Friday, September 10, 2010

Pastor Qu'ranBurn has exceeded his fifteen minutes

And I hope everyone just tunes him out.

When Pastor Terry Jones lights his proverbial match on Saturday’s scheduled ‘Burn a Qur’an Day’ (or as his ignorance would suggest, ‘Burn a Koran Day’), in Gainesville, Florida, he may as well hurl copies of the Bible and Torah right along into his bonfire.

Unbeknownst to the ‘intellectually astute’ and ‘well-read’ (yes, sarcasm intended) Jones, the Qur’an was built upon the Torah and Bible in many ways, and even contains some of the exact same epic stories as the other two Holy Scriptures. But in a post-9/11 age of fear mongering and hatred, how can someone like Pastor Jones even begin to comprehend that he will in effect be burning chapters on his very own Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?

For the past few months, we as a nation have witnessed an alarming and shocking rise in vitriolic rhetoric and actions against Muslims both domestically and abroad. Juxtaposing a diverse body of over 1.5 billion people with the actions of a few cowards on September 11th, 2001, those that fan the flames of abhorrence have upped the ante more often than not for their own political gain. The result? An innocent cab driver gets stabbed in NY, a proposed mosque site in Tennessee gets burned down, another in California is attacked and left with signs that read ‘No Temple for the God of Terrorism at Ground Zero’, protests ensue around existing and future mosque sites around the country -- including of course lower Manhattan. And now, as a symbolic gesture of solidifying intolerance and plain stupidity, Pastor Jones will hold "suspend" a Medieval-like fire this Saturday at the expense of all who appreciate religious freedom and our place in the world.

Everyone from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to General David Petraeus and now even President Obama have condemned Pastor Jones’ scheduled burning. But where are the voices from the right? Instead of quelling the animosity, their blatant silence and hesitation (can anyone say John Boehner) only reaffirms the notion that they are on Jones’ side.

To their credit FOX will not cover this "news" tomorrow, if it still happens. But the Republicans in Congress ought to be making their objections much louder.

This is, after all, their base.

Update: Silly me. I gave the GOP far too much credit for being reasonable. They are busy creating false equivalencies like "burning a Qu'ran is wrong, so is building a mosque at Ground Zero (sic)" and diverting attention again from the real issues, as well as the real extremists.

The month leading up to the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks has been dominated by a callow and opportunistic debate. This debate -- ostensibly about the rights of American Muslims to build a community center a few blocks from Ground Zero -- is really about the rights of Muslim Americans to be just that: both Muslim and American. And it's ultimately about the strength of our allegiance to one of the best, and sometimes the most difficult, of our American values: the conviction that this country belongs equally to all its citizens, not just those in the ethnic, religious, or political majority.

The campaign against the Park51 community center has succeeded in taking strains of extremist Islamophobia and making them mainstream. The "controversy" was concocted by virulently anti-Islamic blogger Pamela Geller and brought to national attention by mainstream conservatives, most notably Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, hoping to ride the scandal to November. Dozens of political leaders jumped on the anti-Islam bandwagon; the complete silence of many others spoke volumes.


Some anti-Park51 crusaders, even Palin, denounced Jones' dangerous publicity stunt. But the fact is that his actions would attract little attention, and do little harm, if they weren't taking place in the context of widespread and loud Islamophobia encouraged and implicitly condoned by prominent political leaders. Leaders such as Palin could pretend to be tolerant by denouncing Jones' clear extremism, while all the while continuing to push subtler, more pervasive strains of Islamophobia. The suggestion, made by Palin, John Boehner, and by Jones himself that the Koran-burning event and the building of the Islamic Community Center had some moral equivalence is treacherous indeed, implying that somehow the practice of Islam is itself an offensive act. It's this sort of insidious notion -- passed off as a legitimate argument -- that creates the growing level of distrust of Muslims in our society.

While Jones' event has been called off, Geller still plans to insult the memory of Sept. 11 by holding an anti-Islam march near Ground Zero. Like Jones, she deserves to be marginalized and ignored. Yet instead, her rally has attracted prominent national figures including former UN Ambassador John Bolton and omnipresent blogger Andrew Breitbart -- and, of course, plenty of media attention.

The national leaders who have fueled this zealous mistrust of Muslims, and worked toward making Islamophobia a legitimate political position, have put our troops in harm's way, irreparably injured the war effort that many of them were eager to start, and twisted American values into something very ugly.

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