Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Plague on Both Your Houses

Pastor Terry Jones Marching in DCImage by markn3tel via FlickrI know... I know...  The title of my post is pretty snarky and this is supposed to be my month of no snark comments.  Blame Shakespeare, not me.  I've tried for days to think of a nice way to put this and I can't make it any nicer.

Last week in Afghanistan, several Muslim men killed several UN workers because a "pastor" in Florida (Terry Jones) decided to put the Q'uran on trial and burn a copy of it.  It's a situation that saddens me deeply and frankly makes me angry and frustrated.

Terry Jones is just the other side of the coin of the Imams that he hates so much.  Yes, he's within his constitutional rights to burn anything he owns.  If he wants to go out and buy a copy of a Q'uran or 1,000 copies of the Q'uran and burn them all, that's his right.  But, just because you have the right to do something doesn't make it the compassionate thing to do, the right thing to do or even a smart thing to do.  Mr. Jones knew that burning that Q'uran would inflame passions in the Muslim world and he burned it knowing it would put people's lives in jeopardy.  In a very real sense, he deserves a share of the blame for the subsequent deaths that occurred. 

On the other side, we have the Imams (Muslim preachers) in Afghanistan who use religious intolerance such as Mr. Jones' to inflame a people who are like dried timber just waiting for a spark.  The Afghan people live in a failed state with foreign fighters (us) in there every day. They are largely an illiterate people- with the men having a literacy rate of less than 50%. Most of the men there, if they had a Q'uran, couldn't read it. All they know about the Q'uran is what they are told, and some Imams take advantage of that fact.  These men are told that the United States hates Islam and that we are there on another crusade to wipe out their religion.  They were told that not one Q'uran was burned but multiple Q'urans.  I'm not excusing their actions. The bear the responsibility for being inhuman enough to think it's fair retribution to kill an innocent person (people) in response to someone several thousand miles away burning a book.  I look at them and wonder how they can get so incensed over a book being burned in the name of one religion (Christianity).  Yet, they have no problem with a 14 year old girl who was raped by a cousin being charge with adultery and whipped to death in the name of their own religion.

So, one the one hand, we have a "Pastor", a man of the cloth, who burns a book knowing full well it might lead to deaths.  But, he does it anyway to prove his point that Islam is dangerous.  On the other hand, we have a mob who thinks the life of innocent people is just punishment for an insult to their God- Allah the merciful.  Allah the compassionate.  Allah who says:

“…if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” Q'uran 5:32

I'm sorry. I can't think of a better way to say it.  "A plague on both your houses."

Enhanced by Zemanta


Don said...

Check out this link for the flip side of the coin once more. Nate Phelps, Fred's son, left that church and for obvious reasons, is now blogging his opinions about it. Here's the link to a post in which he relates a conversation with a lady who agrees with Fred and his church. She might as well be illiterate, because she lets others do her interpretation of the Bible's message:


kc bob said...

Burning paper vs killing humans? Apples and oranges.

Being murdered because of a cartoon? Savage.

Having to live a life in fear for your life because you wrote a book (Satanic verses). Sad and shameful.

I believe the fundamentalist pastor did something very stupid. Even so, no one can justify the horrific response of killing of humans. The two actions should not be uttered in the same breath.

Brian said...

Bob, you're right. In some ways, the two things are very different. But, they do have something in common- religious intolerance in the name of God. Pastor Jones knew the possible consequences of his actions and while burning a Quran certainly does not justify the murder of innocents, he knew it was a possible (likely?) outcome.

I think they do need to be uttered in the same breath because the two events are closely related.

kc bob said...

I disagree with you Brian. One could make an argument that the media, in a sense, is just as responsible as the guy in Florida.. yet no one thinks that the media is responsible for the murder of innocent lives the way that people are blaming the kook in Florida for them.

Murderers are responsible for their own actions.. not Salman Rushdie, a Danish cartoonist or a kook in Florida. IMO, to speak these people in the same breath as murderers is to create a simplistic and unhealthy cause and effect connection.

Brian said...

Well, Bob, I wouldn't give him the death penalty for his actions. Nor do I think he was even *mostly* responsible. But, we all bear responsibility for our words and actions and how those might contribute to what others do (IMO).

I think it was irresponsible of him and hateful to burn a Quran, especially knowing his actions could lead to endangering people on "our side". If you don't, we'll just have to disagree.

BTW, the media deserves credit in this case. They did not report the story like they did initially back in September. They did what they could do to contain the damage.

kc bob said...

Do you also partially blame Salman Rushdie or the Danish cartoonist or just the kook? Certainly they too must bear the responsibility for their words and actions.

My thinking is that we must always stand against murderers and not allow them to deflect the blame for their murders. We must stand with the victims of their crimes and not give them excuses.

These people murder because they are murderers not because they are anything else. The sooner we unlink religion from their murders the sooner people will not equate murderers with Islam.

I am all for calling the kook a kook.. and an irresponsible one at that.. I said so in that blog post I linked to. I have no respect for him or his actions. He gives Christianity, and religion in general, a bad name.

Don't you agree that we should call the murderers murderers regardless of their religious beliefs? If we don't then won't we will continue to drag Islam through their mud.

Brian said...

Bob, I'm sorry if you got the impression that me holding Pastor Jones accountable for his actions in any way diminishes the responsibility of those who committed the murders. I think there's more than enough blame to go around.

The title of my post is A Plague on Both Your Houses. Yes, I think the capacity of the Afghans who committed the crime may be slightly diminished and that makes them vulnerable to being manipulated by their crazy Imams. But, that does not mean they aren't responsible for their actions.

My post was largely a response to the notion in America we have freedom of speech, so anything we can say we have the "right" to say. True. But, with rights, come responsibility and Mr. Jones bears some responsibility for the murders.

kc bob said...

"Mr. Jones bears some responsibility for the murders."

Statements like that are why I am not a fan of relative morality Brian.

Many murderers blame their abusive parents for their actions. Some criminals blame society for their heinous acts. We as a civilized people have gotten past such faulty logic - we hold murderers accountable for what they do (unless they are deemed mentally unstable) and do not hold others partially responsible for their crimes.

I do wish that you would say the same things about Salman Rushdie and the Danish cartoonist that you say about the kook in Florida. Not sure why you don't. Possibly the ludicracy would be a bit more apparent if you said that Rushdie and the cartoonist bore "some responsibility" for the actions of extremists?

Brian said...

Bob, I understand your point. I would say Salman Rushdie's book was different in that it wasn't (as I understand it) a deliberate attempt to inflame passions. The Danish cartoonist? Well maybe the intention there was to inflame passions. Maybe I should condemn them, too.

I do hold people who claim to be acting in the name of God and especially Christianity to a higher standard. Even if I give Mr. Jones the benefit of the doubt that he did what he did sincerely to be a criticism of his view of Islam, he did not have to burn a Quran to make his point.

I don't know how this relates to moral relativism. I guess I don't really understand the term.

Saying some action contributes to another action does not make the second action any less wrong- at least from my point of view.

You say that as a civilized people we've gotten past the faulty logic of blaming others for actions. But, we haven't gotten totally past it. It's still illegal to incite someone else to violence.

(A) No person shall knowingly engage in conduct designed to urge or incite another to commit any offense of violence, when either of the following apply:

(1) The conduct takes place under circumstances that create a clear and present danger that any offense of violence will be committed;

(2) The conduct proximately results in the commission of any offense of violence.

(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of inciting to violence. If the offense of violence that the other person is being urged or incited to commit is a misdemeanor, inciting to violence is a misdemeanor of the first degree. If the offense of violence that the other person is being urged or incited to commit is a felony, inciting to violence is a felony of the third degree.

Now, I'm not saying I want to bring a legal case against Mr. Jones. But, I think what he did was morally wrong.

kc bob said...

Your point of inciting violence is a good one Brian. Where do you draw the line though in the case of murderous terrorists who are so easily offended and incited? Should people be held hostage by extremists and not write books, draw cartoons and exercise free speech? In doing these things do we not capitulate to terrorism? When such freedoms are curtailed do we not lose a bit of our freedoms?

Voltaire once said: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

My hope is that we in America will also defend free speech, in writings, cartoons and burnings, even when we do not like it.. even when it incites the murderous acts of terrorists.

And really, the kook in Florida is not Billy Graham or the pope. Why do you or anyone else hold him to higher account? Far as I can see he is nothing more than an itinerant preacher. Not sure why you or the murderers care about what he does.

Brian said...


I appreciate your POV. Thanks for sharing it. You've given me something to think about. Why I view the preacher's actions as different than Salman Rushdie's is something I guess I need to reflect on.

I want to be clear, I absolutely defend his right to free speech, as stupid as it may be. But, my right of free speech gives me the freedom to criticize stupid speech or speech that I perceive as dangerous. So, while I think the pastor was well within his rights to burn the Quran, I do think he should have thought better of it because I don't think his point needed to be made in a way that jeopardizes innocent lives.


kc bob said...

We both agree that the pastor should have not burned the Q'uran.. it was a foolish act at best and a provocation to evil at worst.

Even so, my thinking is that there is a difference between an event like that actually inciting murder and murderous deranged terrorists using such an event as an excuse to heinously murder innocent people.

People will always find excuses to commit bad acts. My disposition is not to listen to them when they do.

As always I enjoy the dialog Brian. Your comments cause me to evaluate my thought processes and why I feel the way that I do.. and many times my thinking changes. :)

Hope your week is a great one!

Anonymous said...

Just want you brothers to know how much I enjoyed this discussion!

Thought provoking on both sides!

Bravo! :) --rhonda