US troops accused of failing to meet obligations to Muslims
“Even as we are fighting to help the Afghan people secure and govern their country, we as a military did not meet our obligations to the Muslim community,” Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia and Pacific Security Affairs Dr Peter Lavoy said.
Invited to speak during Friday’s sermon by Imam Hagi Magid, director of the Islamic Society of North America, and Haris Tarin, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Lavoy said it was a moment of coming together under difficult circumstances.
“I come here to apologise on behalf of the Department of Defense for the incident that took place in Afghanistan this week, when American military personnel unknowingly and improperly disposed of Islamic religious materials, including the Holy Quran,” he said.
ISAF, he said, had a long tradition of handling sacred texts with respect and full consideration of customs and rules of the religion in question. “In this case, our military neglected out of ignorance long-established correct procedures for handling religious materials,” he added.
As the mistakes committed in the past could not be undone, he said: “We can only forthrightly acknowledge this incident; seek to rebuild trust; improve our mutual understandings at all levels; and from them do better in the future.”
Lavoy gave details of the additional steps that the Pentagon was taking afte the incident, which he said was in keeping with its commitment to respect all religious practices and beliefs.
“First, after the completion of ISAF's prompt and decisive investigation, we will hold people appropriately accountable. Again, (Defense) Secretary (Leon) Panetta will personally review the results of that investigation,” he explained.
Imam Magid expressed satisfaction over Lavoy’s remarks and apology. “We are pleased with the rapid response from the DoD and the White House and with their strategies to prevent these actions from occurring in the future," he said.
A day earlier, Imam Magid and senior community met Defense Department officials to discuss strategies to ensure the protection of sacred holy texts from intentional and unintentional destruction at the hands of the US military in the future.
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