Recently Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who threatened to burn the Quran at the end of the Summer of 2010, fulfilled his threat at the end of March, 2011.  His action is cited as the cause of large scale riots in Afghanistan, including one that resulted in the deaths of seven United Nations aide workers.  I wrote the following article in Setember of 2010 in response to the threat of Pastor Jones.  I feel that its message is still relevant in the light of the recent events.  I only wished he listened…

Putting Out the Fire with Gasoline

The guy look familiar?

If not, you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks.  This is Terry Jones; the minister of the Dove World Outreach center in Gainsville, Florida.  He is the man who at one time planned to burn 200 copies of the Quran (the holy scripture of Islam) in a protest of Islamic extremism.  He has since canceled the demonstration after meeting with both a Florida imam and the imam at the head of the Islamic cultural center set to be built in lower Manhattan near Ground Zero. 

The past weeks have seen demonstrations at home and abroad of this zealot’s previous plans.  Just as this man paints the Muslim people with the broadest brush of hate, protesters around the world have been burning symbols of America with a similar brush.  President Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called on Jones to refrain from the burning (the latter literally called Jones) as to try and prevent retribution on American civilians and soldiers, marines, and airmen around the world.

I have been thinking for the last week how to put this into a Jewish perspective.  The immediate correlation is the burning of Jewish literature and Torah scrolls during the time of the Third Reich.  Hitler’s state-sponsored hate rallied Germans to desecrate and burning the holy text of the Jews in response to alleged role of the Jews in Germany’s economic collapse, the belief that the Jews were an inferior race to the Aryan Germans, etc, etc…

Obviously the position of any rationale person is that Terry Jones and his supports are both ignorant and uninformed about what Islam is and what the Quran actually says.  The first thing that jumps out at me is the passage in the Quran (pardon the paraphrasing) that says if one saves a life, it is the same as saving all of humanity, but if one takes a life, it is like killing all of humanity.  Call me crazy, but that sounds as if the text is saying that Muslims should refrain from killing; and while we can have a discussion about the text dealing with Jihad and how the extremist interpret that or how in some Muslim nations Sharia (Islamic law) permits extreme punishments of ancient times for crimes in the present day, I’m going to defer to the overarching idea of peace that is NOT bound by context.

Interestingly enough, the Torah (and therefore the Old Testament) has several contexts from the past that makes murder permissible:

  • Whoever sacrifices to any god, except the Lord alone, shall be doomed.  (Exodus 22:19) 
  • If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)
  • “If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives.”  (Leviticus 20:13)

But again, I defer to the view of murder without pretext and why it is an affront to G-d:

  • “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for  in the image of G-d made he man.” (Genesis 9:6)
  • “And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.”  (Genesis 4:10)

Killing without provocation or in the cause of self-defense and preservation is an affront to G-d and creation in ALL religions.  That argument is sound.  So what in the world can Jones and his followers could have used as a basis for their threat to burn the Quran?  While I can’t know, I can certainly take a guess; which was confirmed as to be a possible reason the situation unfolded when Jones first put the burning on hold.

This might have had something to do with the Islamic cultural center that is being eyed for a site a few blocks Ground Zero.  Jones said that he was promised this center would be moved; both imams have refuted that.

For me, this situation looks as if Jones was trying to put out the fiery debate over the presence of an Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan with gasoline… literally.

So not only is Jones an ignorant fool for attempting to protest Islamic Extremism by burning a text that is interpreted by the vast majority of Muslims totally differently; he was possibly trying to subvert the rights of American Muslims to freely practice their religion (forcing the imam to move the site through harassment and violence does violate the First Amendment).

I am sensitive to the feelings and emotions of the families who lost loved ones on 9/11, but Islamaphobia and the generalization of all Muslims as terrorists is wrong.  One of the messages that our government has been consistent with for the last 9 years is that we cannot take the Muslims of Al Qaeda, Hamas et. al. and group them in with the vast majority of the followers of Islam.  Believers of Islam are productive, honest and patriotic Americans.  Arabs live side by side with Israelis and serve on the Knesset.

Mr. Jones and your followers at the Dove World Outreach Center:

Take the gasoline you were going to use to burn the Quran, put it in a bus and drive to local Mosques and distribute those books.  Apologize for your ignorance and learn from the experience.

That would truly be an example of keeping it real.

– The Boston Mensch


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