The impact of Quran desecration

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No doubt by now you've heard the Quran-in-the-toilet Newsweek article. Now, stories about US interrogators exploiting Islamic taboos are old news, but there's something sort of interesting about this particular one. Most of the stories center on forcing prisoners to personally violate religious prohibitions, such as contact with pork, menstrual blood, etc. Note in particular that a number of these trigger disgust reactions.

But in this case, what's happening is that the prisoner is being forced to observe someone else desecrating the Quran, not being forced to do it themselves. This isn't a simple matter of taboo violation: you wouldn't expect prisoners to react that badly if the interrogator walked in eating a ham sandwich. Rather, I think the point here is that the interrogator is showing disrespect for Islam.

This technique also seems to rely for effect on the interrogator/torturer not being muslim; what's enraging about the desecration of the Quran is that it's an expression of contempt for Islam by the interrogator. and that effect is lost or at least weakened if the interrogator is known to be muslim, since then the desecration is purely a matter of violating a taboo, not really expressing contempt--except maybe fake contempt.

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