Another Explanation For the Afghanistan Riots

In its issue dated May 9th, Newsweek reported that U.S. military investigators had found evidence that interrogators had flushed a copy of the Qur’an, Islam’s holy book, down the toilet to get inmates to talk. Since that time, protests have raged in Afghanistan, where 16 have been killed and more than 100 have been injured. Drudge and other right-wingers have been quick to dub this recent surge in violence the “Newsweek riots.” But let’s not forget that this anger has been boiling for quite some time.

Before the Newsweek report even hit the newsstands, the Associated Press was already noting a “revived Taliban-led insurgency” and the Agence France Press said there was “an upsurge in violence by suspected Taliban rebels” which had left two U.S. marines dead.

This is not to suggest that Newsweek’s report did not stir passions among Muslims across the globe. But there’s a deeper issue at play here. The United Nations reported in February that living standards among Afghanis was among the world’s lowest. While it may be convenient to attribute the surge of violence to a few lines in a magazine article, the real story is more complicated.