the feelings of more than one billion Muslims more than insulting their faith and their holy Qur’an....  What has been reported to have been committed in U.S. jails against suspected terrorists is not in its interest."

"Unshaken Position"

Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina opined (5/15):  "The Kingdom has asked the concerned American authorities to quickly conduct an investigation into this unprecedented incident.  Actually the Kingdom got what it has asked, the American response came quickly to confirm that preliminary investigations have not proved the truth of the allegations. And what has been circulated was an attempt to damage the image the U.S. as a state that places respect for holy books as a major founding principle of her creation....  Muslims around the world must understand that insults to the holy Qur’an are the last thing the Kingdom will endure."

"Hurting The Feelings Of Muslims"

Makkah’s conservative Al-Nadwa contended (5/14):  "Thanks for the U.S. official position, which condemned any attempt to hurt the feelings of Muslims.  U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated, before the U.S. Senate, that the U.S. will never tolerate any disrespect for the holy Qur'an...of course, this position deserves appreciation.  Although the U.S. was shocked by the September 11 attacks, that does not mean [it wants] to insult one of the major faiths of the world.  In fact, many American people embrace Islam and the U.S. constitution prohibits insults to religions....  This makes us confident that the U.S. will conduct an honest investigation into what has happened inside the Guantanamo detention center, hold those responsible accountable for their actions, and bring them before courts, because an insult to any faith is primarily an insult to the U.S. constitution, which is based on freedom."

"Desecration Of The Holy Qur'an"

Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazira held (5/14):  "Differences in belief and religion are not a problem in Western communities, and certainly not in the American community which is considered an ideal for cultural, intellectual and social diversity....  The article that protects freedom of thought and belief is revered in the sense that it is one of the most significant articles of the constitution....  It was 9/11 that first created hatred towards Muslims as individuals. The U.S. media fed this hatred and extended the hostility against Muslims and their religion and culture. This hatred cast its shadow on many parts of the U.S. community that were affected by views of the neo-conservatives. This has led to the commission of a number of violations and even crimes against Muslims inside and outside the U.S."

"In Whose Interest Is Insulting The Holy Qur'an?"

Riyadh’s moderate Al-Riyadh observed (5/14):  "If a lunatic person tears the Holy Qur’an and throws it in the toilet, it is a strange and filthy deed....  The U.S. is liable for the attitude of its officials in Guantanamo...[but]we should not rush towards anything that harms us religiously and financially. We are certain that any country as powerful as the U.S. could not want to offend one billion Muslims....  We should work to contain negative reactions."

"Curse All Americans"

Mohsen Al Awaji posted a commentary on leading anti-American Al-Sahat Internet site stating (5/14):  "Oh God please curse all Americans for what they did to your book and send your soldiers to take revenge and show them a day as black as the Pharaoh's black day.  Count them and kill them all and don't leave any one of them alive....  In situations like this, diplomacy dies for good, there is no more peaceful coexistence.  Life is cheap so, Muslims, aim for God's approval and die for this cause. We should reconsider our attitude towards the Jihadist groups.  We should now cooperate with them and support them as they continue their attacks against the attackers of the Quran and Islam."

BAHRAIN:  "No Easy Riding In Afghanistan"

The pro-government English-language Daily Tribune declared (5/16):  "Reports on Holy Quran-desecration incidents at Guantanamo sparked riots in Afghanistan and Afghan president Hamid Karzai appeared very discomforted....  The US-backed president said it is only extremist quarters that are fanning the fires of dissent in his territory over the latest Guantanamo scandals blaming foes of the US for igniting anger over the issue.  But Karzai must be seeing things in a myopic view. Signs of unrest in Afghanistan may have been triggered by the Guantanamo scandals but something definitely deeper lies behind the protests.  With or without the Quran-desecration incidents, unrest has been brewing in Afghanistan in recent months....  Four years after the fall of Taliban, a picture of democracy and people-propelled governance has been painted by American PR experts for Afghanistan. While national elections have been held successfully last year with a parliamentary election set for this year, the prospects for peace and stability in the vast country remain unclear.  Ordinary Afghans will opt for peace after decades of wars and bloodshed but unfortunately the pace of reforms and promises of social and economic recovery remain very slow....  There is unease among most Afghans over the continuing U.S. presence....  Many view the prolonged occupation as reinforcing not democracy but Karzai-brand politics that is doing very little for the entire country.  Warlordism in Afghanistan is still prevalent, poverty levels in most parts of the country are still at unimaginable high levels. The Taliban-Qaeda ring has not totally been eliminated. There is still a widespread feeling of insecurity....  Democracy in Afghanistan is still at a very superficial level. The Quran-desecration incidents were either just untimely for Karzai or timely for the people. The protests would have come anyway....  There is still no bed of roses in the country that Washington has so often ballyhooed to be a successful experiment in fighting terrorism and restoring democracy via a full-scale war and occupation"

JORDAN:  "The Credibility Deficit"

The elite English-language Jordan Times opined (5/17):  "When Newsweek on Sunday began retreating from its report that US interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrated copies of the Holy Koran...both the magazine and the U.S. government must have hoped that the climbdown would bring an end to anti-US protests...and minimise the latest damage to Washington's tattered international prestige. Though the protests seem to have subsided, the climbdown seems to have dealt an additional blow to the U.S. credibility....  Such cynicism...was excusable. In the first place, the desecration of the Koran...as a means of exerting psychological pressure on Muslim prisoners at Guantanamo Bay seems entirely consistent with other reprehensible interrogation tactics known to have been applied elsewhere; for example, at Abu Ghraib....  As the West never tires of telling us in the Arab region, transparency is the mother of credibility, and it is the absence of transparency that breeds cynicism. And the relationship between the current US administration and the American media lends itself to the problem. This administration is one of the most secretive in recent memory....  As it concerns this scandal, neither the administration nor the media being transparent in its discourse or its behaviour....  The fact of the matter is that such allegations from detainees have arisen in the past....  The allegation deserves thorough and systematic investigation. On the other hand, given the crisis provoked by the publication of the story, it is now incumbent on Newsweek...to declare itself clearly: By specifying which "part" of its story it believes to be inaccurate; by retracting the story altogether if it believes it to be patently false; or, if it finds itself under government pressure, to say so."

MOROCCO:  "Newsweek's Retraction Has Only Damaged Its Own Credibility"

Islamic Arabic-language Attajdid said (5/19):  "Neither the results of the U.S. fact-finding commission nor the apology by Newsweek have been convincing for many people, especially on the heels of fresh testimony by former detainees confirming the desecration and denigration of the Holy Koran by U.S. soldiers. Newsweek's retraction has only damaged its own credibility as a magazine, especially since it has not denied what occurred and also confirmed U.S. officials' deep hatred for Islam."

"Newsweek...Excuses Itself"

Amina Talhimet commented in socialist French-language Liberation (5/17):  "This sordid affair, legitimately perceived as an insult for Islam and Muslims, proves once again how easy it is to inflame tempers, spark wars and provoke clashes between civilizations. (Now the question is) how to convince millions of Muslims, who for a whole week were feeling insulted and humiliated by the real or imagined contempt of the American Army, that nothing of all this was true....  The sensitivity of the subject, the errors and the past lies of the American Army and the disastrous turn that this erroneous information took, have complicated what should have been a 'non event.'"

"The U.S. Administration Talks About Freedom But In Reality Commits Violations"

Nourelyaqin Bensliman contended in left-of-center Arabic-language Bayane Al Youm (5/17):  "The scandal of desecrating the Holy Quran at Guantanamo would not have occurred if the U.S. Administration had taken seriously the reports by former detainees in which they talked about witnessing U.S. GI's humiliation of Muslims' religious beliefs and the desecration of the Holy Quran....  Unfortunately, the Bush Administration's isolation has become the rule, and not the exception, in countries under U.S. occupation. This contradicts the rhetoric by U.S. leaders about human rights, freedom of religion and respect for monotheistic religions....  The U.S. Administration should present a public apology for the crimes committed by its soldiers and stop the repetition of such practices against detainees and their religious sentiments."

"About Desecration Of The Holy Quran:  The Desecration Revealed The True Character Of U.S."

Habib Shubani remarked in Islamic Arabic-language Attajdid (5/17):  "The desecration of the Holy Quran has revealed the character of America and its abysmal decadence. Even if America puts on all the perfumes in the world, it won't appear beautiful to Muslims so long as there are American citizens who do not respect the sacred beliefs of others, and as long as America has programs and methods that produce such decadence, as manifested in both male and female soldiers, who commit atrocities but are never brought to justice...”

QATAR:  "Newsweek Error Claims Eyewash:  Residents"

The semi-independent English-language Peninsula asserted (5/17):  "A number of people in Qatar feel that Newsweek confessed to having erred in its report on the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran in Guantanamo Bay due to pressure from the US Defense Department. Newsweek's report of the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran sparked deadly protests in Afghanistan and many other Muslim countries. The magazine said in its latest edition that investigators probing alleged abuses at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay found that interrogators had placed copies of the Holy Quran in toilets, and in at least one case, flushed a copy down the toilet. Though the magazine's editor, Mark Whitaker, has regretted in his editorial, doubting the authenticity of the report, some people The Peninsula spoke to in Doha yesterday felt he might have done so under pressure from the US Defense Department....  World leaders should come out with their reaction because world peace is endangered. Many think that apology from an editor is not called for because he is not a probing authority.”

"Hatred Is A Two-way Road"  

Mazen Hamad, Managing Editor, wrote in semi-independent Al-Watan (5/15):  “When we hear Dr. Rice saying that the U.S. respects all religious books we laugh. When we hear statements saying that desecration of the holy Quran was a shameful act, we laugh. And, when she said that religious freedom is a fundamental value of the American traditions, we also cynically laugh. The American words are totally opposite to their deeds. We don’t believe that the top executives in the administration have given instructions to do such a horrible act, but since 9/11 American policy, as understood in the minds of the Americans, is that Islam and terrorism are two faces of the same coin. This act will lead to an ugly reaction by fanatics in the Muslim world. Desecration of the Holy Quran was not only a pressure technique used on those detained in Guantanamo, but also employed on a billion and half Muslim all over the world. The culture of hatred is a two way street: the U.S. cannot ask Muslims to rid themselves from hating the West without asking the West to stop hating Islam.”

"Guantanamo Scandal’s Roots Lie In U.S. Policy"

The semi-official English-language Gulf Times maintained (5/15):  "During the past four days angry Muslims have taken to the streets...protesting against the reported desecration of copies of the Holy Qur’an at Guantanamo Bay....  Although the allegations are not new, they have become much more widely known after being highlighted in Newsweek....  Despite official American statements assuring Muslims that there will be a proper investigation and that the U.S. government and people will not tolerate religious intolerance, it is a telling fact that the authorities have had a year to act on these allegations and have, apparently, done nothing. It is only the surge of anger in Muslim countries...which has persuaded Washington to promise action.  Yet, already the Pentagon is in denial mode. US defence officials have said that no evidence had been found to support the allegation....  The question that should be asked is not whether this happened (clearly it did) but where does the responsibility for it lie? Was this...part of a general policy of humiliation and degrading treatment prescribed by senior military or political authorities?  Unfortunately, the disgraceful outcome of the Abu Ghraib torture inquiry, which failed to trace command responsibility and simply scapegoated a handful of junior soldiers, gives us no confidence at all about the outcome of any internal inquiry into the desecration....  Events at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and at Camp Delta in Cuba are consequences of the decision by the highest officials in the Bush administration to deny basic human rights to any foreigner who is arrested and labelled a terrorist....  That violation of the fundamental principles of democratic government is the cancer that has created this problem and gravely damaged the reputation of the U.S. around the world.  Any investigation should look at the root causes of these problems, not simply hunt out a few inconsequential scapegoats."

SYRIA:  "Who Is The Victim?"

Hanan Hamad asserted in government-owned Tisheen (5/18):  "The Newsweek withdrawal of its report on the desecration of the Qur'an is no not sufficient to erase the growing harm it has incurred and the victims it has inflicted among demonstrators in the Islamic world. Among the victims is the credibility and professional commitment of the magazine itself.  It increased resentment of the U.S.' stand on this issue starting from its hostility and disrespect for Islam and Moslems...ending with the pressure it has exerted on the magazine...to defuse anger in the Islamic world not out of remorse and care for the blood of victims who were killed during the demonstrations...but because of the problems aggravating this issue has caused for the U.S. in the Moslem world....  The Newsweek withdrawal on the report and Washington's pledge to investigate will not end this issue. It is more than a casual case. It is a phenomenon with many dimensions that comes under the banner of combating terrorism."

"Minor Scandals To Hide Major Scandals"

Dina Dakhlallah stated in government-owed Al-Ba'th (5/17):  "From time to time the U.S. needs to divert world attention and mislead Arab and public opinion about the killing and destruction taking place in Iraq....  The US used the Abu Ghraib scandal for the first time to divert world attention from its Marines' campaign in Najaf. It used the same scandal for the second time to cover up the U.S. army campaign in Falluja. And recently it utilized the desecration of Quran scandal to cover up the US campaign against Al-Qaem, which disturbed the Islamic world.  To get rid of such scandals, Washington uses the game of democracy and getting involved with transparent domestic investigations to punish involved perpetrators. In most cases these investigations end up convicting one or two persons, as happened with the Abu-Ghraib scandal, where the investigation which acquitted General Sanchez and convicted one or more US soliders.  In this way, Washington unleashes a scandal, prosecutes itself, acquits itself and misleads world public opinion about the real violations, namely the occupation of Iraq and keeping prisoners in Guantanamo without trial....  This doesn't mean that there are no violations happening...but the way these violations have leaked to media at this specific time raises many questions.  It has become obvious that the US uses minor scandals to hide major scandals which cannot be handled by apology, promises on the conduct of transparent investigations."

"Administration Of Evil And Extremism"

Ali Nasrallah commented in government-owned Al-Thawra (5/16):  "It is a strange coincidence that the scandal of US interrogators' desecration of Quran in Quantanamo comes on the first anniversary of the Abu-Ghraib scandal....  The US Administrations never showed such concern about improving the US image in the world. Though the US always showed bias and support towards Israel and showed enmity towards Arabs and Moslems, but it never reached the level of extremism and insulting Moslems whom are charged by the Bush Administration as terrorists....  Continuing US provocations against Islam and Moslems has produced violations and abuses similar to what happened in Abu-Ghraib as well as the insolent desecration of divine being in Guantanamo which has exceed all unjustified ethical and religious desecrations. Making diplomatic and soothing statements on making investigation on this issue will not help in pacifying the extensive anger on this act. US acknowledgement that it is an outrageous and rejected action is insufficient. The outcome of investigation will only lead up to justifying this act as an individual behavior on the part on interrogators.  Instead of correcting its policies and conducting a serious review of its policy, the US Administration--which realizes the dangers of its mistakes on the future of international relations and Arab-Moslem and American relations--is trying in vain to correct its image which are spoiled by its policies through media campaigns produced on newly devised TV and Radio stations which opinion polls show that they are producing counter results.  US experts and research centers have recently discovered that the Arab and Moslem worlds believe that the US Administration--not the American people--is damaging these relations. Revealing the outcome of such studies and featuring them in Western and US media will be the only way to correct the US image and to oust the Bush Administration which jeopardizes world security and peace by creating a huge civilization rift between the east and the West."

"Is Anger Sufficient?"

Ali Qasem asserted in government-owned Al-Thawra (5/15):  "The U.S. disrespect for Moslems' feelings, that has reached the level of direct targeting of their sacred book, is no longer restricted to individual violations by a few US soldiers but has become a provocative policy pursued by some members of the US administration.  The most dangerous thing is if the US interpretations of what took place in Guantanamo...become the basis upon which the US administration contains the repercussions of the topic and succeeds in emptying it of meaning, as it wishes.  There is evidence for this inclination, starting with the US disregard of the abuses, as exemplified by some US politicians and military in the Pentagon....  Such practices have been substantiated by many prisoners in Guantanamo, and what makes the US measures even more disrespectful and sacrilegious is that they did not even satisfy minimum levels of investigative ethics."

UAE:  "Opinion Is Free But Facts Are Sacred"

The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf News maintained (5/17):  "Media in the US needs to question, examine and analyse the truth more responsibly.  The war on terror has not been kind to America's institutions, none of which have escaped unscathed....  The judiciary has been strangely silent as civil liberties were eroded, the armed forces have had their reputation stained, politicians have rushed to endorse an invasion without critical examination and now the press seems to have turned a new chapter in incompetence.  Newsweek first reported that the Quran had been desecrated at Guantanamo. Then it admitted it could not back up its claim and apologised....  The trouble is that the story was all too believable in the wake of the horrors that took place in Abu Ghraib....  The magazine insists that it followed the necessary procedures before publishing its story.  In that case the procedures are clearly not up to standard. There are times when the media make legitimate mistakes and, like any human endeavour, it is not immune from carelessness or bias. But its primary function is to report what happened. On that it should be judged....  For too long the U.S. media, with notable exceptions, celebrated the beating of Iraq war drums and lacked a critical examination of the issue. It did its readers and its country a disservice. America, and the international community, needs a dynamic and vibrant media in the U.S. to question, analyse, examine and, when called for, praise.  Acceptance without inquiry is not a virtue."

"Not The Full Story"

The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf Today argued (5/17):  "Newsweek's apology over its report of alleged desecration of the Holy Quran...has given a new twist to the continuing saga of prisoner abuses in 'terror war' prisons.  The magazine now says that the report of an American military investigation confirming the desecration of the Holy Book at the detention centre was inaccurate....  The apology has not satisfied many in the Muslim world. Demonstrations against the U.S. policies continued in several countries, showing clearly that the reports relating to the abuse of Holy Quran, true or false, were only cementing the Muslim community's belief that it is at the receiving end of religious humiliation in one way or the other as the war against terrorism marches on. Notwithstanding the Newsweek report's veracity or the lack of it, the anger caused by this feeling will take a lot more than an apology to subside.  The report...is more than a journalistic embarrassment. The fire the report ignited spread all over the world when Muslims, already caught in the crosshairs for all kinds of misplaced notions, exploded in anger....  However, the Newsweek report was not the beginning or the end of American abuses. The world is by now familiar with stories a la Abu Ghraib of Muslim prisoners in American detention centres being tortured by U.S. soldiers....  Reports about religious abuses have now almost ceased to shock anybody....  A false report on prison abuse is, however, a blessing in disguise for the US administration. For once, Washington is gifted with an opportunity to get back at its detractors....  The White House has started its spin machine, lamenting about the tainted American image....  America's image continues to be one of an arrogant unilateralist and the abuses are only a part of it....  If the US claims that the war against terrorism is global, then it is only just for them to stop treating the prisons connected to that war as exclusive American legal territory." 

"Clueless In Kabul"

The expatriate-oriented English-language Khaleej Times observed (5/13):  "Afghanistan, not Iraq for a change, is in news for all the wrong reasons. Spontaneous demonstrations against the government and its U.S. backers, triggered by reports about the desecration of Holy Quran at the Guantanamo, have rocked several cities of the country including Kabul.  President Karzai’s response to Wednesday’s protests has been predictable. Instead of reassuring the Afghan people and the world that order and peace would be restored in the country soon, Karzai chose to point out that the Afghan security forces were not in a position to deal with such protests....  The Afghan leader...wants the world community to continue helping his government....  Honestly speaking, you can’t run a country or government with foreign aid. It’s rather disturbing to see Karzai running around begging for help and financial assistance....  More importantly, you can’t expect foreign aid to pour in if the security situation remains what it is today....  And it’s hardly a secret that Karzai is not in charge of Afghanistan. His government is limited to Kabul. Not for nothing he is called the President of Kabul!....  Warlords like Abdul Rashid Dostum...run the show. These lawless warlords are allowed--by the U.S. and Afghan governments--to do as they please because they are seen as (or claim to be) fighting the Taleban....  As for the majority Pashtuns, there is no one to speak for them although Karzai, himself a Pashtun, is supposed to represent them. They have no warlords fighting for their interests....  This alienation of the majority, the Pashtuns, is at the heart of the Afghan unrest. As long as the majority of Afghan population is kept out of political process, Afghanistan will continue to remain unstable. The violent demonstrations of Wednesday, although stemming from hurt religious sensitivities, are an expression of an alienated and suppressed people. The Karzai government and US would do well to heed the warning signs....  Meanwhile strong action must be taken against those responsible for the outrage against the Holy Book."

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

CHINA:  "Newsweek Announces Its Report Was Not Verified By Military And Expresses Apology"

Official Beijing-based Beijing News (Xin Jing Bao) stated (5/17):  "On May 16, Newsweek suddenly changed its view, and stated that its original report claiming desecration of the Koran by members of the U.S. military `is possibly mistaken’ and apologized.  Newsweek said that the author would not be punished because they were very cautious prior to issuance of the story....  Afghan and Pakistani Muslims are skeptical about Newsweek’s retraction, and think that Newsweek, under pressure from Washington, has made a compromise.  It is reported that Afghan protests did not subside after Newsweek’s apology.”

"Afghan Anti-U.S. Protests Grow More Fierce:  U.S. Military Refuses To Admit Mistake"

Chen Jihui wrote in official international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (5/14):  "Anti-U.S. riots in Afghanistan have caused direct confrontation between the Karzai government and the general public.  U.S.-Afghanistan relations are facing a crisis.  It is said the U.S. military is considering setting up permanent military bases in Afghanistan--the Afghan public is generally unhappy with the plan.  Meanwhile, casualties among common Afghan people caused by U.S. military forces continue to grow.  The reason for the riots is that the general public does not want the Karzai government to align itself so closely with the U.S.”

CHINA (HONG KONG SAR):  "U.S. Must Tackle Failings In Its Military Rule"

The independent English-language South China Morning Post said (5/16):  "More than two years after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the presence of U.S. troops continues to stir emotions--and provoke violence. The recent riots in Afghanistan serve as a reminder of the risks involved.  Sixteen people have died in the worst anti-American protests in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion to topple the fundamentalist Muslim Taleban government in October 2001....  Allegations that copies of the Koran were flushed down toilets at Guantanamo Bay are the latest setback.  Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi at the weekend called the alleged desecration of the Koran saddening and a humiliation to Muslims.  His remarks followed similar comments from the Arab League.  The U.S. has tried to calm the outrage, saying disrespect for the Koran is abhorrent and will not be tolerated, and that military authorities are investigating the allegations, made in Newsweek on May 9.  Yesterday's announcement by the magazine that its report may have been wrong may have come too late to repair the damage....  In the face of anti-U.S. sentiment in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in Arab and Muslim countries, the Bush government has to ensure such incidents are properly investigated.  Justice must be seen to be done and shortcomings in the military must be dealt with.  Without such an effort, any good that the U.S. is achieving will quickly disappear."

JAPAN:  "Retraction Of Story On Qur'an Desecration To Cool Down Anti-Americanism?"

A report in conservative Sankei read (5/18):  "An article in the May 9 issue Newsweek alleging the desecration of the Qur'an by several U.S. military prison interrogators at Guantanamo Base caused anti-U.S. demonstrations in Afghanistan and other Muslim countries, resulting in many deaths and injuries.  The allegations incited anti-Americanism, causing tremendous damage both politically and culturally to the U.S. image in the Muslim world.  Under USG pressure, Newsweek retracted the article to end the anti-Americanism. This time, the Bush administration had to react strongly to the magazine's article out of concern that its lukewarm attitude to the article would incite strong reactions from Pakistan and Jordan, both close U.S. allies, further inciting anti-Americanism globally."  

INDONESIA:  "U.S. Military Barbarism"

Muslim-intellectual Republika said (5/17):  "There are at least two incidents, with regards to the U.S. military, that have sparked anger among Muslim communities. First, torture with sexual harassment against Iraqi war prisoners in Abu Gharib prison in Baghdad....  The second incident is the Koran desecration by U.S. soldiers in Guantanamo Bay some time ago. One of the insulting actions was the placing of the Koran on toilets. Another story said that U.S. investigators flushed the Koran down a toilet and was witnessed by prisoners, almost all of whom are Muslims....  Newsweek magazine later apologized, which is another issue, because by the time the magazine, in its latest edition, stated that the article about the Koran desecration committed by U.S. soldiers was not true, the incident had already claimed many lives....  It is possible that Newsweek was under pressure [to apologize]. It may also be because of other considerations, such as to restrain Muslims’ anger and [prevent] the deaths of more victims, that the magazine corrected its article. Or maybe the magazine reported news that was not true. But this seems to be unlikely, because Newsweek is known as a credible magazine.”

"U.S. Image And Islam"

Islamic-oriented Pelita editorialized (5/17):  "Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has again tainted the U.S.’s face, following the Koran desecration case. Although the U.S. tries to refute the news saying that there is no evidence of the incident, the case sparked criticism from various Islamic countries. Because the case, if it is true, is clearly a desecration of a religion and an insult to Muslims....  Whether the case of the Koran desecration by U.S. soldiers is proven to be true or not, one sure thing is that the U.S.’ image has been tainted. Therefore, the U.S. is expected to promptly investigate the case and punish the perpetrators. In addition, the U.S. government, and President Bush in particular, need to change its foreign policy based on fairness in order to improve its relations with the Islamic world. If president Bush continues to adopt [the U.S.’s] previous policies, it is likely that the U.S.’s image will not only become worse but will also incite anti-Americanism globally.”

"Political Message From Guantanamo"

Muhammad Ja'far concluded in independent Koran Tempo (5/17):  "The Afghan people’s reaction against the Koran desecration, committed by U.S. soldiers in Guantanamo prisons is increasing. It appears that the reaction has gone beyond what the U.S. Government anticipated....  The demand from Afghan Muslims that the U.S. apologize and punish the perpetrators is reasonable given this is a country that claims itself a champion of democracy. This would also prevent the issue from spreading into political areas....  The Afghan people’s anger, sparked by the Holy Book incident, gives a message to the U.S. and Afghanistan governments. It not only sends an Islamic message but also a sharp political message: the message of political conditions in that country.”

"Without Any Apology, The U.S. Triggers Global Anger"

Nationalist Harian Merdeka remarked (5/16):  "For us, once again the way President Bush's administration looks at this case is very disappointing, and it is against Bush's point of view on religious freedom in the U.S. Therefore, how can we believe Bush's statement that respect for religious freedom for each individual is the U.S.’s basic principle....  Indonesia, as a country with the biggest Muslim population in the world, should have a stronger stance than just a protest. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's administration should look at the incident seriously because what happened can become a fireball that will burn the Indonesian Muslim's heart and soul. Show the U.S. government that the Indonesian government is a reflection of and can carry the people's spirit.”

"Guantanamo"

Elba Damhuri observed in intellectual Muslim-intellectual Republika (5/15):  "International communities again talk about Guantanamo when U.S. media disclosed various human rights violations committed there. There were torture and inhumane acts against a number of prisoners of whom the majority are Muslims. They were blindfolded, made to wear only underwear, and were forced to squat down everyday. Kicks and blows seem to have become the prisoners’ compulsory breakfast. There is even a story that prisoners were interrogated by a white female dressed in a very sexy dress....  Of course, such reports attract [the interest] of the international community, not just the U.S.  In Indonesia, almost all of the national media raised these issues and made them headlines. Various protests arose as indicated by widespread demonstrations....  Now, the U.S. military’s behavior and attitude in Guantanamo has again caused commotion in the world. A number of irresponsible soldiers put the Holy Koran, Muslim’s Holy Book, on a toilet.  According to several Muslim groups, it was done intentionally. The media again revealed the scandal, and the Islamic World strongly protests the incident.”

THAILAND:  "Did Newsweek Report Err??"

Rachan Husen commented in conservative, Thai-language Siam Rath (5/19):  "Newsweek’s apology sounds too convenient, not reasonable enough and unbefitting of its status among the world's best media entities....  Amid tense confrontation between the U.S. and Muslims following Cowboy Bush’s declaration of a ‘Crusade War’, would the U.S. magazine have dared to report false news that would damage its own country, particularly on a sensitive issue like religion?  Is it possible that a giant magazine like Newsweek could publish a news story that would affect the U.S. without checking for accuracy?....  I believe some negotiations must have taken place and the U.S. government might have made an offer in exchange for an apology from Newsweek so that the government can use the apology as an excuse with Muslim countries the world over....  Honestly speaking, press freedom in the U.S. continues to face government interference, often with security and anti-terrorism cited as reasons!!”

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

INDIA:   "Just Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid"

Gour Chatterjee argued in the centrist Telegraph (5/19):  "All it takes is one small paragraph tucked away inside one American magazine for violence to break out thousands of miles away among people who can barely read in any language. This is our globalized world, our media-driven universe. Be afraid, be very afraid. He may be a political lightweight, but Imran Khan is still a celeb. When he calls, the press comes running. And when he points out something as explosive as American soldiers flushing the Qur'an down the toilet, it grabs headlines before you can say Guantanamo. When the alert and sharp-witted Al-Jazeera newshounds spot the item, they broadcast the news to millions of viewers across the Middle East....  Leaving Newsweek with blood on its hands and egg on its face, and with no place to hide.  The egg is deserved. Newsweek has made a mistake, albeit an honest one....  But the blood? Is Newsweek really responsible, as the White House makes it out to be, for the deaths, the riots, the increased threat to U.S. soldiers abroad? Is the press really so powerful? The answer, in one word, is rubbish....  The trouble with the Newsweek report was not just that it could not be substantiated but that it was so easily believable. The credit for that has to go to the American soldiers at Abu Ghraib....  Nor is the tinderbox that is the Middle East today, when a 302-word report inside an English magazine can rouse so many to action, the media’s handiwork. Blame the media, if you will, for inefficiency, for cultural insensitivity too....  But don’t blame it for a world made dangerous by the war on terror. Just be afraid, be very afraid.”

"Prisons Of Abuse"

The centrist Statesman concluded (5/19):  "It should be noted that the retraction comes a full eleven days after the event and, more to the point, after killings and other forms of violent widespread protests. In the changed climate, since President Bush came to power, one is driven to the conclusion that there was official pressure to retract....  Either the event happened or it did not happen, it is not open to the magazine to plead the subsequent violence as a reason to retract....  America’s track record when it comes to dealing with prisoners of war from Iraq has been thoroughly dismal, as proven by substantiated stories and horrendous photographs of sexual and mental abuse by American units of soldiers in Iraq. The detention camp in Guantanamo Bay is a scandal....  It is time for Americans to wake up and take their President to task for shamelessly abusing the provisions of international law, consciously practicing abuses prohibited by international law, by the simple expedient of keeping them outside the territorial limits, to avoid calls for justice. That the country of the First Amendment should behave so shabbily is beyond reason and beyond any condemnation that mere words can convey. However, President Bush preaches democracy and good governance to the rest of the world....  This is indeed the shameful state of the world today....  Evidence of these widespread abuses is not lacking, it is plentiful, final and not subject to argument. What is lacking is international decency and honor.”

"A News Story That Claimed Lives"

Hyderabad-based independent Telgu-language Andhra Jyothy declared (5/18):  "The U.S. was upset with Newsweek’s story from Guantanamo Bay.  The Pentagon’s statement that it had circulated modalities on respecting the Qur'an to its soldiers three years ago was just an act of damage control that failed to achieve any good result.  Muslims will not believe the US Defense Secretary’s statement that American soldiers will respect all religions since they have witnessed, with evidence, atrocities committed by American soldiers and their allies....  The US Secretary of State has rightly said that anti U. S. feelings in the Islamic world will increase with the Newsweek’s story.  Irreversible damage has been caused to the U. S. image in the Islamic world by the time Newsweek had retracted its Qur'an story.  Media should take a lesson from the Guantanamo Bay episode and behave more responsibly while breaking stories to readers."

"A Doubtful Move"

An editorial in independent Urdu-language Inquilab read (5/18):  "There are reasons to doubt the credibility of Newsweek’s move to offer an apology and retract the story on the alleged desecration of the Quran. The announcement to retract...came full one week after the story had sent strong waves of protest across the Muslim world and caused grave injury to the already damaged U.S. image. The move is doubtful and makes one believe that the retraction must have been announced under pressure from the Bush administration. It is not the question of whether an apology has been offered or not. The more serious question is whether a magazine like Newsweek can publish such a sensitive story without double-checking the facts and even if wanted to do so, it could have added a note that the story was unconfirmed. Either the magazine had deliberately published the story with the purpose of causing mental and spiritual agony to Muslims or it has now compromised journalistic honesty under pressure from the Bush administration. The U.S. government could have initiated a thorough investigation to dispel any apprehension. Instead, it gave more emphasis on making the world believe how the U.S. respects all religions....  When such clarifications including the one by Secretary Rice failed to have the desired impact, Newsweek was ultimately pressured to take the story back which saved the U.S. administration from offering an official apology."

"America's Blunder, Fanatics' Thunder"

Centrist Marathi-language Mumbai-based Sakaal opined (5/18):  "Newsweek has apologized for printing an erroneous report on May 9 about the desecration of the Quran by American guards at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba....  There can be two reasons behind this apology. First, Newsweek has indulged in yellow journalism. The magazine should have double-checked the facts about the alleged flushing of a Quran at the Guatanamo detention facility.  Another reason is that the magazine has apparently buckled under pressure from the Bush administration, which has been put on the defensive following the worldwide backlash to the story....  Interestingly, no one is ready now to believe the magazine’s apology, nor does the American army’s behavior in Gautanamo Bay inspire trust....  When such a grave violation takes place, one can only doubt the American government’s true intentions.  It is these kinds of incidents that deepen anti-American sentiment all over the world. And most importantly, fanatics and religious fundamentalists are born out of such controversies.  It is now time for the American government to realize this fact.”

"How Irresponsible Is American Journalism"

Centrist Mumbai-based Gujarati-language Gujaratmitra concluded (5/18):  "Newsweek is America’s internationally renowned weekly news magazine.  Recently, it stirred up a hornet’s nest when it reported the story of the desecration of the Holy Koran by U.S. soldiers in the American detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba....  Surprisingly, Newsweek has now done a complete volte-face in its latest edition by retracting this story and offering an unconditional apology to all those offended and affected by this report.  The moot question here is why did the editor of the weekly not check the authenticity of the report before it was published in the first place?  Had he been vigilant, such a situation, which cost human lives, would have been avoided.  This shows how irresponsible journalism can cause mammoth damage and create ill will among people.  This episode is a grim reminder that in the era of cut-throat competition, reality and truth are buried in the grave.  There is a need for all those associated with the profession of journalism to learn a lesson from this unfortunate event.  Journalism is not merely instigating people but a tool for deliberating the issues of public interest.”

"Grave Insult" 

Dr. Abrar Rahmani wrote in nationalist Urdu-language Rashtriya Sahara (5/17):  "The desecration of the holy Quran is only the latest in the American and Western campaign against Islam and Muslims. Along with the military war against the Muslim world, an ideological war has also been launched against Islam and its values.  An example of that is a book called ‘Furqanul Haque’ that has been published with American-Zionist complicity and being distributed as a fake Quran to mislead Muslim masses unaware of Arabic language....  As the representative of Cuba had said at a recent session of the UN Human Rights Commission, Hollywood has also contributed to the campaign by producing a series of films depicting Islam and Muslims adversely. Similarly, a recent report of the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has explained how violence and discrimination against Muslims has phenomenally increased in the US.  The desecration of the Quran in order to mentally torture Muslim prisoners is only a part of the prejudice prevailing there....  As far as the clarifications of the State Department is concerned, they are mere crocodile tears.”

"Desecration Of Quran" 

An editorial in independent Urdu-language Awam read (5/16):  "After Abu Gharib comes Guanatanamo Bay. From brutal physical torture, the Americans have now resorted to mental torturing by desecrating the holiest book for Muslims. By doing so, Americans have only reinforced the widely prevalent perception of their animosity against Islam and Muslims. A recent report on the sharp rise of prejudice and discrimination against Muslims in the US makes one belief that not only many American individuals but also the establishment is highly inclined to indulging in acts of hurting Muslim sentiments. The desecration of the Quran is absolutely intolerable for Muslims around the world.”

"Unfortunate Act" 

Independent Urdu-language Munsif declared (5/14):  "The response of the U.S. Defense Department to the report of the desecration of the Quran was largely irresponsible, indifferent to the grave consequences of such an abhorrent act and in justification of the inhuman treatment meted out to the people undergoing brutal detention at Guantanamo Bay. The US Defense Department under Donald Rumsfeld has completely lost its credibility and President Bush should seriously think of replacing him if he wants to restore the worldwide damaged image of the Department and of the US administration as a whole.”

PAKISTAN:  "America Should Apologize, Not Newsweek"

Second-largest Urdu-language Nawa-e-Waqt held (5/19):  "Newsweek did not tell the reason for retracting the report, but it is assumed that due to the worldwide protest the U.S. administration forced the journal to withdraw the report.  But the question of the desecration of Holy Quran at the hands of U.S. soldiers remains....  The fact of the matter is that American soldiers had been doing the deed since long before at Guantanamo Bay.  The prisoners released from the prison camp had been narrating the same, but no one paid any attention to that....  America cannot absolve itself of the crime by putting all the blame on Newsweek."

"Desecration Of Holy Qur'an"

Center-right Urdu-language Pakistan held (5/18):  "Newsweek editor has apologized....  MMA President Qazi Hussain Ahmad has rightly said that the apology by Newsweek is an attempt to pacify enraged Muslims, because the Muslim world's anger came about in the wake of the despicable act perpetrated by American soldiers and not due to its publication....  If we pay attention to Newsweek's apology we would conclude that the journal is facing U.S. administration pressure and it is attempting to change its earlier statement....  Following this incident, can America hand over these soldiers to the OIC for an inquiry and punishment?  It should happen because no one would believe on an inquiry by America....  A former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, a British national, has said that he saw American soldiers indulging in desecration of Holy Qur'an....  America should tender an immediate apology and include OIC investigators in the team of investigators." 

"Global Day Of Protest Against Desecration Of Holy Quran'

Karachi-based, pro-Taliban/Jihad Urdu-language Islam urged (5/17):  "Despite such a big religious torment, the U.S. is not ready to seek apology from the Muslim world but is trying to put this matter under the wraps.  The incident of the desecration of Holy Koran in Guantanamo Bay is not the only incident of its kind but several such incidents have come to the fore right from Abu Ghraib prison up to the Guantanamo Bay for which the U.S. has never felt any shame."

"A Test Of Muslim Ummah"

Karachi-based, right wing, pro-Islamic unity Urdu-language Jasarat contended (5/17):  "The denial issued by Newsweek has been done under pressure from the U.S. government and Pentagon.  A magazine of the stature of Newsweek could not publish unfounded reports whose denial could impair its own reputation as well.  Therefore it has come out with a half-hearted denial with reference to the U.S. Defense Department.  This denial by the magazine is in fact a confirmation of the story."

"To Deal With The Evil"

An editorial in sensationalist Urdu-language Ummat read (5/15):  "The U.S. officials who desecrated the Holy Koran deserve no concession. On getting the information of such an incident, the U.S. government should itself have come into motion at once but it cannot be expected to act so because right now its own mission is to insult Islam and Muslims.  Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that the probe is going on into the incident and if it is proved than action would be taken against those found responsible.  The U.S. officials do not feel the need of any proof, evidence, investigation and interrogation when they level any allegations Muslims anywhere in the world. But for incidents as grave as desecration of Holy Koran they are waiting for the results of their investigations."

"Messages From The Jalalabad Incident"

The centrist national English-language News judged (5/15):  "Wednesday's burning of the Pakistani Consulate in Jalalabad emphasized what's already obvious: that we cannot be closely tied to the Americans without receiving some of the hostility directed at the U.S.  There are strategic, military and financial advantages to Pakistan's close ties with Washington; this also helps us deal more effectively with the fanatical followers of the Taliban in this country.  But the incident clearly shows that, at the same time, we're in danger of losing popular goodwill in our neighboring country.  There's understandable rage against the U.S. in much of the Islamic world following the reported anti-Islamic sacrilege in the U.S. gulag of Guantanamo Bay, but nowhere else has Pakistan been the target of that anger....  It's good we confined the cooperation to our own borders, and did not dispatch troops to Afghanistan....  The wisdom of Pakistan's refusal to dispatch troops to Iraq is thus another element clearly borne out by what happened in Jalalabad."

"Muslims Cannot Tolerate Sacrilege Of Holy Quran"

An editorial in leading mass-circulation Urdu-language Jang read (5/15):  "The statement of the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice [to the Senate’s committee] clearly reflects that the U.S. government is fully alive to the delicate situation arising out of this incident [of desecration of Holy Quran] and would not hesitate in taking actions against those found responsible.  Such type of step was very important for the consolation of Muslims."

"Desecration Of Holy Quran And Insensibility Of Muslim Rulers"

Karachi-based, pro-Taliban/Jihad Urdu-language Islam asserted (5/14):  "On this incident of the desecration of Holy Koran, the entire Pakistani nation humbly asks its ‘liberal,’ ‘enlightened’ and ‘moderate’ President [Musharraf] that if a Muslims is termed extremist just on the pretext of sporting a beard then how the American troops who insulted the Holy book of about 1.25 billion Muslims remain enlightened and moderate? If this is not the case then the Pakistani nation is awaiting its President to declare the American troops to be ‘extremists.’"

"Gitmo Blowback And U.S.-Pak Responsibilities"

The Lahore-based liberal English-language Daily Times declared (5/14):  "The story in a U.S. newsmagazine about the desecration of the Holy Quran by some U.S. army personnel as an interrogation technique to rattle prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has resulted in massive demonstrations in Pakistan and U.S.-occupied Afghanistan.  The evidence was unearthed by investigators looking into abuses at Gitmo and adds to a growing list of infractions that have surfaced as the FBI’s work has proceeded apace....  It is interesting to note that the reaction to the outrage has been most severe in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Pakistan is a U.S. ally while Afghanistan is under U.S. occupation and its government actually wants the U.S. troops to stay on and help rebuild....  Yet, people in both countries have shown their feelings through demonstrations and, in the case of Afghanistan, through violence.  This shows the hiatus between official policies and the street.  Ironically, while most Pakistanis are angered, the angry Afghans have chosen to attack and vandalize the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad.  Why would the Afghans attack the Pakistani embassy when there is equal rage in Pakistan to what has happened?  Could it be that the Afghans consider the Pakistani government complicit in the act because most of those rotting at Gitmo were rounded up by Islamabad and handed over to U.S. forces?"

"Attack On The Pakistani Consulate In Afghanistan"

Independent Urdu-language Din held (5/13):  "Incensed protestors in Afghanistan, demonstrating against the desecration of Holy Quran by U.S. authorities at Guantanamo Bay, have set the Pakistani Consulate and UN offices on fire.  No amount of condemnation is sufficient for the desecration committed by U.S. authorities.  Muslims throughout the world are grieved at this incident, however, expressing this grief by harassing the diplomatic staff of a brother Islamic state and UN staffers serving humanity cannot be condoned at all.  According to news reports, angry demonstrators also attacked several other Consulates including the Indian....  Pakistan joins all Muslims in demanding action against the perpetrators of this crime, but attacking the Pakistani Consulate while protesting against the U.S. needs to be condemned also.  The Afghan government and people must stop such incidents from happening in the future to maintain cordial relations with Pakistan."

"Afghan’s Honor Of Faith"

Karachi-based, right-wing pro-Islamic unity Urdu-language Jasarat maintained (5/13):  "By staging a protest in Jalalabad, the Afghans have proved that the U.S. has failed to crush their honor of faith.  Although the Holy Quran is a sacred book for the entire Muslim community, demonstrations against its desecration in Guantanamo Bay were only held in Afghanistan.  After the declaration of Pakistani nation as a ‘dog’ and the desecration of Holy Quran not a single person come out on the roads in Pakistan.  On the other hand, the Afghans have once again proved that they are not ready to prefer expediency to their religious honor and accept slavery to the superpower."

"President Bush Should Apologize For Holy Quran Desecration"

Center-right Urdu-language Pakistan argued (5/13):  "American soldiers firing killed 6 and injured 50 including 12 students when the people resorted to protest in Jalalabad, Afghanistan over Holy Quran’s desecration at the hands of American soldiers at Guantanamo Bay prison....  As far as the desecration of Holy Quran at the hands of U.S. military is concerned, every Muslim is distressed and heartbroken.  The demand for a national and official apology by America is being made from every corner of the world.  The U.S. State Department spokesperson issued a feeble statement in which it was said that if such an incident had occurred, the perpetrators would not go unpunished....  This statement cannot pacify Muslims, because President Bush himself talked of crusade after the 9/11.  When Muslims protested over the statement, the President withdrew the remarks.  However, his actual attitude has been that of a crusader....  The situation reveals that if not today, tomorrow could be the day of American military marching toward Pakistan.  Muslims are strictly monitored around the world; they are made to remove their attire for search on international airports of the world....  After this American attitude who would believe that the incident of the desecration of Holy Quran was a solitary event of madness by an American military individual, which had nothing to do with the military leadership at Guantanamo Bay.  The sentiments of Muslims were already hurt owning to the savage treatment meted out to prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.  Now the tragedy of the desecration of Muslims divine and most sacred book has added fuel to the fire.  The U.S. government officials should try to understand the sentiments of Muslims.  Before it is too late and Jalalabad scenes are repeated in all Muslim countries, the U.S. government rather President Bush himself should apologize to Muslims in his capacity as the supreme commander of the U.S. military.  And this anti-Muslim show should end now."

"Gen. Barno And Now Newsweek"

Munir Baloch contended in populist Urdu-language Khabrain (5/13):  "Isn’t it strange that (in all demonstrations) the Indian Consulate--Muslims’ archenemy--not only remains safe, but continues to remain open.  The world media representatives in Kabul are surprised at why the Consulate of a Muslim country Pakistan was attacked due to desecration committed by Americans.  Impartial media representatives in Jalalabad can see Indian involvement in this.  A Japanese journalist said that the demonstration was led by an individual whose links with the Indian diplomats are not hidden from anyone....  All agree on the fact that the American media is controlled by the Jews.  It is quite possible that by publishing a report on the desecration of Holy Quran, the Jews are playing a dangerous game in our region.  Any Muslim can lay down his life for the honor of the Holy Quran, but Muslims should be wise enough and ask themselves what sympathy would the Jews have for the Holy Quran (to publish such a report)."

"Demonstration In Jalalabad Against The Desecration Of Quran"

Popular Urdu-language Express stated (5/13):  "No divine religion allows hurting the sentiments of followers of other creeds, but U.S. officials, intoxicated with their power, are committing such abhorrent acts.  Guantanamo Bay Detention Center has become notorious for the abuses of detainees....  At a time when Pakistani nation was busy protesting its derogatory caricature in the Washington Times, the incidents of sacrilegious acts in Guantanamo Bay and the attack on Pakistani Consulate took place.  The U.S. troops did not realize that what would be the impact of their act on Muslim world....  Why did the Afghan demonstrators target the Pakistani Consulate of their hatred?  Though Pakistan and Afghanistan have friendly people to people relations, it was a reaction against the Pakistan-U.S. friendship.  However this reaction was not acceptable, since the relations and friendships among different countries are in the national interest of the countries.  If the U.S. needs Pakistan today, Pakistan is also imperative to the U.S.  The Muslim world is welcoming the U.S. just because of Pakistan.  And it is also a reality, that no state whether it is great or not, can overlook the Muslim world....  Afghan demonstrators should understand that if Pakistan has nothing to do with this incident, why did they attack the Pakistani Consulate."

"Incitement Of U.S. And Allied Forces In Afghanistan"

Pro-Taliban Urdu-language Islam asserted (5/13):  "The attack on the Pakistani Consulate in Jalalabad means that the Afghan people abhor the Pakistani policy of supporting the U.S. in its attack on Afghanistan after 9/11.  According to their view, it is a crime to support the U.S. bearing in mind the U.S. atrocities in Afghanistan and the sacrilege of the Quran at Guantanamo Bay.  Supporting the U.S. is not an appropriate strategy for a Muslim nuclear power like Pakistan.  If this perception is right then we will have to take confidence-building measures for the Afghan nation.  Pakistan has lodged a protest to the Afghan envoy in Islamabad.  But we think Pakistan should lodge this protest to the U.S. because it is responsible for all this mess."

"Jalalabad Riots"

The center-right national English-language Nation editorialized (5/13):  "The torching of the Pakistan Consulate in Jalalabad on Tuesday that ensued after a gun battle between the police and an enraged mob of several thousand needs to be seen in the wider implications of our relations with Afghanistan.  During the riots sparked by the reports of the desecration of the Holy Quran by U.S. soldiers at Guantanamo Bay, in which four persons were killed and more than 70 injured, including six policemen, and dozens of vehicles were damaged and some 20 government and private offices set on fire, the Pakistani consulate staff had to take refuge in a neighboring house.  According to Mr. Hamid Karzai the riots showed the 'inability' of the war-shattered country's institutions to deal with such situations, adding the demonstrations at least meant democracy was flourishing.  But he cannot deny that his government has failed to establish its writ beyond Kabul's municipal limits, and that too depends on U.S.-led coalition forces continuing to guard the capital.  It might also give him some realization that it was time for setting his own house in order rather than repeatedly reminding Pakistan to 'do more'....  Pakistan must seriously review its foreign policy since its blind cooperation in the so-called war on terror has not only caused widespread resentment domestically but also damaged its image internationally, especially in the Ummah.  The latest attack on the Jalalabad Consulate, which was actually a protest against the desecration of the Holy Quran at Guantanamo Bay, shows that Pakistan, which handed over so many Taliban to the U.S. for onward transmission to Gitmo, is seen as an equal partner in the American crusade against the Muslim World."

"A Shocking Incident"

Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn observed (5/10):  "It is difficult to put into words the anger and grief felt by Muslims across the world over the shocking manner in which the Holy Quran was desecrated at America’s infamous prison at Guantanamo Bay.  The incident--apparently one among several similar instances--was reported in an issue of Newsweek and appears to be part of the standard religious and cultural abuse perpetrated on the Muslim inmates in order to humiliate them....  This makes it all the more necessary for governments like Pakistan’s which has strongly condemned the latest incident and civil rights organizations to step up pressure on the Bush administration to refrain from maltreating the prisoners and injuring their religious and cultural sensibilities.  America is treading on dangerous ground as it continues to provoke anger across the globe.  It must be stopped before further damage is done."  

"Reaction Of Religious Circles Over Desecration Of Holy Quran"

Leading mass-circulation Urdu-language Jang theorized (5/10):  "The incident of desecration of the Holy Quran and the publication of a carton regarding Pakistan in an American newspaper have exposed the hostile mentality of some of the American circles especially the Jewish-supported media.  The entire Pakistani nation has been forced to think that is it the reward for Pakistan's whole-hearted cooperation with the U.S. on its war against terror?"  

"Issue Is More Of Its Agents Rather Than America"

Karachi-based Urdu-language Jasarat noted (5/9):  "The real issue for the Muslims and Islam is not the U.S. but those Muslim rulers who are playing the role of American agents.  The U.S. is out to annihilate Islam and Muslims from the face of this earth but rulers like President Musharraf are saying that there is no clash of civilization going on.  He is an American tool in the war against Muslims and Islam.  The desecration of Holy Quran is not an ordinary issue.  Isn’t it required that all diplomatic ties with the U.S. be reviewed on this issue?"  

"Wicked American Soldiers And America’s Anti-Muslim Agenda"

An editorial in second-largest Urdu-language Nawa-e-Waqt read (5/9):  "American soldiers have started desecrating Holy Quran in order to inflict mental torture on the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, besides subjecting the prisoners to physical torture.  According to Newsweek, some vicious American military officers snatched copies of the Quran from the prisoners reciting them...and later flushed the book....  All these details show that the American government is busy in a crusade against Islam and extremist Christians, Hindus and Zionists are with the U.S. in this crusade....  So-called curb on terrorism is not an issue for America....  Pakistanis demand of their government to seek U.S. condemnation of the incident and an apology from the Muslims of the world.  Those despicable American soldiers, who have done the deed, should be proceeded against."

AFGHANISTAN:  "Contradicting The Teachings"

Dari-language state-run Eslah declared (5/14):  "These violent protests contradict the teachings of the Koran, which call on people to contemplate, meditate and think through issues thoroughly....  Other Muslim countries did not act with the same impetuousity as Afghanistan, despite feeling just as strongly about the reported treatment of the Koran....  This may be because Afghans are extremely susceptible to militancy, hostility and sentimentality, making them easily provoked and beguiled by enemies and only capable of appreciating the damage they are doing after the event....  Sadly, perhaps other Muslims love their countries more than Afghans do, which stops them burning down buildings and looting."

"Vicious Elements"

Independent Dari-language Erada noted (5/14):  "The protestors were well-prepared and well-equipped....  Interfering and vicious elements operating on the orders of their foreign leaders were behind the violence....  It is generally accepted that the demonstrations were a pretext to voice opposition to the establishment of permanent U.S. military bases in Afghanistan....  The government and the international coalition forces should learn their lesson from these protests and reconsider their political and military strategies."

"Enemies Are Responsible"

State-run Hewad held (5/12):  "The enemies of peace were responsible for the fact that recent demonstrations against the way the Koran was reportedly treated by U.S. jailers in Guantanamo Bay turned violent....  These people contrived to serve their destructive ends by exploiting the people's sentiments....  The public should be on its guard against being used in this way and urges officials not to take such incidents for granted."

"Religious Duty To Protest Guantanimo"   

Indepedent Dari-language Erada stated (5/12):  "Taking part in the protest rallies against Guantanimo prison officers...is a religious duty of every true Muslim. The demonstrations staged by young people, particularly the students, in Nangarhar, Wardag, Laghman and Khost provinces, are the clear example of the Afghan people's firm belief and profound respect for their religious values....  The recent developments are a lesson for those disregarding the principles and values of Islam and for Karzai's government."

"Those Behind Violence Should Be Brought To Justice"

Official Dari-language Anis opined (5/12):  "The magazine Newsweek recently published a report that US prison officers dishonoured the holy Koran to put psychological pressure on the Muslim prisoners held at Guantanamo jail....  Following the report, people staged huge demonstrations in Jalalabad....  Under the constitution, holding demonstrations is the citizens' legitimate right, but no-one is allowed to misuse this right against the national interest and national unity. It was observed in the demonstrations in Jalalabad that the interference of subversive elements turned the protests into violence....  Those behind the violence in Jalalabad should be brought to justice and severely punished." 

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

CANADA:  "Newsweek's Stumble"

The leading Globe and Mail maintained (5/18):  "Newsweek did not pay enough heed to the possibility that its source was wrong. In checking the information, the magazine gave the report to two separate Defence Department officials but did not ask directly for a response....  It is not clear whether the two officials were in a position to know what the military report would contain. Newsweek also cited 'sources,' though it turned out the report had a single source. There's a lesson for the media. In a volatile world, spreading false news likely to inflame religious passions can have fatal results. That doesn't absolve those who incite the violence, but it does put an added burden on those who deliver the news."

"Reading Between The Lines"

The conservative Montreal Gazette editorialized (5/17):  "Newsweek regrets the error. And how....  The truth of the matter is no longer strictly relevant. Newsweek's attempt to backtrack on the anonymous report is being scorned by Afghan mullahs (perhaps not entirely without reason) as damage control dictated from Washington. Solemn promises by a U.S. national security adviser that U.S. policy is to treat the holy book with reverence are of no avail. That is because any pretext will do when the objective is to excoriate the U.S. and the West. The Afghan riot (paralleled by lesser upheavals in Pakistan and Indonesia) should snap us out of our reveries concerning the poor, illiterate, oft-occupied and resentful citizens of the very Islamic Republic of Afghanistan....  There could be no more stirring endorsement of the universal power of democracy [than last October's election]. But Islamic fundamentalism did not disappear....  And many young Afghans--such as the students who fuelled the riots--interpret the poverty of their nation as inversely proportional to the wealth of the infidel West....  Afghan President Hamid Karzai...has started to distance himself from the U.S. occupation forces, while ascribing the riots to Taliban and Pakistani agents provocateurs.  Karzai has a tough row to hoe. The post-Taliban right views anyone operating with the approval of the White House is a traitor to Islam....  Karzai's dilemma is shared by everyone who hopes Afganistan remains on its peaceful and democratic course. We have seen how easily it could slide backward."

"One Bad Story, 16 Dead"

The conservative National Post argued (5/17):  "There is more than enough blame to go around for the violence that erupted in the Muslim world last week over an alleged Koran-flushing incident. Much of it rests with the U.S. magazine Newsweek....  Perhaps even the U.S. Pentagon shares some responsibility. Newsweek claimed to have confidential evidence of this 'atrocity' from inside the U.S. high command....  The whole sorry incident shows just how eager many in the Western media are to smear the U.S. administration and undermine the moral foundations of the war on terror....  Not long after 9/11, many media outlets--whether consciously or by some multicultural instinct--began playing a game of moral equivalence....  Yes, we self-loathingly assured ourselves, they may be murderous, but we cannot lay claim to moral superiority or any right to retaliate, because we have often been culturally insensitive. Killing civilians and flushing Korans--it's all bad....  When you begin with the premise that all societies are equally culpable for the world's problems, and with a desire to poke Mr. Bush in the eye at every chance, then a story such as Newsweek's tale of Koran-flushing is too good to resist--even if it is likely too good to be true."

"West Must Do Better Job Of Helping Afghans"

Harry Sterling observed in the liberal Toronto Star (5/16):  "The recent anti-U.S. demonstrations in Afghanistan over the alleged desecration of the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an, by interrogators at the American military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is only the tip of the iceberg. The violence and deaths have far deeper roots. The Guantanamo incident simply triggered already existing anti-U.S. and anti-foreigner sentiment that has been steadily growing since the overthrow of the Taliban in late 2001....  The majority of Afghanistan's 29 million people greeted the overthrow of the Taliban with relief, welcoming American and other western military forces as quasi-liberators. But that initial positive attitude has begun to erode....  The actions of American counter-insurgency troops in the field, resulting in innocent villagers being killed or wounded, has become a major issue.... In addition, many Afghans blame the American occupation forces and foreign community for introducing un-Islamic practices in a deeply conservative patriarchal society. The head of Afghanistan's Supreme Court has denounced the importation of foreign movies and videos....  The growing hostility toward foreigners has resulted in several being murdered in recent months, including three women killed for daring to work for an aid organization. Until such time as the U.S. and other governments, including Canada, can offer ordinary Afghans concrete reasons to value their presence in the country--improving their everyday lives and employment prospects--they are likely to experience further demonstrations and violence in days ahead."

ARGENTINA:  "Arabs, Infuriated By Newsweek Retraction"

Ana Baron wrote in leading Clarin (5/18):  "The Arab world is angry, and demands that the U.S. punish those who are responsible. Despite Newsweek's retraction...there's evidence to prove that this is true.  But in addition, there's also proof that the Bush administration pressured the weekly to deny the information....  In fact, there are several former detainees in Guantanamo who testified on several occasions that both in that military base as well as in prisons in Afghanistan they desecrate the Koran to torture them....  Despite Newsweek's retraction, Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan keep thinking that what was denounced is completely true and plan to continue with their protest rallies....  Newsweek's retraction is surprising....  In any case, whether the directors of the weekly reached the conclusion that the source wasn't trustworthy, or whether they gave in to White House pressure, there's no doubt that this case doesn't contribute to the credibility of U.S. journalism."

BRAZIL:  "Soon The Truth"

Conservative O Globo remarked (5/18):  "The episode...is just one more in a long list of gaffes and errors of judgment of the local media.  And, as well, powerful assistance to the efforts of the White House to sell to the world a vision of the facts favorable to Bush's military-diplomatic projects....  One day, for sure, we will know the truth."

COSTA RICA:  "Let's Defend Freedom, But Also Ethics"

Conservative La Prensa Libre editorialized (5/17):  "Media and journalists have to defend the freedom of press but also citizens’ rights.  People have to be informed and they have to find echo for their needs.  But because of this double function, ethics should be the flag fencing all the time.  Recent examples in other countries, when Newsweek admitted most of the information they published about Koran desecrations in Guantanamo Base was false....  Journalists and media job is to inform and to contribute a healthy discussion and citizens’ formation, with accurate facts and giving space to all sides of a situation." 

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