Patti Wenzel

America values free speech and faith – even if it’s misguided

By - Sep 11th, 2010 04:00 am
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Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons, by Erna-Louisa

I am continually amazed by the intolerance of people, especially people who claim to be “Christians.” In this case, I’m referring specifically to the Rev. Terry Jones of Gainesville, FL and his plan to burn a few Korans today because he has deemed Islam inherently evil.

Jones said he backed off his threat to burn the  holy book after a Florida Imam assured him that the “Ground Zero Mosque” would be moved from it’s planned construction site. When Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (the man behind the New York mosque) denied any such deal to move the proposed Muslim community center in mid-town Manhattan, Jones said his book burning  was merely “suspended,” leaving open the possibility of a bonfire in his future.

Jones told ABC News that he is trying to prove a point.

“Our opinion of Islam has only been confirmed through the very fact we’ve done nothing, we have not burned the Koran, [and] even though we haven’t done anything there have been riots and threats around the world to us,” he said. “That already confirms our mission has been accomplished to bring a greater awareness to America and the world that Islam is more dangerous and much more violent than we thought.”

His proposal has given Islamic extremists who already hate the west just one more reason to do so. Extremists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other nations have threatened to shoot American soldiers and have been burning our flag in protest.

But he has also given Christian extremists around the world another opportunity to demonstrate religious intolerance. In a show of how extreme views can spread, there are over 17,000 fans of the Facebook page “International Burn a Koran Day.”  Other pastors have come forward promising to burn the Koran even if Jones doesn’t.

I was prepared to argue that  Jones should stop this insanity in a show of empathy to the millions of peace-loving Muslims throughout the world. Then I thought about my argument in favor of the “Ground Zero Mosque;” that we have a First Amendment right in this nation to express our opinions, no matter how ridiculous they may be, and to worship in our own manner. I don’t get to tell someone how to worship or what to believe.

Following that logic, Jones should be allowed to burn the Koran, the Satanic Bible, a Grimoire or a book of Redneck Jokes. If he and his followers want to do it, they should be allowed to do it (as long as all the proper permits have been filed).

But that doesn’t make it right. Jones, if he is truly a Christian, should follow the words of Leviticus 19:18, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”

I know Jones feels Islam is evil and that his the only belief system that has the answers — that’s what all fundamentalists believe. He thinks he is doing God’s work of ridding the world of evil by burning the Koran. He thinks he is being patriotic by sticking his finger in the eye of a perceived enemy.

But all he is doing is disrespecting the beliefs of millions of people around the world and disrespecting the very principals of freedom this country was built on.

As I was preparing this, I bounced some ideas off my husband — a conservative Lutheran chaplain who works with people of many faiths at the county jail and Froedtert Hospital. He said Muslims wouldn’t burn The Holy Bible because they consider it a holy book. They recognize Christ as a prophet, not on the same level as Muhammed, but a prophet nonetheless. They also consider Abraham the father of their people and faith, a belief shared by Christians and Jews.

The more you think about it, true Muslims don’t hate Christians or Jews (in the same way that true Christians don’t hate other faiths either). They understand that we all have faith in God, but choose to worship and understand him on different paths.

Islamic extremists, who would probably burn our Bibles and Torahs along with our flags and soldiers, don’t have a religious gripe with us at all. They have a problem with our culture, our modernity, our lifestyle.

Burning the Koran is not going to change the minds of peace-loving people who want to find answers and common ground. It simply inflames those who are  already angry and looking for an excuse. Unfortunately, you can’t reason with those types of people or Rev. Terry Jones.

Categories: Commentary, News

0 thoughts on “America values free speech and faith – even if it’s misguided”

  1. Anonymous says:

    A)Christians don’t get what the Quran means to Muslims; to them it’s not only a source of information about God (like the Bible) but it’s God’s concrete interface w/ humanity, almost like an incarnation of God — a rough equivalent of the place Jesus holds in Christianity. Deliberately harming a Quran is one of the meanest things you could do to a Muslim.
    B)I’m not sure where the line lies between protected free speech and speech that unnecessarily endangers public safety. Jihadists already want to blow us up, and by Jones’ actions he’s painting a target on us and handing the jihadists ammunition.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks again, Patti. I keep saying to anyone who will listen that the Muslim faith is truly one of peace, as much as Christianity is.
    There is historical background for this: it can be argued that the Moorish regime in Spain and Portugal from the 8th to 15th centuries was the most enlightened in the world at the time, with Muslims, Jews and Christians all living in harmony. Their rule was followed by the Christian Spanish Inquisition, which was decidedly not peaceful!
    I’ve lived for three years in an Islamic country [Uzbekistan], with a Muslim family, and have hosted three Muslim exchange students in my home, so I think I may have a better understanding than the Qu’ran burners and Mosque haters!

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