The obvious moral of the Newsweek affair is that journalists, and leftist journalists (the common type) in particular, are habitual liars unworthy of respect.  To those of us interested in Balkan affairs, the whole Koran to-do elicits a wry smile.  Front-page stories from the 1990’s, including countless fact-free accounts of “Bosnian rape camps,” “Kosovo genocides,” and “Racak massacres,” were far more pernicious inventions, but they remain largely unchallenged to this day.  Newsweek’s fib caused a dozen or two overexcitable Muslims to die rioting against the Great Satan; those Balkan lies, by contrast, caused a country to be bombed and a Christian nation to be demonized.  Yes, Newsweek is a bad magazine; journalists are riff-raff—so what’s new?

Three generally overlooked points still need to be made, and I will present them in ascending order of importance.

The first point is technical: The Koran cannot be flushed down a regular toilet.  That much should have been obvious from the outset.  It is a book of at least 400 pages, and a bilingual Arabic-English edition—which is, presumably, the general-issue Koran used in the alleged proceedings—may have over 1,000 pages.  (If there isn’t a G.I. Koran, I’d recommend Marmaduke Pickthal’s excellent bilingual edition, which is some 900 pages long.)  Tearing the Koran into just a few thick chunks of, say, 100 pages each and trying to flush it that way would cause an instant clog on the first attempt.  The torturer would require a motorized snake to continue the procedure, likely causing the suspect to become even more contemptuous of the infidel and, therefore, more intransigent.

Tearing two, three, or four hundred individual leaves from the book and flushing them methodically one by one would be more refined as a torture technique (I can visualize it as the key scene in Michael Moore’s Guantanamo!), but it is still an almost impossible task.  You would have to crumple them first—uncrumpled, they would cause a clog in no time—but even if you reduced them to a small ball and flushed them individually, after a dozen, you would need a plunger, and, after 30 or 40, you would have the Mother of All Clogs.  By the time you were done, the suspect would be in tears—not of pain or sorrow, but of laughter.  Devout Muslims may not be renowned for their sense of humor, but a farce is universally funny.

It does not take a Sherlock Holmes to smell a rat.  The hoax is transparent, on par with Jimmy, “8 years old and a third-generation heroin addict, a precocious little boy with sandy hair, velvety brown eyes and needle marks freckling the baby smooth skin of his thin brown arms,” according to the memorable front-page story from the Washington Post of September 28, 1980.  As any inner-city dweller could have told you, Ron (Jimmy’s mother’s drug-dealing “live-in-lover”) would never waste ounce upon ounce of expensive powder—readily convertible into hard cash—on his girlfriend’s son’s habit, and he would not have encouraged the boy to develop the habit unless the kid was old enough to go out and beg, steal, or borrow enough money to keep the habit funded.

The second neglected point with regard to l’affaire Koran is that we take Muslim outrage for granted when their scripture is allegedly desecrated, yet we fail to be moved, let alone outraged, when Muslims routinely kill Christians and other non-Muslims and destroy their heritage, their sacred books, and their shrines.  Over the past two decades alone, Muslims have put to torch some 200 Christian churches in Kosovo, including the entire library of the Prizren Seminary with its thousands of volumes, including precious illuminated manuscripts 700 years old.  They have blasted those Buddhas in Afghanistan with 155 mm artillery.  They have attacked Christian churches and killed worshippers in Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sudan, Egypt, and Bosnia, and they have decapitated Christian priests in Chechnya.  For Muslims to gloss over an endless stream of outrages committed by their coreligionists against others, and promptly to work themselves into paroxysms of rage over the toilet story, takes some nerve.  For the West to tolerate this is indicative of a decayed spirit.

The third and most significant point is that the Koran is a vile book.  It has caused more death, suffering, and misery over the centuries than any other book, Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto included.  It is well deserving not of some ugly and meaningless act of “desecration” but of a careful reading and somber analysis.  It breathes the air of the desert; it enables us to hear the battle cries of the Prophet’s followers as they rushed to conquer, kill, enslave, and rob millions of Christians in Asia, Africa, and Europe; and it helps us understand what makes Muslims tick and why there can be no truce with jihad.

To a Muslim, as Allah’s direct and unadulterated word, the Koran cannot be subjected to textual analysis and critical evaluation.  From the point of view of orthodox Islam, the claim that a quotation is taken out of context (e.g., “do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends,” or “fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them”) is incongruous because there is no “context.”  Looking for one in the word of Allah would be blasphemous.

For a non-Muslim, it is hard to see how the Koran is an improvement over, or advancement on, the moral teaching, language, style, and coherence of the Old and New Testaments.  It reads like a construct entirely human in origin and intent, clear in its earthly sources of inspiration and the fulfillment of the daily needs of its author.  The Koranic “revelation” that non-Muslims are not allowed to understand the book sits especially oddly with Allah’s countless commands regarding the unbelievers: “[S]trike off their heads; then when you have made wide slaughter among them, carefully tie up the remaining captives.”

The violent message of the Koran is a problem for us as well as for the Muslims.  We cannot solve it for them, and we should not be asked to deem the problem solved by pretending that the book is a pacifist tract.  Humans are capable of reinterpreting scripture when absolutely necessary, but, until the oil dollars support a line of Islamic exegesis that can renounce the ideals of jihad, terror, murder, dhimmitude, and slavery, we must have the guts to call a religion of war by its right name.