Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Police car burns at White Night riot

Riverbend, the invaluable, secular Iraqi woman blogger, responds to Newsweek magazine's tale of the US military desecrating the Koran, as well as their hedged retraction:

Is it true? Probably… We've seen enough blatant disregard and disrespect for Islam in Iraq the last two years to make this story sound very plausible. On a daily basis, mosques are raided, clerics are dragged away with bags over their heads… Several months ago the world witnessed the execution of an unarmed Iraqi prisoner inside a mosque. Is this latest so very surprising?

Detainees coming back after weeks or months in prison talk of being forced to eat pork, not being allowed to pray, being exposed to dogs, having Islam insulted and generally being treated like animals trapped in a small cage. At the end of the day, it's not about words or holy books or pork or dogs or any of that. It's about what these things symbolize on a personal level. It is infuriating to see objects that we hold sacred degraded and debased by foreigners who felt the need to travel thousands of kilometers to do this. . . .

It does seem like the people in charge have decided to make degradation and humiliation a policy. By doing such things, this war is taken to another level -- it is no longer a war against terror or terrorists -- it is, quite simply, a war against Islam and even secular Muslims are being forced to take sides.

Okay, I want to think about what she says and ask myself a question: what desecration, what blasphemous behavior, would cause me to riot? Heck, what trampling of what I hold sacred has driven me to riot? Interestingly, I've "rioted" (or at least been part of large mass public nuisances) two times, responding to what I believed were failures by US courts to reach just verdicts against lawless authority figures: the acquittal of the LAPD officers who beat Rodney King and the slap on the wrist manslaughter verdict against former San Francisco supervisor Dan White for assassinating Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.

That is, my idea of trampling the sacred seems to include occasions when justice is denied or perverted. When I think justice is violated, I am outraged enough to run in the streets. In addition to protesting terrible legal verdicts, I've run in the streets, though perhaps a little less militantly, when my country threatened poor countries with its overwhelming military power. That too is injustice.

And as I look around today, I see demagogues claiming the label "Christian" who work to make this country a patriarchal, authoritarian, all-conquering world empire. That too profanes the sacred in my eyes.

Crowd marching to City Hall the night San Francisco rioted against the Dan White manslaughter verdict

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