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MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Mistreatment of Quran is bad but understandable

Mistreatment of the Quran by U.S. soldiers is reprehensible. It goes against a fundamental characteristic of our form of government, religious neutrality. Such conduct gives the world good cause to wonder if our much-hyped democracy lacks the protections it needs to avoid tyranny-by-majority.

Stated differently, our soldiers need to treat the Quran with respect because their failure to do so sends an ugly message to the people of the world about the governmental system we want them to adopt.

That said, however, it is tough to fault our soldiers — constant targets of Mohammed's harsh legacy — for viewing the Quran with something shy of adoration.

A few examples of the holy book's admonitions tell why a soldier might struggle to protect its pages.

"I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their fingertips off them."

"But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them..."

"Fight those who believe not in Allah ... until they ... feel themselves subdued."

"Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks..."

"Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you..."

"The punishments of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides."

We recognize that these and similar verses in the Quran may, like the Bible, be subject to varying interpretations. We do not contest the claims of many Muslims that, taken as a whole, the Quran is a religion of peace.

But while heads are falling and shrapnel is flying, our soldiers' failure to observe the niceties of tolerance is understandable.

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