Is it Weird That I’m Ambivalent About Qur’an Burning?

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So, everybody’s been talking this week about Pastor Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center’s plan to have a Qur’an burning this Saturday, the anniversary of 9/11. It’s been abuzz all week. Gen. David Petraeus spoke out against it because it’ll impact the success of our war efforts. President Obama called it a “bonanza for al-Qaida.

First, let me say that I’m never more amazed than the way people are able to selectively get riled about issues when it suits them. The same thing happened with South Park’s portrayal of Muhammad. They showed him in an episode in 2001 (just two months before 9/11) and no one cared, but then the Danish cartoons made a huge hullabaloo in 2005. Similarly, Shirley Phelps points out that her gang, the Westboro Baptist Church, had a Qur’an burning back in 2008. We only care about this one because we care about this one.

Burning the Qur’an. Is it offensive? Yes. Does it improperly blame all Muslims for the actions of Muslim extremists? Yes.

Okay, that’s it. It’s not like we’re in a Doctor Who episode and the burning of Qur’ans are going to permanently damage the timeline or destroy the universe or whatever. Book burnings have a pretty dark history; they hit us in the gut—I get that. But it’s not like Terry Jones has any expectation that he’s going to rid the world of all Qur’ans. He’s just doing it for the spectacle.

There’s something interesting about the public reaction to this. Terry Jones and his church clearly qualify as “extremists,” but we’re treating this like he’d be speaking on behalf of everybody. Of course, it only feels that way because of the way the mainstream media has elevated the coverage. It’s sort of like we’re saying that all Muslims are as naive as all anti-Muslim Americans. Many Americans have a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment because of the actions of a few Muslim extremists, and that feeds their fear that all Muslims will develop anti-American sentiment because of a few kooky extremists.

It’s all just kind of dumb.

If anything, his actions just support Qur’an publishers. He has to get them somewhere.

Let’s be honest, the Qur’an is not a respectable moral authority. Neither is the Bible. I can’t say I’d miss either if they were no longer around. I could go burn some Bibles, but all it would do is make people less interested in what I have to say because they’d be offended. I would gain nothing from it. Jones similarly gains nothing.

If lots of people care about Muslim sentiment, maybe they shouldn’t be so xenophobically opposed to them building a community center on privately owned property in New York City, or for that matter, building mosques anywhere in the US. But come on, people, don’t pretend to care about Muslims’ feelings in one state while you’re slapping them around in another. It makes me wonder how many people are just jealous that they can’t get away with burning Qur’ans themselves.

Burn a book. Burn a flag. It’s your right to protest. If you don’t like what others are doing, ignore it or counter-protest it, but don’t just sit around bringing lots of attention to it as if that alone is virtuous. It only amplifies the voice that you didn’t want heard in the first place. I’m with Hemant; I’d rather see some real courage.

Terry Jones acknowledged it’s intolerant. What else need be said?

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