Massacre is direct result of Jones’ Quran burning

by John Anderson

Rob Piper / Staff Artist

Pastor Terry Jones of the ironically named Dove World Outreach Center is a self-righteous bigot. His malignant assumptions about faith resemble a fetid cancer, oozing into our national conscious and slowly rotting our values into tainted waste. Sanctimonious and simple, his deep commitment to provincialism and intolerance rivals the toxic bile spewed by the Westboro Baptist Church. Jones is so consumed by hatred and fear of Islam that he embodies the very characteristics his Christian faith teaches him to reject.

Jones first made international news when he organized an international Quran-burning event. The event and the rhetoric behind it were so spiteful and absurd, even the radical Christian militia “Right Wing Extreme,” which was booked to provide security for the event, withdrew its support. Insurgents in Afghanistan promised a violent response against coalition forces for any Quran burning. This prompted Gen. David Petraeus, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and President Barack Obama to give Jones a call, asking him to cancel the event. The personal appeals and public outcry seemed to work — Jones reconsidered his plans to burn the holy book.

The balk was short-lived. Last month, he held a farcical mock trial with fellow pastor Wayne Sapp where they decided the book had committed crimes against humanity. They lit it on fire, burning along with it what little remained of their dignity.

Journalists in the U.S. did not give the event much airtime, but the rest of the world was watching closely. Misinformation and embellishment about the scale of the burning fuelled the fire. Extremists made good on their threat; the violent response in Afghanistan led to a massacre. Scores were killed, including seven United Nations Mission workers.

Is Jones guilty of murder? Morally, he certainly is. He wanted attention and publicity for his miniscule church, and he got it. It only cost four Nepalese, a Swede, a Romanian, a Norwegian and more than a dozen Afghans their lives. He needlessly and knowingly endangered lives so he could have some time in the spotlight. Morally, Jones is guilty as charged.

The legal argument is harder to make. Jones is not directly responsible for the deaths in Afghanistan. The atmosphere in the war-torn country is oppressively thick with the flammable fumes of instability, hostility and smoldering resentment. Any spark at all can ignite a raging inferno of violence. Insurgents want the West out of Afghanistan, and they are going to kill as many people as possible until they accomplish that. While Jones didn’t wield the knife that beheaded the U.N. employees, he provided an excuse for their murder. He provided the insurgents a rallying point, a concrete example of American evil they could use to justify their actions. He made it easier for people to hate the U.S.

Tragically, pursuing legal action against Jones for throwing a match into the explosive mess is impossible. Jones lurks in a legal gray area, where speech can be considered illegal if it prompts “imminent lawless action.” While he may have incited violence, he didn’t directly call for it. Freedom of expression seems to protect the corrupt “holy” man from the Judiciary’s iron judgment. While Jones’ actions are abhorrent, freedom of expression is a primary ideal on which our society is based. Our goal should not be to punish Jones, nor block people from expressing their hate.

Jones is a wing nut, but he also represents a great evil in our society lurking just below the surface. Religious intolerance, racism and homophobia are thriving everywhere, feeding on our fear and ignorance. It doesn’t help that the radicals are extremely loud — so loud we can forget they are a fringe opinion. We must drown out those promoting intolerance with positive action.

I stumbled upon numerous organizations such as the Military Religious Freedom Foundation that pledged to donate a Quran to the Afghan National Army for each one burned. The Massachusetts Bible Society promised to donate two for every one burned to various organizations. Movements such as these restore a bit of my faith in humanity. Instead of attempting to punish a rogue pastor, they drown out his insanity with a good deed. They also seek to mend bridges people such as Jones seek to burn.

The MRFF and others are taking action to improve the badly damaged American ethos. It is of vital importance we show the people of Afghanistan our good will, our desire to help them into a better life. We need to make them our allies to have any hope of defeating the insurgency. We need to show them the U.S. is not filled with people such as Terry Jones.

—John Anderson is a ISCOR senior.
—The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.

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