U.S. forces in Afghanistan intended to give the children of Khost province a gift they could enjoy. Instead, they ended up giving them a gift, soccer balls, that some residents in the region found blasphemous.
The soccer balls roughly resembled the photo at left, but had flags of the world printed on them, including Saudi Arabia's flag. The Saudi flag bears the shahada, the Muslim declaration of faith whose recitation is one of the five pillars of Islam. One Afghan MP explained the offense by saying, "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." In the past, Saudi Arabia has complained to World Cup officials about the use of soccer balls bearing its flag.
Around 100 people in Khost, a province of about 300,000 people, chose to express their anger by holding a demonstration. The U.S. military said it simply didn't realize that some would find the soccer balls offensive. A spokeswoman said that U.S. forces work with local leaders to ensure they respect local culture. Perhaps, though, they also need a cultural "copy editor," a native of the region who reviews such actions for possible offense before giving the green light to go ahead with them.
Anger over 'blasphemous' balls [BBC]
Shahada: Confession of Faith [Religion Facts]