Pastor Terry Jones called off his widely-criticized plan to burn copies of the Koran on September 11, but the news didn't make it to Afghanistan in time — two people were killed and half a dozen injured as protests held against the event on Sunday turned violent. Tensions are running high in Afghanistan ahead of parliamentary elections next weekend, but critics say Pastor Jones' Koran-burning stunt poured fuel on the fire. Could it seriously damage our war effort in the country? (Watch the Afghanistan protests)
Yet more material for the Taliban to use against us: Time and again, Afghanistan has erupted at the perceived hatred of Islam by the West, says Dan Murphy at the Christian Science Monitor. The country's history is "replete with examples of insults against Islam – real or imagined – lighting the dry religious tinder that cuts across ethnic lines." This will only feed into the strategy of isolationism that made the Taliban so popular.
"Why Afghanistan has reacted so sharply to threat of Koran burning"
This is much bigger than Afghanistan: Viewed from the Muslim world, Terry Jones is just the latest evidence of a creeping American Islamophobia, says Mosharraf Zaidi at Foreign Policy. "Of all the things that can destroy the fragile and momentous little steps of progress across the Muslim world, this might be the most potent and lethal." America cannot afford any more ill will in the Middle East. Only by addressing its relationship with Islam at home will it repair it abroad.
"The Talibanization of America"
There's a silver lining to this episode: This small-time pastor has provided a useful reminder of how much power the U.S. has to manipulate public opinion and politics in the Muslim world, says Spengler at Asia Times. In decades past, we used that power ruthlessly — and effectively — as part of a "divide and conquer" strategy (for example, supporting both sides in the Iran-Iraq war). Even as we're trying to win Muslim hearts and minds, it's good to know that more cynical strategies are still available.
"Terry Jones, asymmetrical warrior"