The fires of intolerance burn on

As the nation marked the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, I thanked the universe that the proposed “Burn a Koran Day” had never come to fruition. This graceless brainchild of an event was masterminded by Floridian Reverend Terry Jones, leader of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL. According to interviews and footage of Jones, he believes, or did, that the Koran “is evil, against the Bible and against God,” and that “Islam and Sharia law was responsible for 9/11.” Jones stated, “We will burn Korans because we think it’s time for Christians, for churches, for politicians to stand up and say no; Islam and Sharia law is not welcome in the US.”

Personally, I dislike intolerance at any level, and I was intent on learning what Tam students and staff thought.

“He’s allowed to do it, but he shouldn’t, it’s wrong,” said junior Lena Geupel.

“You shouldn’t be able to destroy that kind of thing, it’s holy. You’re going beyond your right to have an opinion and actually destroying a holy text,” added junior Highland Barry.

A fan of Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart”- according to ABC News, a poster adorns his office walls at the church — Jones launched an online video series called the “Braveheart Show,” which he uses to preach anti-Islamic sermons to an audience larger than the 50 families who belong to his congregation. Jones also published his book, “Islam Is of the Devil,” earlier this year. That phrase adorns several billboards on his church’s property. Jones said he first began using the phrase last year, but has lectured on every anniversary of 9/11 about Islam and the dangers he believes are inherent in the faith.

“I don’t think all Muslims are terrorists; it’s a religion. It’s like saying all Christians are evil,” said an anonymous sophomore. Adds her friend, “He’s making a generalization about all Muslims, I don’t think that’s very understanding.”

What Jones seems to fail to understand is that the terrorists that did attack the World Trade Centers nine years ago are not representative of the Islamic faith or practice. Much like how the KKK, a faith based hate group, isn’t normally affiliated with widespread Christianity.

“The extremists don’t necessarily have the support of the people of Islam- there’s just a couple of them that feel that way, it doesn’t mean that all Muslims feel that way- the majority of Muslims actually don’t like what the terrorists are doing right now,” said a Muslim senior who wished to remain anonymous. “The terrorists try to justify themselves by saying that their actions are Islamic, but they are not. [Jones] just thinks that the Koran says things that are bad- he doesn’t know how peaceful it is. He should actually read it- he should know what he’s talking about before he tries to assign blame.”

Says a Tam staff member, “I’m not into a religion that treats women in a sexist way- but I don’t think burning their Bible is the correct approach to sharing your opinion that you don’t agree with the religion. Isn’t religion supposed to be about tolerance?”

The disrespect Jones has shown for his fellow man disgusts me. His perceived righteousness, built on an obvious ignorance of history and other faiths sickens me. He says in an ABC interview that Muslims in the United States must submit, respect and obey the Constitution. I ask Jones, where is your respect for the Constitution and our country’s ideals of freedom and equality? We are the melting pot of the world; we have multiple faiths, multiple cultures. It’s always the hateful that cause such drama. Terry Jones wouldn’t have seen the light of day if the media hadn’t transformed him into an icon of crazy conservative, fringe psychosis. He was just too juicy a sound bite to pass up. I’m not surprised to read that he attended school with Rush Limbaugh.

“Americans on the whole in my experience are not as educated as they think they are and they are not as tolerant as they think they are,” said Tam budget secretary Leslie Holt.

She continues, “How many of those people in that church have ever read the Koran? It’s beautiful and it has passages that can put you to tears it’s so beautiful- on the other hand, there are some ugly passages- but man, have you read the Bible? There’s some ugly stuff in the Bible too. The similarity is rather astounding. I think whatever you can say about the Koran you can equally say about the Bible. People need to educate themselves before they sit there and pass judgment- you better educate yourself. Otherwise you sound stupid.”

Unsurprisingly, as happens whenever the zealot Christians throw down a gauntlet (see history for details), the zealot Muslim community responded to Jones in kind. Members of the Al-Falluja jihadist forum threatened to “spill rivers of your (American) blood” and to begin “a war the likes of which you have never seen before”.

The anonymous Muslim student explains the sentiment behind the extremist attacks. “It should be understood- when 9/11 happened, how horrible the Americans felt- it should be understood that people in Iraq or Afghanistan have the same feeling. Those people in war torn countries- everyday they have to face [that feeling]; it’s continuous, it’s not ten years ago, it’s still going on.”

Jones’ plan was met with defiance, disapproval and disbelief internationally, from Israel, India, the Vatican, and Indonesia to the US, where Sarah Palin, John McCain, Hillary Clinton and the U.S. Commanding Forces spoke against the burning of the Koran.

Clinton made reference to the United States’ policy of freedom of religion, something Jones’ has seemed to forget, saying:

“Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. Many of you know that in 1790, George Washington wrote to a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, that this country will give ‘to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance’.”

Yes, no one could quite believe the ignorance and vitriol that an individual, a supposed man of God, was espous- ing. And yes, some people may support Jones. But they are the minority, as war-mongers and the hateful should be.

“The easiest way [to stop the terrorists] would be just to leave it. It’s just a vicious cycle; [the US] goes over there trying to stop terrorists, but during that time, [the US] creates enemies amongst the citizens, who are angry over not having a chance to run their own lives. And then the extremists – they begin to look like saviors to those people, and you find more extremists. If you go and attack them, more will rise up against you. It just keeps on going and going,” said anonymous Muslim student.

I’m not religious- I was never raised with a faith, but I do know that the mes- sage sent by Jones to the international community was hateful and hypocritical.

What ever happened to the Christian belief of turn the other cheek? There were riots and protests throughout the internation- al community; death threats were placed against not only Jones, but U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan as well. Only on the 9th, after supposed communication from the FBI and the Pentagon, would Jones halt his plans for the 11th of September.

And from me, to Jones directly: I hear you’re in New York now, having finagled your way from complete and utter anonymity to supposedly having the semblance of right to discuss plans for the “Ground Zero” mosque. I laugh at you, that you think you have any power at all.

As Holt puts it, “He certainly can express his opinion, but I don’t think he has any control over that. I don’t think anyone does for that matter.”

At this point, the government is just humoring you, a fresh symbol of an un- educated, racist America that good citizens will have to contend with abroad for years to come. And congratulations, you may be one of the most disregarded people on Earth. Even your fellow Evagelicals are disassociating themselves from you, talking about the environment of fear and hatred you created in your German ministry, which I can only say is heartening from a global perspective.

In fact, I’m going to thank you. Your Facebook event may have had around 9,000 supporters when I checked it out a few days before the 11th, but the event page against International Burn a Koran Day has 30,000+ supporters and is still growing. Your hateful message united international leaders, both political and spiritual. You gave the people of the world a chance to come together. You gave us a figurehead for our com- mon enemy: ignorance and intolerance.




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