Koran burning called off (?)

Posted on September 9, 2010

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The tortured saga of a Florida pastor’s deservedly maligned plan to burn stacks of Korans on the anniversary of 9/11 has taken a sudden and surreal turn. Terry Jones has announced he is calling off the book burning as a result of a deal with Imam Abdel Rauf to move the Ground Zero mosque. The story, however, gets murkier as Rauf has denied to ABC that he made a deal and plans to move forward.

Jones’ Koran bonfire was from the start an idiotic publicity ploy that would further no rational purpose and anger moderate and peaceful Muslims in a misguided effort to stick it to the radical terrorists. The idea was rightly condemned from all spheres and all ideological stripes – some might pretend that all of the right was slobbering like neo-Nazis at the thought of roasted Muslim holy books, but Jones was denounced by the likes of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Mitt Romney, and Sean Hannity. Jones doesn’t speak for anyone but a lunatic fringe that isn’t a driving force in any part of the conservative movement or the Republican party.

Jones had been chastised by General David Petraeus who said the action would put American troops in jeopardy, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates reportedly called Jones to persuade him to knock it off. Apparently, it worked, though Rauf’s denial of a deal may throw a monkey wrench into the whole story.

One troubling aspect of both this story and the Ground Zero mosque issue is the repeated position that we must be ever mindful of the sensitivities of radical Muslims lest we stir up the hornet’s nest against us. This to me smacks of appeasement and philosophical blackmail, which is underscored by both Petraeus’ warning and Imam Rauf’s admonition that moving the mosque will endanger our national security. The take home message seems to be ‘don’t do anything to anger Muslims; it’s just too dangerous.’ don’t move the mosque, or there will be hell to pay. Don’t burn our holy book, or we will kill more of your soldiers. Don’t draw cartoons of our prophet, or we will riot in your cities.

Sensitivity is a two-way street. We shouldn’t spite normal Muslims to get back at the bad ones, which is what Jones’ book-burning would have accomplished. But likewise, we cannot allow ourselves to be cowed by the threat of terrorism into any position. Telling yourself that the terrorists win if we move the mosque is a denial of the terrorists’ ability to spin themselves a victory in the Arab street no matter what you do.

I don’t buy for a minute that America, after nine years of relative calm toward Islam, has suddenly transformed into a rabidly racist nation. It’s a too-easy talking point that ignores the legitimate concerns of level-minded individuals of both political parties, including Howard Dean and David Paterson who have both indicated that the mosque should be moved. As Ace said, Americans are pretty much inclined to mind their own business and be tolerant, until after so much abuse, they call BS.

The national debate over the relationship of Islam and America is in many ways long overdue. Almost immediately after 9/11 everyone was admonished to speak no evil about the religion of the terrorists, cutting off legitimate disagreements and important discussions regarding Islam and the politics of Europe, America and the Middle East. After suppressing the debate from a sense of political correctness, feelings have necessarily boiled over to the point where we find ourselves at possibly the lowest point of relations between Islam and America since 2001.

Personally, I’m of the mind that we should all live and let live. That belief includes not going out of your way to inflame the sensibilities of your neighbors, which both Jones’ Koran-burning and Rauf’s mosque-building do quite needlessly. There is plenty of room for adults to have a discussion about religion, freedom, and terrorist blackmail, but stunts like these make it infinitely more difficult.

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Posted in: News, Politics