Qur’an Burning Pastor Is Not Responsible For Afghanistan Murders

On March 20, 2011, Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach in Gainesville, Florida, presided over a mock trial of the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an. Twelve members of his congregation, serving as jurors, found the Qur’an guilty of inciting rape, murder and terrorism. Pastor Jones then switched roles from Judge to executioner, of sorts, and carried out what he and his congregation deemed appropriate justice. Terry Jones and his small group of followers burned a Qur’an.

On March 21, 2011, Der Spiegel, a German magazine, published 3 of the reported thousands of horrific photos, and videos, taken by members of the US military ‘kill teams’ in Afghanistan posing with their murdered victims. Neither incident provoked immediate large scale reaction or demonstration in Afghanistan or any other Arab nation.

On Friday, April 1, 2011, the prominent Afghan cleric, Mullah Mohammed Shah Adeli, told his congregates in the norther Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif that Pastor Jones burning of the Qur’an is proof of Americas hatred for Islam. There is no report that the photos taken by the kill team, posing with murdered Afghani civilians, was ever mentioned. Mullah Mohammed Shah Adeli then entreated his followers to take to the streets and agitate for the arrest of Pastor Jones. He declared to his followers that “Burning the Koran is an insult to Islam, and those who committed it should be punished.”

His faithful followers left the Blue Mosque, recognized as one of Afghanistan’s holiest places, intent on carrying out that punishment. Apparently unable to find any Americans, the mob, estimated at as many as 20,000, descended on the United Nations compound where they killed twelve people, two of whom were reportedly beheaded. Although the crowd was carrying signs that read “Down With America” and “Death to Obama,” four Nepalese guards and three European UN staffers were killed as apparent proxy Americans.

The murderous rampage continued through Saturday bringing the current death toll to over 20 with as many as 70 being reported as injured.

Pastor Jones’ actions have been compared to ‘yelling fire in a crowded theater.’ This is not true. Crying fire in a crowded theater puts people in a situation where they are forced to act out of self defense. Being convinced that they are trapped in a burning room they are forced to choose between escape or burn. Their very survival has been threatened. This was not the case with the Afghanistan mob.

To compare the Afghanistan mob with the crowd in the theater is both erroneous and cowardly. Erroneous for the reason stated above, and cowardly because the Afghan mob is more appropriately compared to a bully. A bully will threaten to react violently if something is said that they don’t want to hear. Having the courage to say such a thing does not make one guilty of the bullies actions. Abdicating ones freedom of speech in the face of such bullying is nothing but cowardice.

Aside from the offensive nature of Pastor Jones’ actions, unless the Qur’an that he burned belonged to another, or unless the fire that he used violated any statutes or bi-laws, he committed no punishable act. Certainly nothing worthy of placing the value of ink and paper over that of 20+ lives.

The Muslim clerics could just have easily placed the Christian holy book on trial and found it guilty of the same offensives, and perhaps more, that the Qur’an was charged with. Furthermore, they could have foregone the burning of the Christian Bible and proven themselves superior to Pastor Jones and his hate filled ignorance. This was not their choice, and, unlike the people in the crowded theater, they had a choice. They chose violence. They chose to place a book, a stack of ink on paper, above human lives.

Fanatical fundamentalism from any religion is repulsive. Using violence to try and bully the entire world into submitting to ones religious doctrines and dogma is unacceptable. The Christians have done it throughout the centuries and still attempt it through either violence, as in Uganda, or through the legal and political system, as in America. Islam is a younger religion. Perhaps it is simply following the same path as Christianity minus the few hundred years difference since their respective inceptions. Regardless, the bullying must not be tolerated.

Pastor Jones, whether you agree with him or not, and I certainly don’t, was simply exercising his freedom of speech. No one was harmed, and no laws were broken. If you consider him wrong, and responsible for the murders in Afghanistan, because of the insult, or offensiveness, you must also condone the beating of an individual, by a bully, for saying something that the bully didn’t like.

The Afghan people that committed these atrocities, and the clerics that incited them to violence, are responsible for their own actions. Pastor Terry Jones is guilty of being an ignorant, hate-filled, fundamentalist. Mullah Mohammed Shah Adeli is guilty of inciting a crowd to violence and the members of the mob, that committed these horrible acts, are guilty of murder. And, anyone that wants to place the blame on a small town pastor in Florida, for the actions of violent religious fanatics in Afghanistan, is guilty of cowardice. The right to free speech is too important to surrender to bullies.

“Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense. True irreverence is disrespect for another man’s god.”

-Samuel Langhorne Clemens


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