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Newsweek, Richard Cohen, and more.

From the May 30, 2005 issue: Newsweek andd dissing the Koran.

May 30, 2005, Vol. 10, No. 35 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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Dissing the Koran

While Islamist fanatics and ignorant Westerners sow panic over the alleged desecration of a Koran at Guantanamo Bay, no one mentions a startling fact: When it comes to destruction of the Koran, there's no question who the world champion is--the government of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi state religion is the primitive and austere Wahhabi version of Islam, which defines many traditional Islamic practices as idolatrous. Notably, the state bans the importation of Korans published elsewhere. When foreign pilgrims arrive at the Saudi border by the millions for the annual journey to Mecca, what happens to the non-Saudi Korans they are carrying? The border guards confiscate them, to be shredded, pulped, or burned. Beautiful bindings and fine paper are viewed as a particular provocation--all are destroyed. (This on top of the spiritual vandalism the Saudis perpetrate, by inserting anti-Jewish and anti-Christian squibs into the Korans they publish in foreign languages, as Stephen Schwartz documented in our issue of September 27, 2004.)

This behavior isn't a recent innovation, by the way. Here's an account of how the Saudis carried on when they seized the city of Taif in 1802. It's taken from an unimpeachable Islamic source, the compilation Advice for the Muslim, edited by the Turkish scholar Hilmi Isik and published by Hakikat Kitabevi in Istanbul:

The Wahhabis tore up the copies of the Koran . . . and other Islamic books they took from libraries, mosques and houses, and threw them down on the ground. They made sandals from the gold-gilded leather covers of the Koran and other books and wore them on their filthy feet. There were verses of the Koran and other sacred writings on those leather covers. The pages of those valuable books thrown around were so numerous that there was no space to step in the streets of Taif. . . . The Wahhabi bandits, who were gathered from the deserts for looting and who did not know the Koran, tore up all the copies they found and stamped on them. Only three copies of the Koran were saved from the plunder of a major town, Taif.

No wonder anti-Wahhabi Muslims say "the Saudis print the Koran to destroy it." They print it and they destroy it in a daily desecration that makes Newsweek's retracted Guantanamo allegation look trivial by comparison.

Claims of Cohen

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has once again chastised Vice President Dick Cheney for claiming that Saddam had "reconstituted" Iraq's nuclear weapons program. The occasion was a column on "Newsweek's Mistakes." The first mistake was its Koran-flushed-down-the-toilet-at-Guantanamo item that sparked deadly riots in Afghanistan. The second came when "the magazine failed to issue a full-throated retraction and grovel in the manner expected from any institution that gets something wrong, especially the media." Remember that admonition.

Cohen's point, so far as The Scrapbook can determine, is that while everyone makes mistakes, the U.S. military and the Bush White House make mistakes and lie, too: "Suffice it to say that for the White House and the Pentagon to come down on Newsweek for making a mistake is the height of hypocrisy." If the White House is going to demand retractions from Newsweek, Cohen wants one from the White House. "Where, just for starters, is the retraction from Dick Cheney, who said that Iraq had 'reconstituted' its nuclear weapons program?"

Here's where. The vice president retracted that March 16, 2003, statement on September 14, 2003, in an appearance on Meet the Press, the same show on which he screwed up a few months before. Tim Russert replayed video from the earlier appearance and sought a clarification. "Reconstituted nuclear weapons," Russert repeated. "You misspoke." Cheney: "Yeah. I did misspeak."

Including his latest, Cohen has now written six columns whining about the "reconstituted" quote since September 2003, never once mentioning Cheney's retraction. The Scrapbook eagerly awaits Cohen's "full-throated retraction" in the manner expected from the institution that he is.

Bush's Jobs Record

Remember the favorite talking point of Democratic presidential candidates? How President Bush was worse than Herbert Hoover in the number of jobs created on his watch? After John Kerry made this point in the second presidential debate last fall, CNN "Fact Check" asserted: "Kerry is correct. . . . Bush is on track to become the first president in 72 years (since Herbert Hoover) to oversee a net loss in jobs." Kerry went on to make the same point in the third debate, and Bush let it slide. Maybe the president was tired of making excuses, though it was certainly fair to cite the recession, 9/11, the corporate scandals, and the bursting of the stock bubble as causes of the poor jobs performance. Maybe he was just embarrassed.