Here’s the leaflet that the Pentagon deemed so offensive to Muslims that it warranted an official apology from a U.S. commander, according to journalists who posted the leaflet on social media.
— Baber Khan Sahel (@BaberkhanSahel) September 6, 2017
Above the photo of the lion chasing the dog, the leaflet said in Pashto, according to Reuters:
“Take back your freedom from the terrorist dogs and cooperate with coalition forces so they can target your enemy and eliminate them.”
The leaflet was air-dropped over Parwan Province, Afghanistan, Monday night. The airdrop was commenced as part of a psychological warfare campaign encouraging locals to join with coalition forces in their fight against the Taliban. Bagram Air Base, reportedly the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan, is located in Parwan Province.
The controversy over the leaflet is centered around the dog in the image, which is sporting the Taliban flag. The same slogan used by the Taliban is also on the jihadi flags of extremist groups like the Islamic State, al-Qaida, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and Hamas.
But Afghan locals have apparently become enraged by the leaflet, because the verse inscribed on the dog (although widely understood in modern times as a jihadi slogan) is also a popular Quranic verse expressing commitment to Islam. The Shahada expresses a belief in God and Islam’s Muhammad as God’s prophet, or messenger.
Moreover, a dog is considered unclean by some sects of Islam, so having Islamic texts on a dog may cause offense to some Muslims, even if that dog is sporting a slogan that is used by the Taliban to commit jihad against innocents.
“The design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam,” Major General James Linder said in a statement late Tuesday. “I sincerely apologise. We have the deepest respect for Islam and our Muslim partners worldwide,” he added, pledging “to determine the cause of this incident and to hold the responsible party accountable.”
— Tara Copp (@TaraCopp) September 6, 2017
Upset Afghans plan on protesting the “unforgivable” offense the leaflet apparently caused to Muslims.
“Those who have committed this unforgivable mistake in the publicity, propaganda or media section of the coalition forces will be tried and punished,” said Parwan Province Governor Mohammad Hasem.
Ghulam Bahauddin Jilani, a provincial council head, also called for “whoever is responsible” to be “arrested and put on trial.”
The situation has “sparked riots” across the country, CBS News reports. Calls for legal repercussions for seemingly harmless activity is commonplace in much of the Islamic world, where the punishment for offending Islam is sometimes death or a severe beating.
The controversy is erupting two weeks after President Trump committed to continuing the war effort in Afghanistan for an indefinite amount of time.