BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's most powerful Sunni Arab political party on Monday said a U.S. soldier's desecration of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, requires the "severest of punishments," not just an apology and a military reassignment.
The Iraqi Islamic Party, the movement of Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, condemned what it said was a "blatant assault on the sanctities of Muslims all over the world."
An American staff sergeant who was a sniper section leader used a Quran for target practice on May 9.
The U.S. commander in Baghdad on Saturday issued a formal apology and read a letter of apology from the shooter.
The sergeant has been relieved of duty as a section leader "with prejudice," officially reprimanded by his commanding general, dismissed from his regiment and redeployed -- reassigned to the United States.
But the Iraqi Islamic Party -- which said it reacted to the news "with deep resentment and indignation" -- wants the "severest of punishments" for the action to serve as a lesson for the future.
"Such assaults have recurred over the past few years; therefore, the apology alone is no longer sufficient," the party said in a statement. "The U.S. military should take preventative measures considering the feelings of Muslims."
The statement added, "The Iraqi Islamic Party demands the U.S. administration deal firmly with these violations. We also demand our government take an appropriate stance (or position) towards the enormity of the humiliation."
A tribal leader said "the criminal act by U.S. forces" took place at a shooting range at the Radhwaniya police station on Baghdad's western outskirts. After the shooters left, an Iraqi policeman found a target marked in the middle of the bullet-riddled Quran.
Copies of the pictures of the Quran obtained by CNN show multiple bullet holes and an expletive scrawled on one of its pages.
On Saturday, Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad, appeared at an apology ceremony flanked by leaders from Radhwaniya.
"I come before you here seeking your forgiveness," Hammond said to tribal leaders and others gathered. "In the most humble manner, I look in your eyes today, and I say please forgive me and my soldiers."
Another military official kissed a Quran and presented it as "a humble gift" to the tribal leaders.
Hammond also read from the shooter's letter: "I sincerely hope that my actions have not diminished the partnership that our two nations have developed together. ... My actions were shortsighted, very reckless and irresponsible, but in my heart [the actions] were not malicious."
Hammond said, "The actions of one soldier were nothing more than criminal behavior. I've come to this land to protect you, to support you -- not to harm you -- and the behavior of this soldier was nothing short of wrong and unacceptable."
The soldier reportedly claimed he wasn't aware the book was the Quran, but U.S. officials rejected his assertion.Tribal leaders, dignitaries and local security officials attended the ceremony, while residents carried banners and chanted slogans, including, "Yes, yes to the Quran" and "America out, out."
Sheikh Hamadi al-Qirtani, in a speech on behalf of all tribal sheikhs of Radhwaniya, called the shooting "aggression against the entire Islamic world."
The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq also condemned the shooter's actions and the U.S. military's belated acknowledgment of what happened."As the Association of Muslim Scholars condemns this heinous crime against God's holy book, the constitution of this nation, a source of pride and dignity," the group's statement said, "they condemned the silence by all those who are part of the occupation's agenda and holds the occupation and the current government fully responsible for this violation and reminds everyone that God preserves his book and he [God] is a great avenger."
OK. So, why am I so freaked out by this story? For a couple of reasons:
(1) I agree with the Iraqis that shooting at the Quran was disrespectful, and just plain stupid. But, the punishment already handed down by the U.S. military is more than adequate, considering that we're talking about an inanimate object here, a book. What do you think the Muslims mean when the talk about the "severest punishment" ... ? They want a person killed for shooting at a book, and that's just insane.
(2) The Iraqis' reaction toward the "occupation" really ticked me off. I'm so tired of these two-faced religious fanatics, who are given the opportunity for freedom from our soldiers' blood, yet will turn on those soldiers in a heartbeat if their religion is offended. If that's the case, then it bolsters my opinion that the entire region should be leveled, because these are ignorant, backward, irrational people who don't seem to want or deserve personal freedom.
(3) In our country, liberals have created an atmosphere where you can desecrate anyone's beliefs, mock them, cover their religious icons with feces and call it "art" ... yet, Muslims are going to be "off-limits" because, instead of picket signs, they use rocket launchers to show their displeasure. So it'll be interesting to see what liberals do when they are faced with living under Sharia law.