Sunday, August 26, 2007

No good deed goes unpunished, or, how America told the Afghans to suck its blasphemous balls

The BBC reports that many Afghans are upset that footballs (soccer balls to you and me) bearing the name of Allah are being handed out by American forces. Upon reading the headline, "'Blasphemous' balls anger Afghans," my first reaction was to giggle like I was still in junior high. After I got over it, I wondered why Americans would have soccer balls with the word "Allah" emblazoned all over it. That was before I saw the picture:

Football dropped by US troops

It's actually the flag of Saudi Arabia, which apparently includes the "the shahada, one of the five pillars of Islam - the declaration of faith," which presumably includes the name of Allah. The article also notes that the Saudi government has complained before about its flag being used on soccer balls. The fun continues:
A spokeswoman for the US 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."
Soccer balls bearing national flags are certainly not uncommon, so it makes me wonder whether Saudi Arabia does any other sort of marketing with its flag. Is there a particular way to handle this t-shirt? This coffee mug? I'm especially curious about this bumper sticker--what if you get rear-ended?

This actually reminds me quite a bit of the whole flag burning nonsense here in the U.S. Placing the importance of the physical expression of something over the thing itself is just silly. Whatever may be believed about the sanctity of the name of God, Allah, etc., it's still just a soccer ball. The same goes for the American flag--it's a symbol that is not as important as what it represents. And that is the freedom to wear American flag-patterned nylon pants (it's amazing what you can find on Google). Anyway, as tacky as the pants may be, we need these freedoms, because it allows us things like this:

Jessica Simpson on GQ cover in American flag bikini DBU pants and soldier dog tags

More hotties, more soccer, less war. That's what the world needs.

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