All That I Really Care to Say About the Mosque Building/Koran Burning Incident.
The whole Mosque building and Koran burning things seemed to be destined to intersect with each other, didn’t they? I wanted to wait until after the anniversary of 9/11 to comment on the situation, so here goes.
By now everyone knows the story, so I will only briefly touch on the synopsis; Muslim folks in New York wanted to build a mosque near Ground Zero, and it made a lot of people mad. A Florida pastor wanted to burn the Muslim Holy book, and that made a lot of people mad too. The pastor tried to negotiate a halt in the construction by offering to cease his event. Some people on both sides try to talk reasonably, some “he said, she said”, and now there’s no burning, and probably still some building. Oh, and a lot of people are still mad.
Here’s my take. While we have people who probably have a positive intention at heart (and probably feel enlightened by their deity that their course of chosen action is correct), we still have people who are blindingly ignorant, don’t understand the concept of “in good taste”, and people who still paint an entire nation of people with the actions of only one of its representatives. Also, people are idiots.
Here’s what went wrong, from my perspective, on both sides of the fence.
For the Muslims in New York and everywhere; you absolutely do have the right to practice your religion, and you have the legal right to purchase land and to construct holy buildings on it, even at the 9/11 Ground Zero site. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you should though. While I understand the argument that building there represents an evolution of healing, tolerance, and understanding of Islam in Western culture, the thing is, you can build a mosque ANYwhere else in the US and (probably) not have any trouble having it built (or at least, a lot less). Really, truly, it’s not in good taste, and it is a little insensitive to build at that spot. Not because the current builders and inhabitants would be terrorists or extremists and destroy other things, but for the simple reason that the people that blew up the World Trade Center claimed to be Islamic. Those people that committed that horrible atrocity, and the rest that they are connected with, do skew and misrepresent the true, peaceful teachings of Islam, I know. The world needs to see more good Muslim people in order to understand the negative generalization that has been made towards the religion of Islam. In the past nine years since 9/11, I think we have come a long way and made good progress in seeing people for who they really are, regardless of their religious or non-religious affiliation; there just seem to be many more ways and locations that we can continue to make steady and gainful progress at, and building at this site just is not one of them. TV interviews that show innocent bystanders that aren’t Muslim and happen to have dark skin berated for wanting to build the mosque shows the level of ignorance that still exists, and that America’s still not quite ready to make that step. I think they deserve all the time they need.
For Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida; I’m not sure where he was going to get all those Korans from in the first place, but if he purchased them, or if people were voluntarily burning them in a fire on his property, well it would seem he has the legal right to do that as well, as long as he wasn’t violating any local by-laws. Of course for him as well, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he should either. Jones was quoted as saying the purpose of the burning would be to expose Islam as dangerous and radical. And while he very well may have felt enlightened by God to perform such an act, or interpreted a certain scripture that made him believe he needed to do that, the only thing he really achieved was painting himself as an equally radical misrepresentation of his religion, and invoking worldwide anger towards him, America, and Christianity from Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
I think in Terry’s heart, he probably meant well, and that he felt he was doing the right thing (I hope so, anyways). He obviously believes very strongly in his religious convictions, and wants to defend the Biblical teachings via his own interpretations. He may also have felt that the mosque building in New York was in poor taste, and thought he had found a way to put a stop to it in the name of God.
On one hand, you have to give him credit; garnering worldwide exposure from a church with a congregational populous of 50 is no easy feat. But on the other, a quick Wikipedia search will show you that Mr. Jones isn’t exactly a “model” Christian. He has been accused of running a church like a sect leader, using psychological pressure on members; was fined $3800 by Cologne courts for improperly using the title “doctor”; ejected by the congregation in Cologne for being a Christian fundamentalist, and due to untenable theological statements and craving for recognition, amid allegations of financial impropriety; and earlier this year, he published Islam is of the Devil, a book denouncing Islam as a violent faith (only $17.99, available at amazon.com [for interest’s sake only; I am not promoting its sale]). This has been one hell of a book tour.
I don’t think that even Jones himself expected the amount of negative feedback, violence and death threats, and jihadist activity that he has inspired. Without even one flicker of a flame, he’s now not only endangered himself, but his own congregation, and Christians and Americans currently residing in the US or abroad. While his now non-action was on a much smaller scale, it was an extreme and unnecessary measure. The Bible does teach that God is the one, true God, and to not have any other gods before you; but it also teaches love, peace, forgiveness, and tolerance through Jesus Christ. While the latter are fundamentals of the New Testament, it is interesting that Mr. Jones’ church claims to be a New Testament Church; I really don’t see any of those values coming out of Terry through this event.
On the outside, a mosque is just a building made of building materials, and the Koran is just paper with words written on it and bound together. There are plenty of mosques already built, and many more will be built too, all over the world. There are a lot of Korans that have been printed in the world, and one day’s burning of them is not near enough to even put a dent in the global total of them. In truth, it will probably make it increase. But the continuing and ongoing problem is the ignorant view from both sides to each other; clearly neither side has made a large enough effort to understand the other, to understand the deeper meaning of these items to the other party, and to act in good taste and representation of their own religion. The underlying problem is that we have humans at the root, and that we people are imperfect, no matter how much education, power, money, and enlightenment we acquire.
As mad as I was after 9/11, it was an opportunity to grow in understanding. Since then, I have studied a small portion of Islamic teaching in school, and more importantly, met actual Muslim people who are, in fact, quite pleasant. We need to see people for people, not groups for people. There are definitely some Islamic terrorists, but there are also some idiotic Christians. And Atheists, Buddhists, Hindu’s, Americans, Canadians, French, English, Korean, Nigerian, and just some non-religious, all-around jackasses. But there are also a lot of very nice people from all those groups as well; if we ever took the time to meet more people and understand them on a personal level, maybe then we could stop infuriating each other so frequently.
Let’s hope this is as far as this whole saga goes.