I realize that hatred and stupidity usually go hand-in-hand and are a permanent reality in this world. But there are some examples that go so over-the-top that I feel compelled to speak out against them.
Book burning has become synonymous with reactionary zealots who want to destroy any information that does not agree with their own beliefs. This action, however repugnant to people who thrive on gathering information, is protected by the First Amendment, and this column is not addressing that issue.
Last year, Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center church in Gainesville, Fla. made headlines when he planned to hold a burning of the Koran, the holy book of Islam. Jones cancelled the book barbecue after receiving several international pleas for him to not kick the hornet's nest that is Christian-Muslim relationship.
On March 20, Jones went ahead and burned a kerosene-soaked copy of the Koran after all. Jones held a "trial" of it beforehand where he presided as judge, 12 members of Jones' church filled the jury box, and a Muslim convert to Christianity acted as the prosecutor. The jury found the Koran guilty of five "crimes against humanity," including the "death, rape and torture of people worldwide whose only crime is not being of the Islamic faith."
Predictably, there was trouble from this act. In Afghanistan, a large group of Muslims went to protest Jones' church's actions outside the United Nations compound in Mazar-i-Sharif. The protest turned ugly, and several protesters and UN workers wound up dead.
First, while I think that Jones' actions are deplorable and worthy of scorn, the copy of the Koran that was burned was really just a book. Yes, the act was meant to symbolize Jones' rejection of Islam in totality, and he should be criticized for that, but in the end, the burning of a book is not worth dying or killing over.
This is all I'm going to say over the reaction to the burning because I also realize that the mob involved in the UN riot was certainly egged on by people with ulterior motives. I think it was foolish for the imams to simply lay out the news like they did and let peoples' passions take over, but I don't hold them responsible.
Jones, in a stupefying display of hypocrisy, has demanded that the UN now take action for the riots. He takes no responsibility himself, of course, but holds the entire religion of Islam responsible for the tragedy in Afghanistan.
Jones demanded that the UN and the U.S. take "immediate action" against Muslim nations in general for the deaths.
"The time has come to hold Islam accountable," Jones said.
This type of blatant stupidity is the most dangerous. Not only does Jones fail to see how he was complicit in the riots, but also, he holds all of Islam accountable. I don't even hold all of his church accountable for Jones' actions, but he is ready to blame an entire religion for the results of a protest gone wrong that was sparked by his own prejudices and glory seeking.
How would Jones feel if an imam somewhere decided to burn the Bible for the same reasons as Jones listed for the Koran? I get the feeling that he wouldn't be too happy about it and would fail to see any comparison.
I take some solace in the fact that Jones' church is relatively small, about 50 members, and I am thankful that the reactions to his book burning were not more widespread and destructive.
Another religious leader named Jones comes to mind as I write this article. That particular church ended rather badly with an unfortunate endorsement for Kool-Aid. I hope that the ironically-misnamed Dove World Outreach Center does not allow its leader that amount of control and can find a way to steer away from the hate.