Monday, August 27, 2007

Liberal Arts Majors, Anyone?

Yet another example of why an all engineer military just isn't going to cut it:
A demonstration has been held in south-east Afghanistan accusing U.S. troops of insulting Islam after they distributed soccer balls bearing the name of Allah

The balls showed the Saudi Arabian flag, which features the Koranic declaration of faith.

The U.S. military said the idea had been to give something for Afghan children to enjoy and they did not realise it would cause offense.

The soccer balls were dropped from a helicopter in Khost province.

Some displayed flags from countries all over the world, including Saudi Arabia, which features the shahada, one of the five pillars of Islam -- the declaration of faith.

The words, which include the name of Allah, are revered, and Muslims are very sensitive about where and how they can be used.


Mullahs in Afghanistan criticised the U.S. forces for their insensitivity, and around 100 people held a demonstration in Khost.

Afghan MP Mirwais Yasini said: "To have a verse of the Koran on something you kick with your foot would be an insult in any Muslim country around the world."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. forces in Afghanistan said they made "significant efforts to work with local leaders, mullahs and elders to respect their culture," and distributing the footballs was an effort to give a gift the Afghan children would enjoy.

"Unfortunately," she added, "there was something on those footballs we didn't immediately understand to be offensive and we regret that, as we do not want to offend."

Oops. Good idea, poor execution. Granted, it's soccer balls. And it's 100 people. But it's in Khost, one of the areas of Afghanistan that is on the edge, where soccer balls and 100 people can make a difference. In any case, this is a great example, because all it consisted of was soccer balls. Something as mundane as soccer balls can be the difference between success in reaching out to the people and failure after facing a hostile populace.

Gulfs, islands, and a million other tiny seemingly insignificant things are that on which the fate of nations turns. It might be a good idea to have people in our organization that actually make it their business to know these things.