Monday, November 28, 2005

Guantanamo Prisoner Denied Bible, Allowed Quran

Via Thoughts on Politics, Life and God: a story from the Los Angeles Times about how a Guantanamo prisoner, who is of course entitled to have a copy of the Quran, has been denied access to the Christian Bible:
WASHINGTON - At the U.S. prison for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, everyone gets a Quran, but no one gets a Bible.

Saifullah Paracha, a 58-year-old former Pakistani businessmen with reputed ties to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, has been in U.S. custody since 2003. Like the other inmates at Guantanamo, he has a copy of the Quran. But he also wants an English translation of the King James Version of the Bible.

Paracha believes that because the Bible is one of the scriptures accepted in Islam, he is entitled to a copy to read in his small wire-mesh cell. But after his lawyer shipped him a Bible, along with two volumes of Shakespeare, prison officials confiscated the package.

Paracha’s American lawyer filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington, demanding that Paracha be given the Bible and copies of Hamlet and Julius Caesar. The government responded that certain books are kept from prisoners because they could “incite” them.


Paracha’s Washington lawyer, Gaillard Hunt, said he met with Paracha in September and learned that his client “has been in solitary confinement with very little communication with anyone for most of the last year.”

“I learned that he has been requesting a Bible,” he added. “From my general knowledge, I knew that the Bible (the Old and New testaments) is accepted in Islam as one of their holy texts, so I interpreted this as a religious request.”

On Sept. 30, Hunt said, he purchased a Bible and mailed it, still in the publisher’s shrink wrap cover, to a chaplain at the naval base. He included a cover letter explaining it was for Prisoner No. 1094, at Paracha’s request. Also in the package were the two plays and an English dictionary.

When Hunt visited again in October, Paracha told him no Bible or anything else had arrived. Hunt said one of the military lawyers “explained to me that Paracha would not be allowed to have a Bible as that would violate prison policy.”

A recent government lawsuit filed in response said none of the more than 500 prisoners is permitted any special treatment. And government lawyers said Paracha has not shown that the practice of his religion, Islam, has been “substantially burdened” because he does not have an accompanying copy of the Bible.

They also argued that letting Paracha have a Bible would set off a “chain reaction” among the other 170 detainees.
While we don’t think that this represents any simple kind of hostility to Christianity (such as we would find among the ACLU and People for the American Way membership), what we clearly have is bureaucrats who make a point of being “culturally sensitive” when Islamic holy books are concerned, but not “sensitive” at all when somebody wants a Bible.

Could the Bible “incite” somebody? We suppose that one can be “incited” by all kinds of things if one wants to be. But as Thoughts on Politics, Life and God notes:
Funny that. I thought it was Muslims, inspired by the Quran, who plowed three aeroplanes into two of the tallest office blocks in the world and one (due to the heroism of the passengers of the third plane) into an empty paddock.


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