Effigies of stupidity – burning books

By now you’ve probably heard about Terry Jones, the pastor of an evangelical church called the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL. He’s the one planning to burn 200 copies of the Quran in “revenge” of the 9/11 attacks.

What a blatantly self-serving publicity stunt. He’s capitalizing on the debate over the construction of a Muslim community center near the site of the 9/11 attacks to raise his international profile. If this was really about 9/11, he would have done it right after the attacks, not NINE YEARS later.

I’m always against book burning, at all times, but there’s a particularly high cost to this particular brand of stupidity, and we’re all going to have to bear it.

Forgive me for stating the obvious – Muslim extremists are to the Muslim majority as the KKK is to the Christain majority. When we say “terrorists,” we’re talking about a small, radical movement. So Jones thinks insulting all Muslims is somehow going to make a point? He’s actually playing right into the hands of the terrorists. A huge part of their recruiting propaganda is saying that America is waging a war against Islam, trying to destroy it. All you’ve done, Pastor Jones, is given moderate Islam more reasons to radicalize – you’ve given the terrorists a nice bump in their recruitment and endangered the lives of American men and women serving overseas. Well done.

From Think Progress:

Jones’ Quran burning could lead to tremendous blowback against U.S. forces fighting in Afghanistan. President Obama, Secretaries Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates, and American military commanders all fear that images of Americans burning the Quran will put U.S. troops in heightened danger and will hand al-Qaeda a propaganda victory. The counter-insurgency mission in Afghanistan is based on convincing the local Muslim population to side with U.S. and Afghan government forces in their fight against the Taliban, and inflammatory images that make the U.S. look intolerant of Islam will undercut these efforts. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Petraeus said the Quran burning “is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here [in Afghanistan], but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community.” Gen. William Caldwell, the head of the Afghan training mission noted, “What I will tell you is that their very actions will in fact jeopardize the safety of the young men and women who are serving in uniform over here and also undermine the very mission that we’re trying to accomplish.” Large anti-American rallies have already taken place in Afghanistan and Indonesia.” Several hundred Afghans rallied outside a Kabul mosque, burning American flags and an effigy of Dove World’s pastor and chanting ‘death to America.’ Members of the crowd briefly pelted a passing U.S. military convoy with stones, but were ordered to stop by rally organizers.” On Saturday, 3,000 Muslims marched through Indonesia’s capital and five other cities to protest in front of the U.S. embassy, carrying signs reading, ” Jihad to protect Koran” and “You burn Qu’ran you burn in hell.”

Imagine how the Christians of the world would feel if someone burned 200 Bibles – angry? Furious? How easy would it be to start hating the people who had done it?

Pastor Jones has damaged America’s best defense against terrorism – our religious freedom and tolerance – just to get his name on TV.

And sadly, Pastor Jones seems to be at the forefront of a trend – spouting religious intolerance for political gain is gaining in volume and vitriol. Well, it’s not the first time America has had a bout of religious intolerance – as Juan Cole reminds us, they used to burn Catholic churches:

The hysteria about mosques in the United States is nothing new in our history. Even though the United States was founded by a ragtag series of religious heretics seeking freedom to worship as they would; even though its constitution enshrines freedom of religion – even so, periods of religious intolerance have reared their ugly heads repeatedly in American history. The kind of opposition nowadays expressed toward the mosque and the Quran was directed in the 1840s against Olde St. Augustine Church in Philadelphia, its ‘dangerous’ Irish congregation, and their Catholic Bible…The Bible was still taught in American schools in the early 1840s, and Bishop Francis Kenrick successfully petitioned the school system to allow Catholic students to use a Catholic Bible. Furious Protestants accused him of being anti-Bible and of plotting to gradually push the Bible out of the school curriculum altogether. The Nativists came out in numbers to mount demonstrations in Irish Catholic neighborhoods in north Philadelphia. One of them turned violent and four Protestants were killed. The Nativists asserted that one of their martyrs had been trying to raise an American flag as he was killed by the “Papists.” After that mobs formed and burned St. Michael’s Catholic church. Then they attacked Olde St. Augustine and burned it down, library, Sister Bell, and all. William Penn and George Washington were spinning in their graves. When they poured the library’s books into the street and set them afire, the Nativist mob ended up burning the Bible.

I think people should spend more time reading books – especially history books – and less time burning them.

There’s a list at the Daily Beast here of other effigies of stupidity – i.e. book burnings. Terry Jones joins the likes of the Nazis, the KKK, and those people in New Mexico who burned Harry Potter. Intolerance R Us.

Oh, and if you really want to get revenge on the terrorists? Build that community center at the 9/11 site, where they plan to have prayer spaces for all faiths. Muslims praying peacefully beside Christians and Jews – just think how much that would piss the terrorists off.

Less hate, more reading.