Guest Authors

Is the Red Cross a Neutral Symbol to Afghans?

16 April 2012
Wrtten by: MEDEVACmatters.org

[Writer] Michael Yon has written about the cultural importance of our MEDEVAC helicopters showing Red Cross symbols on them in a Muslim society. Here is a photo of a poster displaying banned symbols Mark of the Beast

crosses tb1000Photo courtesy of Michael Yon

From Yon’s article:

An Afghan friend translates:

*Destroying the cross is an Islamic obligation*

1. Christians want to publish and spread their unholy and cursed religious logos and signs in different shapes and appearances in clean and holy Muslim society.

2. These Christianity signs (Crosses) have affected our Islamic society too

– even our mosques and our Menbers are not safe from those Christianity signs (Crosses).

(Further note from my Afghan friend explaining “menber”: When you enter a mosque, the menber is a chair in the most forward point. After the prayer is done, a mullah sits on that chair and enlightens people. Talking rubbish about how to be a good muslim or other nonsense. That chair is higher than the regular ones in terms of height. It’s higher in order to enable the mullah to see all the folks and the folks seeing mullah – even the ones sitting far away. Menber is the written name of it.)

3. The respected Ulemas agree over the fact that destroying these crosses is an Islamic obligation and on whatever object or surface where there is a cross, praying is a sin.

4. —– had a gold cross in his neck and prophet Mohammad told him to remove that ‘idol’ from himself and is narrated from Aisha that prophet Mohammad never allowed anything in his house with a cross on it and used to destroy or throw it away.

6. For further explanations, refer to …. / …. / …. (Names of references given)

*Some of the names on the crosses:*

1. Cross of George

2. Cross of Andrew

3. Cross of Lauren

4. Cross of Jerusalem

5. Cross of Anthony

6. Cross in shape of the Nazi logo

7. Catholic Cross

===End of Translation===

Predictably, naysayers immediately pummeled Yon as spinning a fantasy. But was he?

The Red Cross symbol is the inverse of the Swiss flag in honor of the lengthy neutrality of Switzerland and the home of the International Committee of the Red Cross which administers the Geneva Convention. The basis of the Swiss flag is somewhat uncertain but there are three leading explanations:

1000px-war flag of the holy roman empire 1200-1350-svg

War flag of the Holy Roman Empire (Reichssturmfahne) during the 13th century

640px-ch-1422a-1000

Triangular field ensign used by Swiss confederate forces from ca. the 1420s

1000px-early swiss cross-svg

Field ensign used from ca. 1470 and during the early 16th century
(Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Switzerland)

In each case there was a history associated with the design that includes an element of the Christian religion.

In early 1863, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) adopted the red cross on a white background as the distinctive emblem to be used to mark medical vehicles, buildings and personnel granted protection under the provisions of the new Geneva Convention.

Only 13 years elapsed before the Red Cross symbol was embroiled in religiously based contention by a Muslim nation. During the war between Christian Russia and Islamic Turkey in 1876-1878, the Ottoman Empire used a white flag with a red crescent in lieu of the Red Cross symbol because it believed that the Red Cross was offensive to its Muslim troops.

In 1929 Egypt petitioned the ICRC to formally adopt the Red Crescent and a flag bearing a red lion and a red sun as alternatives to the Red Cross symbol. They were accepted.

In 1949 the Netherlands and Israel each petitioned for approval of new symbols, but were rejected, as was a request to revert to the Red Cross as the sole authorized symbol. Israel refused to sign the Geneva Convention based on the rejection of it proposal to use the Red Star of David (used within Israel) as an internationally authorized symbol. In 1980 Iran waived its right to continue using the red lion and red sun in favor of adopting the Red Crescent symbol.

In 1999 the ICRC established a working group to address comprehensively the question of which symbol or symbols should be authorized officially for future use. The goal was to avoid any symbol with any national, political or religious connotation. Member nations rejected the abandonment of the existing Red Cross and Red Crescent symbols in favor of new symbol.

So, a new religiously neutral symbol was designed consisting of a red square rotated 45 degrees (to stand on a corner) on a white background.

In 2005 – 2007 the ICRC took the steps necessary to formally adopt the Red Cross, the Red Crescent and the new Red Crystal as official symbols to be used by signatory nations. Muslim signatory nations fought the approval because it would pave the way for Israel to join the ICRC. Upon the approval of two signatory nations the symbol was officially adopted and Israel joined the ICRC. Israel reserved the right to display the new Red Crystal with a Red Star of David within it for use within its national borders.

060112 redcrystal hmed 3p-grid-6x2

Is it reasonable to believe that Muslims in Afghanistan are more culturally tolerant than those in other Muslim nations? Would the Taliban avoid exploiting a historical distrust of any group that displays a symbol that includes a cross?

To participate in the poll and for the original posting click here.

Comments   

 
+8 # Don't ever give upStan Reck 2012-04-16 13:17
Keep up the pressure Michael; we've got your back.
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+5 # RE: Is the Red Cross a Neutral Symbol to Afghans?Bert 2012-04-16 14:07
I'm surprised the Muslims don't go ballistic over the fact that many people have a cresent moon carved in the doors of outhouses
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# songpeter 2012-04-16 14:34
This reminds me of a song from the 60's: "there are none so blind, as those who will not see."
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-17 # Mr.Serge 2012-04-16 15:09
The US soldiers in Afghanistan should never call themselves Christians! They are a shame and disgrace to all Christians!!
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+5 # RE: Mr.Bert 2012-04-16 15:29
So Serge, you know for a fact that all US soldiers in Afghanistan are all Christians ? What is wrong with a soldier being a Christian anyways ?
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-2 # RE: RE: Mr.Chris R 2012-04-16 17:58
Strictly speaking the duty of a Christian is to turn the other cheek - even when struck. Obviously the history is different and Christianity has been used a military rallying point since the Milvian Bridge. However, the somewhat tortuous rationale that later Christian theologians have used to justify war and combat are, essentially, a way of dealing with fact that people will engage in violence. This seems to be in direct contradiction to the words of Christ (which, in my view, has more authority than the Old Testament or Paul). But, ya know, that's just the reality of the situation. People, even Christians, will be violent and engage in warfare. What they should understand is that it's *really* unlikely that this is Christlike behavior. I wouldn't say that soldiers shouldn't call themselves Christian but they shouldn't think that Jesus is all thumbs up when they drop someone.

Note: I'm not advocating pacifism or anything like that. I'm just trying to explain why killing and Christianity can be seen at odds with each other.
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# SFAWRG001 2012-04-16 21:16
Well, as a non-Christian, I should hope that I would make me a disgrace of a Christian.
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-1 # RE: Is the Red Cross a Neutral Symbol to Afghans?matt 2012-04-16 15:34
wow, they're banning the letter T and anchors as well. So much for an Afghan Navy and words with the letter T.

I say that we substitute everything for the Red Kumbayah, a new trans-Gaian symbol of my own invention that is a simple squiggle that even illiterate Afghans can understand.

That way they'll know to shoot at any aircraft carrying the symbol that much easier.
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+2 # RE: Is the Red Cross a Neutral Symbol to Afghans?Lanny 2012-04-16 18:25
What? No middle finger symbol banning. We should use that sign then.
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# Origin of Red Cross symbolDave L. 2012-04-16 18:58
I believe the Red Cross was formed at an international convention in Switzerland and due to their hospitality and neutrality in many arenas their flags colors were transposed and that's how the Red cross logo came to be.
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+1 # Origin of the Red CrossMEDEVACmatters 2012-04-17 00:13
From the article above:

"The Red Cross symbol is the inverse of the Swiss flag in honor of the lengthy neutrality of Switzerland and the home of the International Committee of the Red Cross which administers the Geneva Convention."
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+2 # RE: Is the Red Cross a Neutral Symbol to Afghans?Outraged 2012-04-17 17:15
Thanks to your reporting on this lethal idiocy on the Red Cross issue I am feeling impelled to activism I am so outraged.

But I don't know what to do. Has anyone organized an activist opposition to bring pressure on the Congress and Pentagon?

Is there a website or forum to actively oppose the Red Cross Policy?
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# Taking ActionMEDEVACmatters 2012-04-18 17:45
The new web site MEDEVACmatters. org has lists of contact info for members of Congress, the Secretary of Defense and the President. The site has 80+ posts about issues with how MEDEVAC operations have been hampered by Army leadership inaction.

The men and women who provide the MEDEVAC services are limited by equipment, training and policies that internal Army experts have complained about for many years without result.

It is time for MEDEVAC to be taken more seriously as the front-end of the chain that helps our wounded troops.
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# RE: Is the Red Cross a Neutral Symbol to Afghans?Asif Ali 2012-04-18 17:01
Just like the Trijicon, of Michigan,Indian a the gun-sight makers that are fixed on M-16 that are carrying biblical quotes about destroying the enemy AND that is creating/spread ing senseless hatred for Muslims...
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# A fresh startMEDEVACmatters 2012-04-18 18:10
I am baffled why there is any attachment to a symbol that when displayed makes targets out the person or vehicle. It is long past the time when it matters to our enemies on the battlefield. Not since WWII has the Red Cross even slight immunity to attack. Why does Army leadership find it OK to force unarmed MEDEVAC helicopters to wear the Red Crosses that announce the helplessness of the helicopters?

Some say that since that Afghanistan was never touched by the Crusades there can’t be any real animosity against Christian and Christian derived symbols in Afghanistan. That ignores how religious hatred and fear is communicated by the Taliban, imams, mullahs, madrassas, Friday sermons in the mosques, etc. Does this mean every Afghan hates Christians and will destroy anything bearing any version of a cross? Of course not, but the extremist message held sway for years under Taliban rule and still does through their campaigns of war and terror.

Recently demonstrators in Jalalabad burned a red cross in reaction to perceived insults to the Koran and Islam. Why a red cross? Maybe because it is the most commonly seen version of a cross in their lives. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/death-to-america-angry-afghans-burn-christian-cross-obama-effigy/

Last year the International Red Cross organization published a report decrying the singling out of marked ambulances and medical workers for attack by fighters throughout the Middle East.

This is not about bashing Muslims. It is about the Army being insensitive in its continued adherence to requirements of treaty that offers no protection to our troops and may instill anger in Muslims. If they must display an IRC approved symbol why not use the neutral Red Crystal instead of the Red Cross? Better yet since the symbol doesn’t prevent attacks by the Taliban – get rid of it and arm the helicopters while keeping everything else the same. Same equipment, same medics, same mission done just faster and safer.

Heck, while there are at it, the Army could even repaint the helicopters a desert camouflage like its own experts recommended years ago.
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