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While freedom of expression is hailed as the birthright of democratic and modern nation states, respect and civility have long been relegated to the backburner.

Faryal Leghari, Khaleej Times –

This year the September 11 dateline comes encased in unbridled controversy of a different kind. Thanks to the ‘Burn A Quran Day’, the brainchild of one Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville, Florida, being staged to commemorate the September 11 anniversary. This controversial act that was in the pipeline since months has stirred a hornet’s nest.

It has now involved the top US political and military leadership. So much so that following General David Petraeus’s warning that it could endanger the lives of US troops, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also spoken out strongly against the plan, calling it “disgraceful and disrespectful”.

The method behind this madness is apparently the burning desire of Pastor Jones to send a powerful message to the radical element of Islam by burning the Holy Book of the Muslims. Makes for some wonderful reasoning, does it not? The act of burning the holy scripture of Muslims is hardly going to deter radicalism; rather it is surely going to fuel further radicalism. Even moderate sections of Muslim societies worldwide are bound to take extreme offence for an act dripping with vitriolic hatred by a section of the American Church.  The fact that this particular Church does not have many followers is irrelevant. What it hoped to achieve,  it already has. Unprecedented attention. What is more attention grabbing than brandishing an anti-Islamic stand and taking a step so bold as to burn the holy Quran? Pastor Jones is defiant and plans to stage a bonfire on the date where members of his Church will burn hundreds of copies of the Quran. He feels that the time has come “for America to quit apologising for our actions and bowing to kings.” Who he was referring to when talking about kings has been left ambiguous. If ?one was to ignore the rants of this driven extremist, hell-bent on following the radical path in total contradiction to his purported aims, can one ignore the ramifications if Pastor Jones and Co do go ahead with their mad plan?  For they seem determined to do so despite the city council having forbidden the staging of an open-air bonfire.

At the same time,  the coming together of interfaith groups in Washington comprising of Jewish, Roman Catholic and Muslim leaders to condemn such a barbaric plan in violation of American values and the Bible has done little to appease the growing concern among American Muslims. Already there is heated debate underway in the country concerning the building of a mosque and Islamic community centre near Ground Zero in New York, which has left American Muslims, rattled at the level of opposition directed against the venture. This is despite President Barack Obama’s show of support for the Islamic Centre at the controversial site.

Coming back to the implications of this brazen act of total disrespect and disregard of another religion, it will not be presumptuous to imagine the fallout on serving US troops engaged in battling ‘extremist’ Muslims in Afghanistan. Wide-scale protests have already been reported in Kabul and even Indonesia. With the date drawing closer, these protests are likely to grow bigger and turn violent. That is why General Petraeus and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen have expressed alarm over the proposal. It directly jeopardises the coalition mission in Afghanistan and will affect US engagement in not only Pakistan but also the Middle East, Yemen, Africa and the Far East. Not to forget Europe that already faces a big challenge with its growing population of radicalised homegrown Muslim youth.  It is likely to land the insurgency in Afghanistan an ace card to fuel sentiments against foreign forces.

The Taleban and Al Qaeda while pursuing different agendas have formed a strong cohesive basis to draw recruits. Their main driver is the anti-West sentiments that are fed by none other than western policies believed to be targeting Muslims. That was the case even previously when reports of desecration of the Quran and disrespect of Muslim practices in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib at the hands of US forces and prison authorities surfaced. The feeling of religious and social persecution is not without basis. In fact,  over the past few  years there have extreme reactions witnessed even among moderates such as on the occasion of the Danish newspaper’s publishing of Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) caricature.

While freedom of expression is hailed as the birthright of democratic and modern nation states, respect and civility have long been relegated to the backburner.  This is not how enlightened democracies and progressive societies behave.  Fine, this particular Church probably represents a miniscule segment of the American democratic system but the trail of slime it is bound to leave in its wake is toxic enough to irreversibly damage the recent efforts of bridging the divide with the Muslim world.

What is more alarming is how the developing scenario is beginning to resemble the Dark Ages. If religious persecution and intolerance are to dictate the order of the day in a society where democratic values and understanding are but hollow tunes, what is the world coming to? Till how long will Islam be held responsible for the folly of mislead miscreants who did nothing but violate the teachings of a peace-loving religion. A religion that makes it mandatory for Muslims to respect other religions, allow the believers of other faiths to practice their religions and protect their houses of worship.

Faryal Leghari is Assistant Editor of Khaleej Times and can be reached at faryal@khaleejtimes.com

4 Comments

  1. Penumbra on the 10. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    In truth, people should really stop and ask themselves, why this particular issue? why now? why so widely and sensationally proclaimed by world media?

    Consider who owns the vast majority of US and global networks, consider what we already know of their ideology’s aims in orchestrating a “clash of civilizations” to the detriment of the combatants on both sides and countless innocents caught in the middle.

    Consider the profit they, and their banker/MIC cohorts stand to make based on their long-held presumption of the stupidity and reactionism of the “herd”. Are many of our fellows going to prove them right and simply hand them more of two things for which they most lust, blood and money?

    All that is missing from this equation is the yet anticipated false flag redux and you can bet pundits here and abroad will be telling their respective camps to “go get ‘em!” all the while keeping their other eye on their ratings and ad revenues.

    I for one expect that anyone with the means to investigate this guy Jones personally will likely find he’s a dutiful Armaggedonist Sayanim who was asked to play this role and provoke a mass confrontation. The signature of Tel Aviv is glaringly obvious.

    Are we really going to fall for it again without demanding a full investigation if and when the event comes?

  2. JIm on the 11. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    I read of a country that started burning books. Does anyone report that Isrealis burn bibles? Go ahead and burn what you want, your the bozo that is going out and buying them and supporting the company that prints them…

  3. Vickie on the 11. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    Penumbra,

    That is the best question asked.

    Why is this one little no name church no matter how insane getting this much press?

    The powers that be want an excuse to crack down on freedom of religion and expression.
    That is why this “so called no name Christian Pastor” is getting so much air time.

    Now my religion is endangering the troops? Yeah – I think the fact we are over there killing them and stealing from them and polluting their environment is the real problem.

    Let’s not talk about that.

    This pastor is not the problem. I do not agree with him doing it. I hate to tell you this he has the right to do it.

    You know there is bad and tragic.

    Bad – Let this kook go.

    Tragic – Start shutting up all those nasty people and once that door is open they never stop.

    The Pastor decided against it.

    People have burned flags and it only becomes a problem book burning when the government sanctioning and doing it.
    I have the right to burn books in my home and I kinda like it. Personally wouldn’t stupid; but if I get up tomorrow and decide I want to burn a book it is no one else’s business. I am for freedom all these “nice” people that only believe in it when they like it are the waiting mask of their preferred brand of tyranny.
    Just to be nice of course. They will limit all the people they think are the mean one’s, the hateful one’s. It is never them you will note.

    You people who are crazed about this one Pastor have no idea what the hell you are talking about.

    Your idea of this type of freedom will only lead to tyranny in the end.

    It is always those nasty people they start with and they never stop.

    Oceania’s fake never ending war is the real problem.

    Start there; this pastor is only a problem because they want a problem so they created one.

    They don’t like freedom upstairs.

    Governments thoughout the ages have tried to stop the bible never worked. I know my history.

    You people who are screaming this man is the problem, and the idiots in the press who give him all that coverage and inflame the passions of the sheeple are the real problem and the greatest threat to liberty.

    The real threat to our troops, the Muslim World and peace,our lives and freedom is Ocenaia’s fake never ending war.
    Period end of discussion

    Tryanny in the name fo niceness?

    This just doesn’t get any more Orewllian – Welcome to Orwells World of 2010.

    They often think they are nice and I personally have a whole list of adjectives I could ascribe to the “nice liberal” crowd and one of them is not nice and I know for a fact I am 100% right. Here is the differecne between me and the regressive (er-liberal) not so nice crowd. I will let you be mean, nasty and do things I do not like. As long as you are physically harming or really breaking any real laws and not the thought police. I don’t like mean; but who is to decide and that, that takes you down a road I guarantee you most will not like.

    History Repeats:
    Solomon was right – There is nothing new under the sun.

    They may shut him down, me and they never stop.
    History is with me on this.

    When they come for you will there be anyone left to object?

    As the parade of useful idiots continues.

  4. BlueyBlogger on the 11. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    Has nobody yet realized why they burnt the books in WW2?

    It’s the language!

    All the books in the world, which have been burned by dictators and/or leaders of countries, since books became available, have NO Nouns in them, meaning, there are NO Facts.

    If anyone in this world wishes to burn a Quranic book, then I suggest you take ALL the other religious books and burn them too!

    This would be without doubt, the most wonderful act anyone could perform on this planet.

    Do you realise what the implications would be if we burnt every religious book?

    People would then possibly realise that God is not in a book, and would then need to rely on each other!
    OMG, Heaven forbid, we would have to get along!

    This planet will NEVER have Love, Peace and Happiness, until EVERY single human takes back their status from those authorities who printed these bloody books in the first place.

    Also EVERY single religious text written into a book, worldwide, was written by a Lawyer or Lawyers!

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