Desecrating the Qur’an

The Pentagon confirmed in June five incidents of Qur’an desecration at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A report by Army Brig. Gen. Jay W. Hood, the prison’s commander, concludes that in separate incidents, the Qur’an was kicked, hit by water balloons, splashed by a soldier’s urine, stepped on and defaced with a two-word obscenity. It also details 15 cases of desecration by detainees. More than 1,600 copies of the Qur’an have been distributed to prisoners since January 2002.

Newsweek magazine this spring said military investigators had evidence that guards at Guantanamo had flushed a Qur’an down a toilet. The Bush administration denied the charge, which triggered protests around the world. The magazine later retracted and said it didn’t have enough sources to back the report.

According to New Yorker magazine, a Pentagon-funded program named “Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape,” created at the end of the Korean War, was intended to introduce trainees to interrogation methods they may encounter if captured. One method, the “religious dilemma,” parallels complaints of Qur’an abuse. Trainees were given the choice of seeing a Bible desecrated or revealing secrets to interrogators.

Critics say medical and scientific personnel have played a largely hidden role in helping to design and monitor interrogation plans crafted individually for each detainee and intended to exploit their physical and mental vulnerabilities.

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    A piece previously published in the print issue of Islamica Magazine between 2003-2009. The following has been an effort to digitize and archive as a free service. Author citations can be found at as we continue to work on improving the digital archives here.

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