Monday, September 13, 2010

I'm torn on this...

So it turns out that Terry Jones and his band of merry Christian followers didn't have their Quran-fueled bonfire as planned.

When I first heard the news, my first reaction was the Jones was being a complete idiot.  He already got all the negative publicity for planning such an event; to not go through with it now makes him look like a complete coward and someone who, it turns out, doesn't really believe in free speech.

However, one thing he said struck a chord with me:

"Even though we have not burned one Quran, we have gotten over 100 death threats," Jones said. "We feel that God is telling us to stop, and we also hope that ... maybe that will open up the door to maybe be able to talk to the imam." 

Jones said that his church's goal was "to expose that there is an element of Islam that is very dangerous and very radical."
He told NBC that "we have definitely accomplished that mission."
As weird as it feels to say this, it appears to me that Terry Jones is right about this one (other than the "God is sending us a message" nonsense, of course).  Jones was planning on burning some books, books that he owns, or has permission from the owner to burn.  This is met with death threats, a disproportionate response, to say the very least.  This is the hallmark of an extremist ideology.  And yet plenty of people I've talked to about this think that's OK, or at least think that Jones should not be allowed to follow through with his plan.  I certainly didn't support Jones' plan to burn Qurans, but I do support his right to do so.  What I don't support is the threat of violence or censorship against someone exercising his right to free speech, because some people might find it offensive.  Suggesting that it should be stopped is a major insult to the freedoms we possess in America.

I've heard the argument from many people that this action planned by Jones could cause our servicemen currently serving in Muslim countries, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, to be targeted.  The problem with this argument is that it incorrectly shifts blame.  Jones is not responsible for some lunatic attacking an American soldier, even if that person was motivated by Jones' actions.  If I were to attack a Christian pastor because I'm offended by Christians who protest outside of abortion clinics, it's not the fault of the protesters.  (Note that I'm not actually going to attack anybody, I'm using this as an example.)

People act as if what Jones is doing is worse than those who would commit violence because of it, which is completely backwards.  I understand that some people think the Quran is a holy book, but that doesn't give them the right to be violent if someone disagrees.  You do not have the right not to be offended in America; it would be impossible to have the freedoms that we do have (of speech, religion, assembly, etc.).

Although there are plenty of bleeding-heart liberals who want to believe that Islam is a peaceful religion, and those who practice violence and terrorism are not "real" Muslims, the reactions to Jones is more evidence that many Muslims are peaceful in spite of their religion, not because of it.  While violent extremists threaten Jones and his congregation, where are the moderate Muslims speaking out against them?  I've heard far more Muslims (and others) in the media act as if Jones deserves the death threats because of his actions, than those who unequivocally denounce the violent threats being levied.

And so while I think Jones is a complete loon, I also have to agree that Muslim extremism is a significant  threat, and his actions showed that.  Perhaps some will see this media circus and realize that both sides of this argument are extremist loonies, and that religious belief itself is a major contributor to all of this.
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