Incendiary

So he finally did it. Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville Florida has burned a Qu’ran. What was the consequence? Muslims in Afghanistan killed 14 people, 7 of which were U.N. staff. Some of these people were beheaded. Attacks and protests continued throughout the next couple days, killing at least 11 more people.

This leads to some important questions. In a nation that celebrates free speech such as the United States, should Mr. Jones face consequences for his actions? Was it Mr. Jones’ intention to entice anger in the Muslim world, or was it more to gain publicity? Who is responsible for the killings? What does this series of events tell us about the world in which we live?

First, I have to say that I would find it very hard to believe that Pastor Jones did not intend to prod the Muslim world, especially given the manner in which he carried out his actions. He soaked a Qu’ran in kerosine and then held a mock trial on the book in which it was found guilty of ‘crimes against humanity.’ He then set the book ablaze. How could this series of actions not be interpreted as intentionally provocative? Of course, Jones and the others at Dove World Outreach deny any responsibility for the retaliatory murders that happened immediately afterward. I have to wonder, how did he anticipate the Muslim community would react? Knowing that a culture would explode in anger over cartoon drawings of their prophet (see below), how might he have expected that same community to respond to a very public and clearly provocative destruction of their holy book?

In my mind, Jones very clearly intended to stir up the hornet’s nest. Was it to make a point? Or just to gain publicity? Probably both, although I suspect the scales are tipped in favor of the latter. In any case, what’s done is done and many people are calling for Jones to take accountability for his actions.

Now, I hope that it’s plainly obvious at this point that I feel no love for the Qu’ran, the Bible, the Torah or any other ‘holy’ scripture. I would not hesitate to desecrate any of these books on my own accord, given the proper circumstances. However, that is not to say that I am itching to do so. It is not my intention to prod people or to entice anger and violence. My agenda is very different from that of Mr Jones. The important question is, what good would desecrating these books do for humanity? What could I possibly hope to accomplish in doing so? I can’t picture anything good coming from it. Such acts only serve to fuel an already out of control fire. In an earlier post I discussed how I am intolerant to religions because at a fundamental level they propagate lies. It’s a very large and very complex problem, and there isn’t any simple solution. I do know, however, that performing aggressive acts such as burning books that millions of people consider the epitome of all that is sacred is no way to go about rectifying this dilemma. Jones thinks that Christianity is right and Islam is wrong, so he burned their book. I know that they’re both false, but you won’t find me doing anything like what he did. Why? Well, at the risk of sounding pompous, it could simply be that I know better.

I will say this: Pastor Terry Jones should feel nothing but shame and remorse for his choices and actions.

Shortly after these events took place, I found a wonderful piece of writing that Sam Harris posted on his website regarding the matter [link]. The point that I feel is the most important from this is how easy it is to miss the primary focus of what’s really going on with these events. Yes, an arrogant pastor made a very bad choice and people suffered and died from it, but that’s not the fulcrum of this situation. What I’m wondering is, why are we more shocked at Jones than at the Muslims who executed those people in Afghanistan? Why are we so appalled at a man who burned a book and not at the murderers who played the most horrible of roles in this story? I don’t even know what their names are. I couldn’t find that information published anywhere. I think Harris said it about as perfectly as could be:

‘The point is not (and will never be) that some free person spoke, or wrote, or illustrated in such a manner as to inflame the Muslim community. The point is that only the Muslim community is combustible in this way.’

I also found an interesting YouTube video from the ever-wonderful Thunderf00t that I want to share:

So what should we do? Here’s my suggestion: Mourn the dead. Learn what we can from both Jones’ stupidity and the violent tendencies of these sensitive Afghani Muslims. Re-evaluate our perspectives on the religions of the world and what their agendas truly are. Move on from there.

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