The deplorable incident of the burning of the Holy Quran by US soldiers at the Bagram air base has sparked violent protests in Afghanistan. This was expected.
Outraged Afghan nationals are on the streets and venting their anger at an act that defies logic. Even the apology rendered by International Security Assistance Force's top commander General John Allen has failed to appease the raging sentiments. Last year the violent protests that were instigated by the burning of the Quran by a rabid American pastor in Florida were bad enough. The Americans and NATO forces cannot afford to display such disregard and carelessness, come what may. Even if their argument about religious books being used to pass clandestine communication is accepted - whether the Quran copies themselves carried the same remains unverified - more care should have been taken to avoid disposing of all religious texts and books, especially the Quran.
Not only has this caused a furore among the Afghans who are deeply religious, it has landed the insurgents a major advantage. Their rallying cry has been the issue of religion in the war against the infidels and with such an action, the foreign soldiers have literally proven their claims of disrespect of religion on a platter. Far from winning the hearts and minds of the population, the foreign forces are filling them with hatred. More alarming is the reactions this incident elicited with many Afghans vowing to join the insurgents and fight the foreign forces. This should be a warning to the Coalition for any carelessness and perceived disregard at this juncture can turn the tide on even the positive work that has been done.
President Hamid Karzai has rightly condemned the incident and called for urgent investigation into the matter. It is now for the Coalition to demonstrate restraint in face of provocation. Already two people have died. Any further casualties may provoke further violence and unrest so it's best to avoid harsher methods to control the situation. Kabul should appeal for restraint and take responsibility ensuring that such actions will not take place again.