Saturday, September 11, 2010


Once again the lines and boundaries of the Christian radical right have been redrawn and they are migrating ever farther beyond sense and sensibility seemingly driven by a media frenzy. Consistent with the precepts of ignorance, intolerance and hate, gun toting, egocentric pastor Terry Jones head of the so called Dove World Outreach Center (UhHuh?), a non-denominational, fundamentalist Christian church in Gainesville, Florida has lent new credence to the term, Ugly American. Jones’ on and off again posturings have understandably outraged most in the Islamic Community, radical fundamentalist and moderate alike, as well as a healthy portion of the religious community throughout the rest of the world. President Obama and all responsible members of our political hierarchy have condemned Jones and his plans to burn copies of the Islamic Holy book, the Qur’an. Heck, the Pope has even weighed in on this controversy. The bright side of this is that condemnation of Jones has been swift and universal and this incident could finally open up some long overdue, positive dialogue on American-Islamic relations.

All this hullabaloo appears to be Jones’s vehicle to raise awareness of his church, himself and most obviously his book, Islam is of the Devil, along with the obligatory t-shirts and mugs bearing similar anti-Islamic messages. Can an e-bay experience be far behind?

Jones’ most recent “negotiations” with Imam Muhammad Musri, President of the Islamic Society of Central Florida would lead us to believe that Jones is apparently willing to negotiate with the “Devil” but not even listen to his own leaders. Apparent intent of his threatened burning of the Qur’an, those subsequent “negotiations” and this whole charade is intended to change the venue of a controversial Islamic Mosque, slated for construction near Ground Zero in New York. As if some guy in Florida has influence over the intentions of their community in New York City. As of this writing New York Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf states he has not talked with either Musri or Jones and has no intention of doing so – and why should he? This is all a sick ploy by Jones to garner attention for whatever and to do anything besides condemning Jones’ words and actions is tantamount to encouragement. It all started with a Tweet and evolved from there – surely a campaign of hate and bigotry.

I find it puzzling that Jones is an admitted huge fan of William Wallace and the movie Braveheart. The irony, of course, is that Wallace led one of the most famous wars against tyranny and injustice and was a champion of freedom, seemingly privileges and rights that Jones is not prepared to grant anybody except on his own twisted terms. All this self-serving vitriol has accomplished is to put our soldiers at risk and callously and unfairly paint all Americans with the brush of bigotry and hatred.

We need to acknowledge Jones and his followers for what they are, reject and denounce their words and actions all the while protecting their right to express those opinions. That’s the great conundrum and what most folks around the world don’t understand about us – the protected and constitutional right of free speech – especially since most of them live in repressive societies where similar words and actions would not be tolerated. The right to perform such a heinous act, one contrary to our constitution and the essence of our free society, is confusing to many and frustrating even to those entrusted to protecting those rights.

A now familiar radical and politicized fundamentalist Islam is anxiously looking for any excuse to incite their followers and forward their extremist agenda witness Salman Rushdie, Theodoor "Theo" van Gogh, Patras Masih, Daniel Pearl, occupants of the World Trade Centers on 9/11/2001, thousands of their own citizens via of their suicide bombings and many others. The backlash is that there are surely consequences for these absurd actions where violence surely begats violence. The BBC tragically reports that Muslim protesters haven been killed and scores injured in Badakhshan Province, Afghanistan during a Jones inspired demonstration.

As of this posting Jones now states, “We will definitely not burn the Quran ... Not today, not ever." Talking of consequences - maybe that ultimate decision was made because the Gainesville, Florida Fire Department refused to grant Jones a burning permit, or because the bank that holds the mortgage on their church has now demanded immediate payment, or because their property insurance has been canceled, or because the provider of the hosting service for the Dove World Outreach website pulled the plug on the site or because of the many death threats made against Jones. Tough to say

We need to pay attention to hate mongering folks like Jones and raise them up as examples of bigotry and hatred and the exclusionary fundamentalists they are. For so publically defining those boundaries early on I guess that we can be grateful but we need to continue our vigilance lest some folks feel those behaviors acceptable. Je me souviens.

We hope that all in the world community recognize Jones as a nut case who speaks only for himself and a relatively few whose opinions surely don’t command respect. Jones has had his few minutes/hours/days of fame and it’s time to put him back in his box.

Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. says it all for me with his recent, right-on comments, “As this case makes oppressively clear, the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle have evolved an analog to the terrorist veto. Call it the idiot veto — the ability of a single obscure malcontent, powerless but for his willingness to do some outrageous thing, to make himself heard at the highest level of geopolitics and force his way upon the international stage.”

Lest we forget


Ned Buxton

No comments: