Despite what you may be hearing and seeing, the vast majority of Afghans are not bothered by the accidental burning of Korans by US troops. They have more important issues to worry about.
The violent reaction against the burning has drawn universal media coverage — the actual feelings of most Afghans less so.
That media coverage has driven reactions such as that of Newt Gingrich, who said:
“I would not risk the life of a single American. . . in a country whose religious fanatics are trying to kill us and whose government seems to be on the side of the fanatics.”
Here are the facts: According to a recent poll, “foreign interference” is the least important issue for Afghans.
The most important issues? 1. Insecurity (38%) 2. Unemployment (23%) 3. Corruption (21%) 4. Poverty (12%), 5. Poor economy (10%), 6. Lack of education (10%), 7. The Taliban (8%), 8. Suicide attacks (8%) 9. Foreign interference (7%).
The same Asia Foundation poll found Afghan support for equal rights regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion at 82%, and for equal educational opportunities for women at 85%.
Many Afghans are upset about the burnings — but far more angry about the protests. In rare coverage of Afghan opinion, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon spoke to Afghan women’s representatives for the Daily Beast.
“Most people are more angry at the protesters than at the U.S. troops who did it,” Manizha Naderi, executive director of Women for Afghan Women, told Lemmon. “One person actually said, ‘When the Taliban are blowing up schools or mosques, aren’t they burning the Quran? Mosques are filled with hundreds of copies of the Quran. How come no one is saying anything about this?’”
Afghan MP Fawzia Koofi told Lemmon that “a few hundred people in the streets does not represent the Afghan nation.”
“I condemn the fact that there was a disrespect to my religion and to the Holy Quran, but I condemn also those who misuse and try to politicize any emotional feeling of my people,” she said.
Lemmon reported that the protests were deliberately stirred up by the Taliban using the internet.
Koofi said that there was a reason why the images of the protests featured no women: they understand the stakes are too high, for themselves and their children.