Quran burning an act of desecration or depraved stupidity? Why choose?
The proposed burning of Qurans, a publicity stunt planned by a tiny evangelical church in Florida, is succeeding all too well, garnering the global media coverage this attention deficit disordered community appears to need and generating outrage throughout the Islamic world. The provocation is creating the threat of real disorder in Afghanistan, according to General Petreaus, and the likelihood of casualties among U.S. forces on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The pointless gesture has been condemned by the Vatican and U.S. religous leaders who said in a statement issued yesterday: "The threatened burning of copies of the Holy Quran this Saturday is a particularly egregious offense that demands the strongest possible condemnation by all who value civility in public life and seek to honor the sacred memory of those who lost their lives on Sept. 11. As religious leaders, we are appalled by such disrespect for a sacred text that for centuries has shaped many of the great cultures of our world and that continues to give spiritual comfort to more than 1 billion Muslims today."
According to the Vatican's statemment, the "deplorable acts of violence" demonstrated on 9/11 "cannot be counteracted by an outrageous and grave gesture against a book considered sacred by a religious community." Every religion has the right to have its books, places of worship and symbols be respected and protected, it said, and espect should be shown to religious believers and their freedom to believe.
In minority Christian communities in Muslim nations like Indonesia, Pakistan and Malayasia, the proposed 9/11 "commemoration" and Quran burning is being anticipated with dread. Lesser offensives or rumors of similar acts of desecration have led to mob violence and murder in Islamic nations where Christians don't enjoy full freedom or even full protection under the law. Catholic bishops in Muslim-majority nations have gone so far as to petition the State Department to prevent the Quran burning, not understanding that America's deference to free expression means their lives and belongings need to be placed at risk.
Let's hope the followers of Jesus, in Florida and throughout the Muslim world, come to their senses before we have new sorrows to add to the legacy of 9/11. It doesn't look good at press time. The spiritual leader of this church of 50 members told Associated Press that despite pleas for him to back down he was not going to stop. "How much do we back down? How many times do we back down? Maybe it's time to stand up … and send a message to radical Islam that we will not tolerate their behaviour." Or that we can be just as foolish and wrongheaded.