Just this past weekend, my teenage nephew Spike, a personage well known to regular acid logic readers, came for a visit. Being that Spike is the exuberant sort, I wasn't surprised when I heard a crash come from the kitchen and Spike's plaintive voice yell, "Uncle Wil!"
"What is it?" I replied in an uncle-y voice.
You know those bottles of vomit, urine, menstrual fluid and liquefied pig intestines you keep on the top of the fridge?"
"I just spilled them all over the floor. Should I use these dirty rags to clean them up?"
"What? No!" I said, rushing to the kitchen. "I'm saving those dirty rags for a special occasion. It's precisely for accidents like this that I keep these Korans around. Here, help me tear out the pages and we can use them to sop up this mess. After we're done we can flush them down the toilet."
"Wow - that's a great idea, Uncle Wil," Spike congratulated. "Just like your Koran toilet paper."
"Sure," I said. "I use Korans for everything: Oven mitts, ash trays, air sickness bags and car wash shammies. You never know when one'll come in handy."
"Gee, have you ever, you know, read it?"
"Read it? This thing is longer than a James Michener novel! I'll wait for the movie version thank you very much. I see Tom Hanks starring as 'Allah'."
"That's great." Spike agreed. "But do you ever feel like you're violating the sacred book of a belief system that holds sway over billions of people on this earth. I mean, I heard some Muslims in Afghanistan just rioted over something like that."
I paused to sneeze and wipe my nose on a Koran before answering. "The way I see it, I'm only offering tribute to their religion. I'm saying, 'Not only does your book offer a pathway to spiritual serenity it also serves as an excellent paperweight.' I'm sure if those fellahs in Afghanistan stopped to think about it that way they'd settle themselves right down."
"I guess so..." Spike responded, though he didn't seem that convinced.
And hours later, when I'd finally gotten Spike out of my hair by showing him some Internet porn, his question came back to haunt me. Was it possible that it just might be disrespectful to use the pages of another culture's holy book to wipe up the noxious fluids spattered across the floor of my apartment? (Not that I didn't have a precedent for this sort of thing. Many of my neighbors still recalled my ill-fated attempt to lower my heating bill by burning Bibles in my living room. And several of mine friends still refused my phone calls after my last party serving broiled copies of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" covered in bar-b-que sauce.)
I decided I needed to find out more about these "Koran abuse" allegations that were coming out and causing such unrest in the Muslim world. After all, no one hadn't rioted after we'd exposed them to barking dogs, they hadn't rioted after we'd tortured them, and they'd kept calm after we'd killed them, what could we possible be doing to a simple book to set them aflame. So In picked up my copy of the Sunday Washington Post editorial section and began to read.
THE LATEST FBI documents detailing allegations of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay are, like previous FBI documents, highly disturbing. They contain prisoners' descriptions of beatings, strippings and abuse of the Koran. Detainees variously claim the Muslim holy book has been thrown on the floor, thrown against a wall and, yes, flushed in a toilet. There are also references to these kinds of events having led to an "altercation" between detainees and guards.
"Well that's certainly interesting," I said to myself. "But I still don't get it." And I didn't. Out of all the crummy, heinous, unjust acts Americans have perpetrated onto the Arab world over the years, this Koran abuse seemed like small potatoes. I couldn't but help suspect that we're I running a terrorist (and people who look just like terrorists) internment facility (Don't think my resume isn't out there) I'd probably be kicking some Korans around myself. I simply couldn't relate to the Muslim mindset on this issue. But I knew someone who could.
"Osama, are you in there?" I asked peering into secret tunnel hidden in the back of my closet. "Can you hear me?"
"I can hear you quite well, you loathsome infidel!" came the reply. "Silence your doglike rantings before your authorities are alerted to my presence!"
"Gosh, Osammy, that's no way to talk to the fellah who's been keeping you hidden from the U.S. Army lo these past few years. And all for the promise of 72 virgins. What are you doing?"
"I'm playing 'Grand Theft Auto,' you traitorous cur. What do you want?"
"I'm trying to understand something, Osama. Muslims worldwide are going bonkers because we abused some Korans. What on earth for? It's just a book. Can't they just print up a new one?"
"You're problem, aside from being a loathsome, white-skinned demon, "Osama replied, "Is that you have no notion of what is holy."
"You got that right, Osammy," I replied. "I'm a devout atheist, front and center."
"As a result, you cannot comprehend what Allah's word can mean to his loyal servants, citizens often so poor and destitute that all they have are his teachings. Look, let's try a mental exercise."
"I love your mental exercises."
"If you had to chose one book that you own, one collection of printed word that means the most to you, what would it be?"
"My copy of Spider-Man #1, signed and autographed by Stan Lee."
"Now, say you read that Arab warlords had taken a copy of Spider-Man number 1 signed and autographed by Stan lee and thrown it against a wall. Or kicked it. Or flushed it down a toilet. Would you not be upset? Because would you not see your copy of Spider-Man #1, autographed by Stan Lee, just as I see this book?" Osama held up his copy of the Koran.
"In some sense, I follow you," I replied. "After all, everyone knows that Spider-Man #1, signed by Stan Lee is the periodical that exemplifies all that is good and true about western culture. And on some level it is a slap in the face to all westerners to defile it."
"Excellent," replied Osama. "You do understand."
"But at the end of the day, Spider-Man #1 as signed by Stan lee is just a symbol. The real value of Spider-Man number lies not in it's physical presence, but what it teaches up about life and honor and how Spider-Man actually developed his powers*. The real value of Spider-Man #1 lies in our hearts."
* Keen eyed comic book readers may catch me on this one. The origin of Spider-Man was actually told in Amazing Fantasy #15. Spider-Man #1 featured a battle between Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four.
"And that is why you are a loathsome infidel who's very presence is a stain on the earth," Osama replied, patting the Koran on his lap. "When you die you shall burn in a thousand hells, each one worse by a hundredfold as you scream..."
"Say, can I borrow that?" I asked.
"Certainly," Osama replied handing me his Koran. "What for?"
"I think Spike just spilled something."