Clarification On Quran Procedures

A Palestinian boy displays a copy of the Quran, Islam's holy book, during an anti-Israel demonstration organized by the militant group Islamic Jihad in the West Bank town of Nablus, Friday, May 27, 2005. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh) AP

A statement that non-Muslims are not supposed to touch the Quran has been contradicted by a U.S. Islamic relations group.

The comments were made in reference to findings by military investigators, who confirmed five cases in which military personnel mishandled the Qurans of Muslim prisoners at Guantanamo Bay since 2002. The military report found no "credible evidence" that a holy book was flushed in a toilet.

The investigation also found 15 incidents in which detainees mishandled or inappropriately treated the Quran, including one case of a detainee ripping pages from his holy book, Brig. Gen. Jay W. Hood, the Guantanamo Bay prison commander who led the investigation, told reporters Thursday.

On May 27, Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, said on CBS News' The Early Show that the revelations are serious and he compared it to rubbing salt in a wound in the Muslim world.

"But I don't think these particular allegations are of particular concern as opposed to the Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib issues," O'Hanlon told Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm. "But it appears here some American military officers may have touched the Quran when they are not supposed to because non-believers are not supposed to touch the Quran. Early on there were not clear procedures."

The Council for Islamic-American Relations says the statement that
non-Muslin people are not allowed to touch the Quran is false.

O'Hanlon later clarified his comments, saying:

"I welcome the opportunity for dialogue with Muslim friends about the issue of respect for the Quran, as it relates to the recent stories about how American military personnel may have handled that holy book in dealing with Muslim prisoners over the last four years.

"My statement on the air (on CBS's Early Show on May 27),
admittedly a summary and simplification of the situation, was intended
to explain why it could have been a sensitive matter for non-Islamic
American military personnel to touch the Quran. But I am grateful for
the opportunity to hear a fuller discussion of the subject by those who
understand its nuances much better than do I."

The military investigation into treatment of Qurans at Guantanamo was launched two weeks ago in response to a Newsweek magazine story that said U.S. officials had confirmed a Quran was flushed in a toilet. The story stirred worldwide controversy and the Bush administration blamed it for deadly demonstrations in Afghanistan.

Newsweek later retracted its report.

  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.

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