The US Should Not Be Burning Books


Commentary from Allison Stanger, the Chair of the Political Science Department at Middlebury College on the situation in Afghanistan that arose after American servicemen were found to have burned Qurans.

Book burning is not something typically associated with freedom-of-speech-loving America. When books are burned in a country desperately in need of more books, where only 43% of men and 12% of women are literate, it should prompt questions.

I want to believe that the burning of Qurans was an unintended mistake. But surely any soldier based in Afghanistan after a decade-long American intervention knows that the desecration of the Koran is an inflammatory and offensive act in a Muslim country.

President Obama’s apology has done little to contain the mounting rage in Afghanistan that led to a march on the presidential palace after Friday prayers, the Saturday killings of two U.S. officers on the job in Afghan ministries and the subsequent withdrawal of NATO advisors from Afghanistan. But this latest incident provides further evidence that our armed forces have begun to lose touch with why we are fighting in the first place.

Their frustration is understandable, but we should never implicitly condone American soldiers burning books as a means to defending freedom. We should not attack those who apologize for such an act. The cost of losing what we are fighting to uphold is far too high. Thankfully, President Obama understands that.


There have been numerous stories in the U.S. of libraries that have thrown away books and the locals find the books in the trash and are upset. Libraries in the U.S. have sent bibles and Qurans to the landfill. I am sure there are some cities in the U.S. that have incinerators so there have been times where bibles and Qurans have been burned.

All the trash at the American bases goes to burn pits. Under separation of church and state the military could not treat the religious texts any different than a mass market paperback that needs to be disposed of. If they treat the religious text differently they are establishing and recognizing a religion.

Burn pits are commonly and regularly used to get rid of ALL trash from military installations in war zones. I ran a search for other stories on this issue and they had references to the Afghans chanting death to Americans. So much for a religion of peace.

Bigger fix is to get the heck out of Afghanistan. Our presence their is doing no good. We don't need troops on the ground to control terrorists camps that might pop up. If we leave and they build camps we just drop missiles into them.

I would not hold the American military up too close to the light, they are hardly examples for the rest of us. We are not superior to other countries and we do not have the right to impose our values on other countries and people.

Maybe the military should be a little more sensitive about foreign mores and cultural differences and not do rash things like throw Korans in burn pits. I agree with Professor Stanger.

Less than a year ago, members of the Taliban stopped several girls on their way to school in Afghanistan, and poured sulphuric acid onto their eyes and faces. They are blinded and disfigured for life for wanting to learn how to read the Qu'ran.
There was no outrage from the other Afghans that they were being impious in attacking the girls, one of whom was only seven years old.
So in Afghanistan, it is permitted to burn girls with acid, but not to burn books with fire. Other similar events happen regularly, in 2008, 2010 and now depressingly in 2012. Girls were not allowed to attend school under the Taliban, who ruled Afghainstan from 1994 through 2001. See one depressing account at:

BTW, burning copies of the Qu'rans when they are old is permitted under Sharia law in other countries. Regretfully, most Moslems who want Sharia laws think they know the law, but can't agree upon which ones are right from country to country, or even from tribe to tribe.

So awful for the girls and women of Afghanistan.

Re: burning religious books, I know that in Judaism, Torahs, prayer books and other religious tomes that are worn or damaged are supposed to be buried. I suspect that you are right Lee about disposal of the Qu'ran, but when AMERICANS burn the books, that's another story altogether.

The soldiers, or rather their COs were acting rashly and irresponsibly burning the Qu'rans.

Especially bad that this was done by the Obama administration

Add new comment


  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <blockquote> <img> <b> <marquee> <strike> <del> <p> <iframe>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Subscribe to Comments for "The US Should Not Be Burning Books"