Thursday, September 9, 2010

It's not about burning books...

I have read so many things today about Terry 'Despicable' Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center and his Qur'an and Talmud Burning Day 9/11 plans, which now are apparently being "rethought". I've read interesting atheist perspectives like that of PZ Myers, for whom I have such huge respect, and concerned rhetoric stemming from our military to our president.

With all due respect to PZ Myers, I don't think it's about burning "just a book" at all. I think it's about the groundswell of bigotry in our country against Muslims and the collateral bigotry that still exists against Jews.

Jones's plan is all about bigotry not about a book and what that book means or what it represents to his parishioners. I'm sorry, but an organization that goes around manufacturing signs, and whose members wear shirts, saying "Islam is of the Devil" is just hate-mongering. Burning Islamic books is rendered little more than an action of hatred in his hands. It isn't principled criticism of Sharia, no matter what claims he makes to the contrary.

I guess I'm a fairly tolerant atheist. I don't care if you read the Qur'an or the Talmud or the Bible or the Bhagavad Gita or the Diamond Sutra or Feynman's Lectures on Physics as your guide through your life. What I do care about is that people not promote hatred, which is exactly what Terry Jones is doing. He is fomenting hatred and therefore appears to not have read the same Bible that I did as a child (and discarded as little more than fantasy). Because I seem to remember the man in that New Testament championed some very different ideas.

Furthermore, Terry Jones is an ignorant man, who has not even troubled himself to differentiate the Qur'an from hadith that makes up Sharia law that he says he abhors. I doubt he's ever given the Talmud a second thought and much less that he's read it and has meaningful criticisms. He has not troubled himself to think of whether or not he is so self-righteous that his actions impact others in ways that are simply unacceptable. It is the very opposite of what I believe the Christ he probably thinks he stands for espouses in the Christian Bible. What would Jesus do? I really doubt, if anything in the New Testament is true at all, that he'd be wasting time burning other people's sacred books, Mr. Jones.

Make no mistake. I think there is much in Sharia law that is just plain wrong and that offends every quark of my very being and offends everything that I believe in. Yet I also know that I've known many fine and decent Muslim people who are moderate and are simply terrorized themselves by the fact that radical Muslims have literally hijacked their faith in certain corners of the world. Or they simply want their privacy (what a concept) to practice their beliefs and don't wish to make any public statements. Much like I used to be before Dennis Markuze started slamming this blog and its writer making me surer than ever that if his was the true faith that I'm just one happy little apostate.

What I can say is that reading articles like this one in which two female UF students who formerly didn't even really seriously consider the fact that they were Muslim by birth until Terry Jones entered their lives, makes you realize that all it take is one divisive and hatemongering man to set the world on fire. I seem to remember a few predecessors like Hitler, bin Laden, etc. made quite a splash with the whole religious divisiveness issue. Historically, the results of religious hate-mongering are have fueled centuries of war, death and loss. For fomenting much the same Jones and his ilk deserve to be shunned, to be shamed and to receive our public condemnation for their breeding that which has laid waste to civilizations for millenia.

Park 51 and the Qur'an are not just things. They're stand-ins for the people involved.

And all this flaming and ugliness is about nothing, but nothing, other than bigotry.

Pure and simple.

Not books.


Terry Jones, a shameful man, got his 15 minutes of fame infamy. 

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010 


  1. I do see PZ's point, but in this case I do agree that it's different than when he threw out the Eucharist. Now, had we been talking about a pastor getting his congregation to throw out Catholic communion wafers prior to, say, 1940, then we'd be talking about something similar...

  2. It is difficult to tease out what is ignorance, wilful ignorance (a euphemism for arrogance), attention seeking, scapegoating, self-righteousness, irony, xenophobia or sheer stupidity.

    But I think care is needed. This is some tin pot little, hole in corner, church (not unlike Westboro Baptist Church – aka and seems built upon the same desire to produce hatred (from hatred) and as you note building on age old prejudices. The media, and in particular, the internet, are what have given power to this insignificant little hate monger.

    Care is needed, however, that one doesn’t become saddled with a victim culture sense of the ‘hurt to Islam’ – there are many Muslims and many Muslim clerics who are just as intolerant and derive a good deal of satisfaction from whipping up hate and discord towards Christianity and other religions and cultures. There is a curious irony in the reaction of some of our Muslim cousins overseas. Frenzies of anti-American and Anti-Christian outpouring (tho’ are we are only told this by the media...) – indeed I would go further and say there is a well organised and informed opposition to Christianity in many Muslim societies (not forgetting the UK) that outshine the fumblings of Pastor Jones. But as teachers are apt to say ‘two wrongs don’t make a right!’ What’s more the vast majority of Muslims and Christians get on with their lives without the need to hate someone just because they are of a different faith, culture, culture or whatever.

    Are these anti-Islam/anti-Christian agendas manifestations of what happens when the devout, the ignorant and the hateful are stirred, rather than shaken? Or they merely the nasty side of religion and its propensity for inciting hatred and violence? I suspect the latter.

    In response to the pre-occupation with Pastor Jones and all things Islamic at present – I have posted on my blog an essay I wrote a few years ago; it concerns itself with movements within Islam and concludes there is no such thing as ‘static’, homogenous, religion – but that religion is in dialogue and is defined and redefined by the society of which is a part (I usually only leave academic stuff on my blog for a few weeks, as I have noticed it begins popping up elsewhere, unaccredited!!)