I have to say I am perplexed by all this nonsense I have been reading and hearing for those who would blame Paster Terry Jones for the deaths of U.N. staffers and guards in Mazar-i-Sharif. Instead of placing the blame solely on those responsible, those like Lindsey Graham believe freedom of speech should be restricted because of what Islamic radicals might do. The problem with this idea is that it assumes that such provocative actions, like Qur’an burnings, are reasons for this violence. They aren’t. They are just excuses to fan the flames of Western hatred.
…What Terry Jones is not – for all his sins – is a murderer. That designation belongs to the Muslim extremists who, in retaliation for his Koran-burning stunt – have rioted for three days in Afghanistan and killed a total of 24 people so far, including seven international staff of the UN in Mazar-i-Sharif in the northern part of the country.
Jones may have conceived that a deadly reaction would occur in the Muslim world when he fired up the grill and tossed a Koran on it. He may even have desired it. And for that and for his narcissistic incitements now and in the past, no doubt the God he purports to represent will consign Jones to hell when his time comes.
But there has been a tendency in the West to blame Jones for the deaths that have occurred since news of his crass act got out. Those murders, though, hang solely on those who committed them. The deaths say as much about the state of Islam in the developing world and about the development of Afghanistan as they do about Jones and his vainglorious attention seeking…
The first point I would like to raise is that, just because Terry Jones is detestable, it doesn’t mean that he is a murderer. The truth is that Qur’an burning is far from a rarity stories like this would have you believe. Videos of others doing this around the world can be easily found online. Do I support burning scripture? Of course not. Aside from being extremely offensive, it’s pointless since doing so paints those who set the religious texts on fire, not those who murder in response, as the extremists. Mind you, I also don’t see the point in spending money to buy a copy of the Qur’an, let alone the matches used to start the fire.
The second point I want to raise is something I find troubling. The naive belief that somehow Islam as a faith can be separating from Islam as a political movement.
…After 9/11, my colleague, Jonathan Kay, and I wrote a series of editorials for the Post arguing that what the Muslim world needed most was a Reformation in which verbal attacks on Muhammad and the faith were not taken as direct insults and defilements. An intellectual separation of church and state would be a good idea, too. Such enlightenment transformations had, over time, ended the crusades and most of the big religious wars among Christians and between Christianity and other faiths.
But because much of Islam has not gone through a similar evolution, the publication of Danish cartoons of Muhammad or false reports of a Koran flushing at Guantanamo Bay detention camp (both in 2005) or last month’s Koran burning by Terry Jones set off deadly spasms of protest in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia and elsewhere…
This idea wrongly assumes that the Protestant Reformation was in response to differences between scripture and Catholic teachings and traditions. Having actually studied the period in question, having read the personal writings of Martin Luther from the time he published the Ninety-Five Theses, religion was simply an excuse for what was predominantly a political movement. Luther was just the most successful critic in a long line of critics who believed that Catholic Church was sinful. The reason he escaped the fate of his predecessors is because of his political support. Luther’s criticisms, most notably his belief that man was defined through faith alone, the key point of contention between Catholics and Protestants to this day, was the excuse European royalty needed to turn the masses against the Church to seize political power and wealth the Vatican had amassed.
Am I saying that the Catholic Church, let alone Christianity, didn’t need the Reformation? Of course not. The Church and its leadership had become corrupt, concerning themselves with politics and riches instead of doing the work of God. The difference is that there wasn’t a shift in Catholic teachings, nor was there a significant shift in the religious beliefs in Europe because to the Reformation as the differences between the Christian faiths, for the most part, are fairly minor. Even Martin Luther had to revise many of his beliefs on Christianity, most notably the belief that man was defined through faith alone as it contradicted in the Book of James (James 2:24 “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only”).
The political landscape of Europe had changed, but that was pretty much it. To suggest that an event similar in Islam would somehow reform the religion and do away with Sharia, a key tenet of Islam, is laughable. One might as well ask Christians and Jews to ignore the Ten Commandments. Am I saying that Islam doesn’t need to be reformed? Of course not, but one would have to be incredibly naive to believe that the problems the world is facing because of Islam has to do with a few corrupt leaders. Andrew C. McCarthy made it clear in a recent piece that these problems lay with Islam itself.
If you have been reared in a culture that worships suicide bombers, that dehumanizes Jews as the children of monkeys and pigs, and that insists Israel is not merely the enemy but does not have a right to exist. And these positions, it bears emphasizing, do not represent some fringe Islam of al-Qaeda terrorists who have purportedly hijacked an otherwise peaceful religion. This is mainstream Islam, the sorts of things you would hear in a classroom at al-Azhar University or a television show on al-Jazeera — the place where, according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, people turn for “real news,” the place where Muslim Brotherhood guru Yusuf Qaradawi lionizes suicide bombers in his popular weekly program, Sharia and Life.
Just because the vast majority of Muslims aren’t violent, that doesn’t mean they don’t condone the actions of jihadists. Contrary to what Gunter and others would believe, a Reformation-type movement wouldn’t be enough to fix these problems in Islam.
What Terry Jones’ burning of the Qur’an have revealed the dark nature of Islam. This barbarism has been going on for centuries, long before the Florida pastor took a lit match to the Islamic holy book, and this savagery will continue long after he and his congregation are a footnote in history. These religious teachings, contrary to what those like Lorne Gunter would believe, are just as much to blame for the deaths of the U.N. workers as those who carried out these horrific murders.