Blazing Qur'ans and the Deception of Muslim Contrived Indignation

Reversing the victim-victimizer equation.

In February of this year, American troops burned copies of the Qur’an at an army base in Afghanistan.  Western media were immediately abuzz with the Muslim response: massive riots causing the deaths of dozens of local Afghans, a Taliban revenge suicide attack on US troops, car bombs, an Afghan policeman enraged by Qur’an burnings murders two US officers, Afghan soldiers turn on US troops and shoot two, Taliban suspends talks with the USA, and  in an incendiary anti-American speech Afghan president Karzai calls America “a demon” comparable to the Taliban. At least 40 die and hundreds are injured.

The event spawned three (count’em, three!) parallel and separate legal inquiries. The soldiers may be disciplined;  but according to Congressman Allan West’s interpretation of the events,  prisoners were writing extremist messages to one another in the pages of the Qur'ans, thus effectively desecrating them according to Muslim practice. And the incident provides support for Obama’s call for a pre-election pull-out from Afghanistan.

Last year’s Qur'an burning incident in Florida had similar effects. A publicity hungry pastor threatens to burn Qur'ans and riots break out across the Middle East; followed by murder and mayhem and destruction and endless anti-American propaganda.  But we respond with  cringing misplaced deference, as General Petraeus ignores the murderous Muslim mobs and instead condemns the Florida preacher.

Similarly, in 2005 massive riots and destruction of property erupted in much of the Arab world when the provocation was the mere accusation, unsupported by objective evidence, of desecration of a Quran by American personnel at Guantanamo.

The explosion of the “Arab Street” when a Quran somewhere in the world may have been desecrated is not a new phenomenon.  It recurs with suspicious frequency and nearly cookie-cutter responses.  This phenomenon raises three questions:

Is it effective for our Commander-in-Chief to burst into paeans of groveling apology, hand wringing, and self-deprecating mea culpas, and press for changes in American military strategy and foreign policy?

Why is there not a word from anyone in the west about the galactic hypocrisy of Muslim furor for an inadvertent error, when 1,400 years of Muslim history are characterized by Muslim assaults on Christians and the Christian Scriptures, not to mention desecrations of Jewish sacred sites and scriptures and the mass murder of Jews?

Why does no one raise the issue of the mass hypocrisy of Muslims world-wide who are silent as adherents desecrate Islam with the endless reciprocal violence of Sunni and Shiite, Iranian and Azeri, Alawite and Syrian, blowing up entire mosques, killing thousands of innocent Muslims, and burning thousands of copies of the Qur'an -- not to mention killings at weddings, funerals, and other religious events.

The Danish “Cartoon Intifada” of 2005-6 may provide answers to these questions.

Cartoons using Muslim imagery were published first by Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten newspaper in September, 2005.[1]  A few Muslim Imams in Denmark were upset. Then the cartoons were republished on October 17 on the front page of El-Farg, a major Egyptian newspaper, with provocative headlines about the west deprecating the Prophet Mohammed; but still no outrage. Only after a summit meeting in Mecca in December did the Muslim world go ballistic about the cartoons.  What happened at that meeting?

First a Palestinian Muslim Arab Imam living in Copenhagen, Ahmad Abu Laban, and some friends took copies of the cartoons to Muslim leaders in the Middle East.  Knowing that the original cartoons were not really very derogatory, they created a few really repulsive ones and told their Arab interlocutors at Mecca that all had been published in the Danish press.

The result was an astonishing uproar in the Muslim world.  Three months after the fact came the riots and mob attacks, vandalism, murders, arson, boycotts of European goods, thousands of Muslim demonstrators in London waved posters proclaiming “EXTERMINATE THOSE WHO MOCK ISLAM” and “BE PREPARED FOR THE REAL HOLOCAUST”, and the editor of France-Soir was fired for reprinting the drawings.  Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the publication, and protesters set fire to the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus. The Egyptian Ambassador to Denmark proclaimed: “The government of Denmark has to do something to appease the Muslim world!"   You have sinned! You must repent and show contrition, or else!

In a later publication, El-Farg editors explained the whole farce to the world. In opportunistic hindsight they wrote that "…It would have been better that this [current] holy war against Denmark (i.e., the cartoon intifada) been launched during the holy month of Ramadan (October, 2005) …This irrelevant….timing is but a sign that this violent response to the cartoons is politically motivated by Muslim extremists in Europe and the so-called secular governments of the Middle East.”

Obviously, the Mecca conference had recognized the real value of the cartoons: the spark to ignite a new and more global intifada in order to draw the West’s attention away from other embarrassing Middle East issues, and to teach the West a lesson about the price of offending Muslim delicate sensibilities. By February, 2006, 100,000 Muslims were prepared to “Vent Anger in London at Cartoon Protest.”[2]

Now, why would they want to do that?[3]  There are several reasons.

The Arabs of the Palestinian Authority (PA) had just voted Hamas into power, but the European Union would not subsidize the PA if the money would go to Hamas. The cartoon intifada put the EU on the defensive, made all Muslims appear the victims of European racism, and make the EU too embarrassed and guilty to withhold its contributions.

The fabricated cartoon intifada also got Iran out of western media’s headlines and demoted the international movement against its WND designs, just days after the topic had been put on the UN Security Council agenda. Moreover, this fabricated crisis taught the West an object lesson in the price of criticizing Islam, Mohammed, the Qur'an, or anything else near and dear to Muslim hearts.

Now the fabricated Qur'an crisis has proven to be a bonanza for the Taliban: an excuse to end negotiations, to demand massive Muslim support for the Taliban, and to undermine Karzai; who then must speak out against America to prove that he is not an American puppet.

What we, and the commander-in-chief of our armed forces, fail to understand is that such riots and rage and mass murder and mass destruction are a strategy of manufactured rage-on-demand, a tactic of “rent a riot” and “mobilize a mob,” a tactic which is used in the Middle East to change the dynamics of a situation (in business, politics or personal relationships).

The concept is very simple: You have done something offensive, for which you should be punished. This is no time for contrition! Instead, you must become furious!  You are being insulted, mistreated, and humiliated! You don’t deserve punishment, your accuser does!

Arafat used this tactic against Israel and the West.  Israel made many concessions; but instead of reciprocating, he invented reasons to be very angry, reasons that justified continued terrorism and violence.  And then the USA pressured Israel to appease poor Mr. Arafat!

As long as you can dupe your opponent into taking seriously your manufactured anger, you have redefined the entire relationship, reversed the victim-victimizer equation.

Rent a riot, mob on demand, contrived umbrage, self-serving indignation and high dudgeon, all are used by Muslims against Islam’s perceived enemies when it serves Muslim interests to do so.

And western leaders fall into their trap.  Our leaders cringe before the riots, and wring their hands in angst, instead of calling the perpetrators on their hypocrisy.  Then they rush to grovel and apologize, bemoaning our insensitivity to these Muslim religious sensibilities. We now self-censor to avoid offending Muslims, since we have been taught the price of Allah’s rage.  And we refrain from confronting the reality of the strategy because to do so would bring upon us more wrath.

Now thanks to some American leaders’ misdirected anguish over the Quran burnings, dulce et decorum est for the Taliban to seek revenge, to blow up Americans, and to cancel negotiations.  Now America is in a weakened and compromised position, and the Taliban are strengthened.  Our Commander-in-Chief declares that our forces will be withdrawn, years before Obama’s own original deadline,  because this incident has besmirched us, sullied our image in the Middle East.  Will they like America more when we are gone and the Taliban have won, control Afghanistan, impose a vicious and extreme version of Shari’a law, and re-unite with global el-Qaeda who want us either dead or Muslim?


[1] The following analysis is in part a summary of Amir Taheri’s “Rent-A-Riot ABCS,” New York Post, February 9, 2006, no longer available on line, but reproduced at and

[3] For more on the cartoon intifada as a fabricated crisis, a subterfuge to distract the west’s attention and stifle any criticism of Islam, see the present writer’s essay at , beneath the Taheri article.

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