Monday, September 13, 2010

Burning the Koran

I write this morning on the anniversary of 9/11. I read on the BBC URL, ‘The US is preparing to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York amid controversy over the pastor who has threatened to burn the Koran. The pastor, Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida, has arrived in New York where he hopes to meet a leading imam. His plan to burn the Muslim holy book has caused international outrage, but Mr. Jones says his plans have been put on hold. Mr. Jones has instead travelled to New York where he wants to meet the imam at the head of a project to build an Islamic community centre and mosque near Ground Zero.’

I first learned of the plan of a Florida church to burn Korans from a Facebook friend a week before the story hit the headlines. The publicity went global when the American general in Afghanistan said it would be an act with dangerous consequences. General David Petraeus warned “images of the burning of a Koran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan – and around the world – to inflame public opinion and incite violence”. Attorney General Eric Holder called it “idiotic” and “dangerous.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it is “disrespectful.” A State Department spokesman called it “un-American.” President Obama opined, “This is a destructive act.” In Afghanistan there have been anti-American demonstrations.

We remember how innocent people died in Nigeria and other countries when Moslems protester against the Danish cartoons of Mohammed. Truly this act planned by an obscure, small church in Florida is an incendiary act. Many Christian organizations in England have condemned it. We fear that Christians in Islamic countries will suffer because a pastor in Florida wants to protest concerning the link between Islam and the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre.

BBC News had a helpful piece on why the U.S. government is powerless to stop the proposed bonfire.
‘The United States stands apart from many other Western democracies in priding itself on a near absolute commitment to allowing freedom of speech.

It is enshrined in the First Amendment to the US constitution, alongside the right to free exercise of religion.
“Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,” the relevant passage says… The courts have decided that speech encompasses a wide array of non-verbal actions intended to communicate a message. That means symbolic acts such as the burning of a cross or Bible are protected under the free speech clause.

“Generally the first amendment protects offensive, repugnant and even hateful speech,” says David Hudson, a scholar at the First Amendment Center in Washington DC. That is why, in America, demonstrators can legally burn the American flag or the Ku Klux Klan can burn crosses, even though such activities can both outrage and offend.’

Ever since 9/11 the American and British governments have told us that Islam is a religion of peace. But it is a Muslim who claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks who remains their most wanted man. Afghanistan was invaded in a futile attempt to find Osama. The official line is that terrorists like Osama do not represent the real Islam, which is peaceful. Of course Islam is peaceful when it gets peace on its terms. I have many peaceful Muslim friends. But one of them told me that 9/11 had nothing to do with Islam. It was a Jewish plot. I could not dignify such nonsense with a reply. This was from a friend who I respect but whose calm vanishes when any criticism of Islam is voiced. When are we going to wake up to the historical fact that Islam has always had a violent strand? Mohammed’s realm spread by jihad. He was a prophet with a sword, a victorious fighter. He was not the Prince of Peace who willingly laid down his life in a shameful death for the sake of others.

Our media know the difference between Muslims and Christians. Offend Muslims and there will be trouble. So they gagged themselves and did not publish the cartoons. Offend Christians and they face no problems except the occasional law suit that the Christians are likely to lose. He U.S. government does not want Korans burned but is happy to destroy Bibles. In 2009, a church in the U.S. saved and held fundraisers to afford the cost of buying and shipping Bibles in the Pashto and Dari language to an American sergeant in Afghanistan. The Bibles were confiscated by military personnel, thrown away, and burned.

Most Christians will condemn the proposed Florida Koran burning but many of us are frustrated by double standards by government and media in their treatment of Islam and Christianity. I hope Korans are not burned today and pray that no Christians suffer because of folly in Florida.

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