Pastor Terry Jones, in his latest stunt to bring attention to his anti-Islamic rhetoric, followed through with his earlier promise and burned a Quran two weeks ago. Predictably, the Muslim community was in outrage.
Religious and political leaders in Afghanistan seeking to score political points sparked the response, and the end result was tragic. CNN reports that more than 20 people were killed during three days of protest in Afghanistan, including several United Nations employees.
We should never excuse pastor Jones for his actions. What he did was reprehensible. At best he was seeking national and international attention. At worst, he is a spiteful and hateful person with no regard to anybody else’s faith. However, what he did is not an excuse for the deaths that came as a result of the protests.
Last Thursday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai denounced pastor Jones’s actions, stating that he should be arrested and tried in a court of law. This is obviously motivated by politics, especially since Karzai has spent years living in America and knows full well that free speech, however distasteful and offensive, is not a criminal offense.
Karzai made a call for action in order to improve his political image with anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan.
Other religious leaders, seeking to start opposition against supposed enemies of Islam, picked up on the rhetoric and called for protests and other actions to be taken.
According to UN officials, the deaths that resulted from the protests were not because of rioting but were deliberate attacks by the Taliban militia. The Taliban are of course a black mark on any progress made in Afghanistan and were only seeking to use the issue to murder their enemies (including fellow Afghans) and pin the blame on America and other Western nations.
Again, this is not for religious reasons. The innocent Afghans peacefully protesting were doing it for religious reasons. The thugs that harmed people were not. The Taliban were seeking to hurt people and to blame everyone else.
Fareed Zakaria, CNN’s expert on Middle Eastern politics and religion, has asked why Karzai is the only political or religious leader in Afghanistan denouncing the senseless killings. He makes a valid point.
Like any other religion, the burning of the Islamic holy book is sacrilegious and a terrible offense. But murder is worse.
Islam is just like any other religion, one that promotes peace and understanding for one’s fellow man through spirituality and divine guidance. Unfortunately, too many people have taken the religion as an excuse to hurt and kill with supposed divine permission. This is not Islam, but this is the image seen by the rest of the world.
It doesn’t help when imams stay silent on the issue of murder in the name of their religion but freely denounce the burning of a book a world away.
Too many people, like pastor Jones, see Islam as a religion of hatred and violence and respond in kind. Even in America, there are too many bigots that fight tooth and nail against Muslims employing their freedom of religion. One does not have to look any further than the “Ground Zero Mosque” debacle or the news segments warning viewers of the encroaching Muslim population coming to their town to hear the visceral responses. This is detrimental to any constructive dialogue and only further incites hatred against the religions involved.
This is something that’s been obvious for years, but there has to be a reaction and call for change made not just by moderate Muslims who only suffer from the anti-Islamic rhetoric, but by any person disgusted at how religion has been perverted by thugs seeking to justify their homicidal tendencies.
People like the Afghans peacefully protesting against the Quran burning but avoiding violence in the name of Islam need to stand up against people abusing their religion and marring it. Anyone who agrees with the belief of religious acceptance needs to rise as well.