Pastor Jones' Burning Koranic Question

Can Islam "go along to get along"?

A previously unknown and insignificant member of the hoi polloi is currently enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame.  Most unusually, he is a Baptist minister, an occupation almost always excluded from publicity.

Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center, has become a household name because of his church's advertised sponsoring of "Burn a Koran Day" this past September 11.

Fresh from pontificating about the rights of Muslims to build a massive 9-11 Victory Mosque around the corner from the cellar holes of the World Trade Center, the great and the good charged in to condemn Pastor Jones.  Everyone from Hillary Clinton to Gen. Petraeus to Sarah Palin called this act dangerous, un-American, unnecessarily provocative - basically, everything except "illegal" which it manifestly is not.

Through it all Pastor Jones held steadfast to his right to be rude and blasphemous of other people's faiths... until suddenly he called the whole thing off.  Why?  His local paper reports:

The minister of a Florida church said he has canceled plans to burn copies of the Quran because the leader of a much-opposed plan to build an Islamic Center near ground zero has agreed to move its location...

Jones said Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida told him that officials would guarantee that the mosque would be moved.

"I asked him three times, and I have witnesses," Jones said. "If it's not moved, then I think Islam is a very poor example of religion. I think that would be very pitiful. I do not expect that."  [emphasis added]

We don't have special insight into the thought processes of Pastor Jones - or of the Imam, for that matter.  Whether by accident or by design, Pastor Jones has created a superb case study of the American courtesy that is essential for having a peaceful yet free society, while also providing an opportunity for the world to see whether Islam can ever participate in a such a society.

It's Not Always Right to Exercise Your Rights

Sacrilege? Yes - and freedom too.

As we've argued before, the very definition of freedom is permitting other people to do things you despise.  America has become progressively less free over the past century, precisely because politicians have persuaded voters that certain activities are bad and should be banned.

There are certainly many actions, like murder and theft, which are bad and indeed should be banned.  Why?  Because they infringe other people's rights - the right to life, the right to property, and so on.

There are other things that are also bad, like lying and adultery, but which the government ordinarily has no legitimate cause to regulate.

Why?  Because, though immoral and wrong, they do not infringe on other people's rights, or because enforcing them would destroy the essential rights of everybody.

There has never been any question that the property owners of Park51 in Manhattan have the right to build a mosque there.  We've argued that the evil and anti-liberty doctrines of Islam inherently prevent it from being acceptable as a religion in a free society, but that's not what the law says at the moment.

Americans overwhelmingly realize that regardless of property rights, it is still not right for an Islamic mosque to be located at Ground Zero, where three thousand innocents were murdered by Muslim terrorists whose depravity was inspired and motivated by Islam and the Koran.  The fact that Imam Rauf and his allies have pushed forward with their plans despite overwhelming opposition and any number of offers of a less offensive location for their mosque, speaks volumes about their true motivation.

That's why Pastor Jones' grandstanding is a work of genius.  By doing something which he has every legal right to do - burn the Koran - and yet which is inflammatory to million of Muslims and thousands of Americans, he is doing precisely the same thing as Imam Rauf only on a much smaller and less permanent scale.  He might as well be saying, "Hey Muslims, see how you like it!"  Which of course they don't.

The logical, rational, and wholly American result would be precisely the one Pastor Jones believes he has accomplished: a compromise in which both religions treat each other with respect.  Imam Rauf will move his mosque, or so Jones says; Jones, in turn, will cancel the barbecue.  Everybody goes home happy and we leave each other alone.

If this is, truly, the result, Pastor Jones may have accomplished something that has escaped every world leader for the past thousand years: impressing on the Muslim world the simple truth that, if they want their religion to be treated with respect, they must do the same to the world's other religions.

There are many mosques in New York City.  There are no churches or synagogues in Mecca, or indeed in all of Saudi Arabia.  Throughout the entire Muslim world, members of other religions are abused, discriminated against, prevented from practicing their religion, even murdered.

That simply does not happen elsewhere; widespread, serious and terminal religious abuse is exclusively the province of Muslims.  This must cease if Islam is ever to be acceptable in a free society.

We are far from convinced that Imam Rauf truly understands this point.  For all his blather about "understanding," the evidence indicates that he wants the understanding to go in only one direction: we need to understand the desires of Muslims so we can deferentially accommodate them.

In a word: from his many shockingly bigoted remarks, we conclude that Imam Rauf expects all non-Muslims to be dhimmis, subservient to the sharia law and jihadi teachings of their betters.  America and the world can and must never accept such a fate.

We hope we're wrong, and Pastor Jones has created the perfect test before the eyes of the world.  If the 9-11 Victory Mosque gets moved, we'll consider viewing Imam Rauf with a strange new respect.

And if not?  Pastor Jones covered that too:

If it's not moved, then I think Islam is a very poor example of religion. I think that would be very pitiful.

Oh, one other thing: The fact that America's self-proclaimed great and good who are fresh from defending the Imam are now condemning the pastor, speaks volumes about them.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments
Take a look at how many times the Koran describes killing infidels and the rewards. I don't think this matter is a country to country affair, rather a religon versus religon matter. I do not wish to submit or be killed....awesome choices home of the free and the brave...I got a copy did some reading, everyone in America should read some of it as well to be more aware....
September 13, 2010 3:34 PM
I never looked at this pastor's actions like this. He was just giving them a bit of their own medicine, lol. This is just a slight bit off topic, but even though the pastor had the right to burn the Koran, it was decidedly NOT a Christian move. Unfortunately, it gives Christianity a very bad name.

And my guess as to the mosque moving? No way. Just a guess though.
September 13, 2010 4:03 PM
Another one right between the eyes by the ever popular and world famous Petrarch. Outstanding.

I have been dismayed to see libertarians and conservatives of varying stripes condemn this pastor as a kook or a nut or a publicity whore or an idiot. The fact is, the Ground Zero mosque is a deliberate attempt by the barbarians who brought down the towers and their compatriots to stick their thumbs in our eyes, aided and abetted by our Ruling Class. It gets no simpler than that.

The simple fact is that it's time we stuck our thumbs in their eyes for a change.

Either way, the pastor backed down though, and I'd bet on the mosque going ahead as planned, because we lack confidence in Western free culture and are ultimately going to lose it, as cowards should.
September 13, 2010 4:59 PM
Maybe the reading of the Koran and a study of sharia law is in order for all of us proud AMERICANS.We will KNOW then what we are up against. I do not want to live under sharia law & I sure would never want my daughters & grand-daughters subjected to it. Great Britain is starting to deal with it where sharia law has slowly infiltrated their local govt.'s. The protests against sharia law are starting to get loud & angry.
September 13, 2010 5:02 PM
@Brother John:

I think you're missing the point. It doesn't matter how rude, how inconsiderate, even how inappropriate building a mosque on ground zero is. They have a right to do it. They are not harming you in any other way other than your pride.

Returning rudeness for their rudeness isn't going to solve anything, it will only make us look like naive children with as bad taste as them.

September 13, 2010 5:09 PM
@David R:

With respect, there is so much more at stake than mere pride, though that may be a legitimate factor. Rudeness is not at issue either. Terry Jones is apparently one of very, very few who is willing to publicly take the fight to them, to challenge something they hold sacred for desecrating something we hold sacred.

And it is more than a simple tit-for-tat: despite all the imam's protestations to the contrary, "understanding" and "tolerance" simply don't work where Islam is concerned. If it smells weakness, it carries forth on the offensive more than before.

This is a small front in what is nothing less than a clash of civilizations, of barbarity against the west.
September 13, 2010 7:02 PM
Again, a look back at history is useful. Historically, the abuse of, discrimination against, and even murder of those who practice minority religions has NOT been limited to Islam. The Catholics did quite a bit of that, and if you don't consider Catholics to be "Christian" enough, then perhaps you might consider the Puritans who ran the Massachusetts Bay Colony (the only example of Protestant government control I can think of) and how they dealt with people like the Quakers.

In short, there is nothing INHERENT to Islam that makes it exclusively prone to abuse those who do not practice it when it is in direct control of the government; this is rather an inherent property of ALL religions.

Islam's main problem on the world stage is that its adherents have not yet matured to the point where they have decided to implement a separation of church and state. Eventually, this will happen, and Islam will be as tame as Catholicism.

Look at the lap-dog status of major religions in the United States and throughout the West. They have no real power or control over anything. They still contend against one another for resources, as they always have, but now their fights are those of toothless, neutered dogs; entertaining and unlikely to harm any innocent bystanders. As it should be.
September 14, 2010 8:11 AM

"In short, there is nothing INHERENT to Islam that makes it exclusively prone to abuse those who do not practice it when it is in direct control of the government"

Are you sure about that? I don't know a lot about the Koran, but I've heard from religions scholars - men I trust - that Islam and the Koran is quite full of exactly that. Direct violent action against those that disagree.

Islam is certainly in direct control of the government of Saudi Arabia, for instance. Christian abuses there have been well chronicled as well as Pakistan, Egypt and Syria to name a few. ICC has a number of stories about this on their website.
September 14, 2010 8:18 AM
First off, Terry Jones is not a BAPTIST - I do not know where that came into play.
Second, Islam is not the only religion that murders opens. Study history, go to India and see how the Hindus in some regions treat non-Hindus.
Third, why must we respect other religions? I do not respect satanism, paganism, islam, animism, etc. Maybe every real, born-again believer should torch a koran...
September 14, 2010 8:38 AM
First off, Terry Jones is not a BAPTIST - I do not know where that came into play.
Second, Islam is not the only religion that murders opponents. Study history, go to India and see how the Hindus in some regions treat non-Hindus.
Third, why must we respect other religions? I do not respect satanism, paganism, islam, animism, etc. Maybe every real, born-again believer should torch a koran...
September 14, 2010 8:39 AM
lfon, I would be more inclined to trust a neutral party (probably an atheist) who denounced Islam is inherently worse than any other religion than I would a member of its competition. It's nothing personal, really, just good sense. It's the same way I'd make a decision about the quality of a certain company's cars; I wouldn't ask someone affiliated with another car company. How likely, for example, is ICC to report on any CHRISTIAN abuses (as opposed to abuses endured by Christians)? Probably about as likely as CAMERA is to report on cases of Jewish mistreatment of gentiles.

I have no doubt that sections of the Koran can be pulled out and used to encourage abuse of non-members; nor any doubt that one can do the same with Christianity, Judaism, and probably any other faith.

What is the typical response of an adherent when confronted with evidence in the form of direct scriptural quotation? Typically, it is that in order to gain an accurate picture of what their religion REALLY teaches, one must read "the WHOLE text".

Have you read "the whole text" of Islam?
September 14, 2010 8:58 AM

The religious scholars I'm referring to aren't necessarily Christian. One of them is a Deist but practices nothing.

There are many atheists, such as Christopher Hitchens, that have said the Koran teaches violence, death and persecution.

I haven't read any of the Koran, whole or otherwise. It isn't necessary to read it in order to have an opinion on its followers. Their beliefs are transparent.

As long as every terrorist event in modern times continues to be done in the name of Allah, we have our answer.

Someone once said "By their works, ye shall know them".
September 14, 2010 9:08 AM
And lfon, I will agree with you that anywhere Islam is in direct control of the government, there is abuse. It's just that I would broaden that statement to "Anywhere a religion is in direct control of the government, there will be abuse." I would no sooner live in the Christian States of America than I would in modern Pakistan. Again, take a look at the barbarity perpetrated on Quakers by Puritans.

All that it would take for it to happen again would be a dissolution of the barrier between church and state.
September 14, 2010 9:11 AM
"I would no sooner live in the Christian States of America than I would in modern Pakistan"

Wow, really? I would. Whatever "extreme" things about Christianity you may not like sure as heck beats the backwoods, violence of Islam.

I'm not advocating for theocratic states of any kind, but surely you are objective enough to see the major differences between the two.

It's amusing to me that so many agnostics and atheists struggle with the idea of "this great free country we live in" and their hatred of Christianity. It's amusing to see them duck and weave to avoid the truth.

American freedom was the result of Christian men who lived Christian principals (Free Will is a core concept of Christianity). Yes, yes, I know that Franklin was a Deist and there were other non-believers among the Founding Fathers. They were very much the exception to the rule. Their writings - even the official Congressional record - is FILLED with Christian statements, Bible verses and theology.

To reject the symbiotic relationship between Christianity and American freedom is to be willfully revisionist of American history.

Given that, any objective person would pick the Christian States of America 100 times faster than the Islamic State of Wherever. With Christianity, freedom is built in.
September 14, 2010 9:25 AM
@Brother John

Oh, I absolutely agree with you, John: Islam is a barbaric and sometimes even murderous religion. I'm also fairly sure that these Muslims are purposely building this mosque on ground zero to be offensive and aggressive. I'm not asking us to even bother trying to "understand" them, as their actions are uncalled for and IMO downright wrong. I don't like it at all, and it's just another example of major problems with Islam, but I'm just saying they DO have the right to do it.

I think we should ask firmly, politely (showing a good example) for them to move, and after they spitefully deny our request, I think we should ignore their hateful actions and leave them be. Of course, that's easier said than done, but I think it's probably the best course of action. On the other hand, I'm not an expert on this subject by any stretch of the imagination, but these are at least my initial thoughts on the matter. :-)
September 14, 2010 10:52 AM
Michelle Malkin points out that Muslims are ALWAYS outraged

The Eternal Flame of Muslim Outrage

If they're not outraged by Ground Zero mosque protesters, it will be something else.

Shhhhhhh, we're told. Don't protest the Ground Zero mosque. Don't burn a Koran. It'll imperil the troops. It'll inflame tensions. The "Muslim world" will "explode" if it does not get its way, warns sharia-peddling imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. Pardon my national-security-threatening impudence, but when is the "Muslim world" not ready to "explode"?

At the risk of provoking the ever-volatile Religion of Perpetual Outrage, let us count the little-noticed and forgotten ways.

Just a few months ago in Kashmir, faithful Muslims rioted over what they thought was a mosque depicted on underwear sold by street vendors. The mob shut down businesses and clashed with police over the blasphemous skivvies. But it turned out there was no need for Allah's avengers to get their holy knickers in a bunch. The alleged mosque was actually a building resembling London's St. Paul's Cathedral. A Kashmiri law-enforcement official later concluded the protests were "premeditated and organized to vitiate the atmosphere."

Indeed, art and graphics have an uncanny way of vitiating the Muslim world's atmosphere. In 1994, Muslims threatened German supermodel Claudia Schiffer with death after she wore a Karl Lagerfeld-designed dress printed with a saying from the Koran. In 1997, outraged Muslims forced Nike to recall 800,000 shoes because they claimed the company's "Air" logo looked like the Arabic script for "Allah." In 1998, another conflagration spread over Unilever's ice-cream logo - which Muslims claimed looked like "Allah" if read upside-down and backwards (can't recall what they said it resembled if you viewed it with 3D glasses).

Even more explosively, in 2002, an al-Qaeda-linked jihadist cell plotted to blow up Bologna, Italy's Church of San Petronio because it displayed a 15th-century fresco depicting Mohammed being tormented in the ninth circle of Hell. For years, Muslims had demanded that the art come down. Counterterrorism officials in Europe caught the would-be bombers on tape scouting out the church and exclaiming, "May Allah bring it all down. It will all come down."

That same year, Nigerian Muslims stabbed, bludgeoned, or burned to death 200 people in protest of the Miss World beauty pageant - which they considered an affront to Allah. Contest organizers fled out of fear of inflaming further destruction. When Nigerian journalist Isioma Daniel joked that Mohammed would have approved of the pageant and that "in all honesty, he would probably have chosen a wife from among them," her newspaper rushed to print three retractions and apologies in a row. It didn't stop Muslim vigilantes from torching the newspaper's offices. A fatwa was issued on Daniel's life by a Nigerian official in the sharia-ruled state of Zamfara, who declared that "the blood of Isioma Daniel can be shed. It is abiding on all Muslims wherever they are to consider the killing of the writer as a religious duty." Daniel fled to Norway.

In 2005, British Muslims got all hot and bothered over a Burger King ice-cream-cone container whose swirly-texted label resembled, you guessed it, the Arabic script for "Allah." The restaurant chain yanked the product in a panic and prostrated itself before the Muslim world. But the fast-food dessert had already become a handy radical-Islamic recruiting tool. Rashad Akhtar, a young British Muslim, told Harper's Magazine how the ice-cream caper had inspired him: "Even though it means nothing to some people and may mean nothing to some Muslims in this country, this is my jihad. I'm not going to rest until I find the person who is responsible. I'm going to bring this country down."

In 2007, Muslims combusted again in Sudan after an infidel elementary-school teacher innocently named a classroom teddy bear "Mohammed." Protesters chanted, "Kill her, kill her by firing squad!" and "No tolerance - execution!" She was arrested and jailed, and faced 40 lashes for blasphemy before being freed after eight days. Not wanting to cause further inflammation, the teacher rushed to apologize: "I have great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone, and I am sorry if I caused any distress."

And who could forget the global Danish-cartoon riots of 2006 (instigated by imams who toured Egypt stoking hysteria with faked anti-Islam comic strips)? From Afghanistan to Egypt to Lebanon to Libya, Pakistan, Turkey, and in between, hundreds died under the pretext of protecting Mohammed from Western slight, and brave journalists who stood up to the madness were threatened with beheading. It wasn't really about the cartoons at all, of course. Little remembered is the fact that Muslim bullies were attempting to pressure Denmark over the International Atomic Energy Agency's decision to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council for continuing with its nuclear-research program. The chairmanship of the council was passing to Denmark at the time. Yes, it was just another in a long line of manufactured Muslim explosions that were, to borrow a useful phrase, "premeditated and organized to vitiate the atmosphere."

When everything from sneakers to stuffed animals to comics to frescos to beauty queens to fast-food packaging to undies serves as dry tinder for Allah's avengers, it's a grand farce to feign concern about the recruitment effect of a few burnt Korans in the hands of a two-bit attention-seeker in Florida. The eternal flame of Muslim outrage was lit a long, long time ago.
September 14, 2010 11:59 AM

Regarding the "Christian States of America", I have already given the Puritan colonists as an example of a society where Christianity is in direct control of the government. I have already revealed some of there that led -- hacked off ears, mutilated noses, brandings, burned houses, confiscation of property, the murder and selling into slavery of those who refused to practice the religion "properly", as defined by the state.

For these reasons, I would have no desire to live in "The Christian States of America".

I have not mentioned the many atrocities of Catholicism, which you will not argue against the existence of, because you have claimed that Catholics are not "real Christians". Very well. You have yet to dispute the Christianity of the Puritans, so I shall stick with them for the moment.

If you can provide one example of a nation where Christianity was in direct control of the government and the result was something other than similar barbarism, you will have an argument. Until then...
September 14, 2010 2:41 PM
The Puritans are, at best, a red herring to the subject. If the only group of Christians you can find is the Puritans, I think I've won the debate. :)

One might point out that the Puritans were NOT in charge of the government. They were in charge of part of one colony. Other colonies did other things.

Look at the moral equivalency you're trying to make - a small group of settlers with very little influence that did nothing outside of their colony versus a worldwide religion that controls dozens of countries and hundreds of millions of people.

You're comparing a few witch hunts 300 years ago versus worldwide terrorism today?


An example of a government where Christianity had direct control? Easy, the United States at its founding. And look what the result was...

Thank God for Christianity. Whether you believe in it or not, the results were fantastic. Capitalism, civility, western democracy. Every atheist should thank God (well, thank... each other, I guess) that their nation was formed by Christians. Imagine how much worse it might have been for them if our Founding Fathers weren't Christians.
September 14, 2010 2:51 PM

Indeed the Puritans were not in charge of a nation, but are you seriously arguing that they were NOT an example of a religion being in direct control of a government? Please do not hide behind hair-splitting definitions of "government" -- we both know the British crown had ultimate authority in the colony, but if anything that fact restrained the Puritans' barbarity rather than exacerbating it.

The relative sizes and levels of power between the societies controlled by the Puritans and the Islamists has nothing to do with moral equivalency. I never claimed that the Puritans had as much worldwide power as modern Islam; clearly they did not, and that is not the issue at hand. And I never mentioned the witch hunts, either -- I felt that it would have been cliche, and in any event it is unnecessary since the Puritans provide so many other examples of brutality.

As for the United States at its founding being a nation directly controlled by Christianity -- I think that's stretching things a bit too far for belief. Can you point to any laws in the United States at its founding that were uniquely Christian (and not simply unique)? Where was the official status of Christianity written into our Constitution, or anywhere else?

I am unaware of any time that Christianity was even made the official religion of the United States, let alone given any actual political power.
September 14, 2010 4:58 PM
I'm still trying to puzzle out how the early USA could have been called a nation "directly controlled" by Christianity. Clearly, most of the founders were either Christian or heavily influenced by Christianity; I would never suggest that the USA was not heavily INFLUENCED by Christianity. But directly controlled?

With so many flavors of Christianity present in the original thirteen (as well as Catholicism, which you do not consider to be a Christian faith), and none of them being given official recognition as the religion of the state, it would seem that the only "Christianity" that could have been "directly controlling" the early USA would have been a sort of Unitarian thing where everyone decides for themselves what Christianity means FOR THEM. This is such a diffuse "religion" as to be practically meaningless.

I submit that for a government to be directly controlled by a religion, there has to be some consensus on what that religion is, and a recognized authority of that religion acting in an official capacity as part of (or head of) that government. The Catholic Church, while you might not consider it to be Christian, does seem to fit this mold. So does the Christianity of the Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and the Islam of Iran (and elsewhere). But the early United States?

Maybe you can clarify. I do not think the early US can properly be said to have been "directly controlled" by any religion.
September 14, 2010 5:41 PM
(Clarification -- when I say "The Catholic Church" above, I of course mean in those times and places where it was, if not in direct control of the kingdoms of Europe and elsewhere, certainly possessed of great political power therein)
September 14, 2010 5:43 PM
Ok, it was definitely not "directly" controlled, no. You have a point there. We never had any popes, ministers or imams that had more power than the government. Our government never had any sort of Sharia type system where the law is said to be derived from divine revelation (though our Founders did say that our "rights are endowed our Creator").

But it was definitely INDIRECTLY controlled by Christianity. The early writings, speeches, even Congressional records are littered with references to God and Christian philosophy.

Heck, you even had daily prayers and weekly sermons on the the floor of Congress.

Harvard, the first university in America, was started as a seminary.

I could go on and on. The first 100 years of the nation, before and after the signing, were ruled by Christian philosophy.

You mentioned that there was no official state religion. That's because Christianity is all about free will. As I said earlier, freedom is built in. Freedom of religion is a PART of Christianity inherently.

True Christians - those that understand the importance of personal conviction - would not WANT there to be an official state religion. And the Founders were such Christians.
September 14, 2010 7:23 PM

Just a minor quibble, if i may: to point out that the Founders maintained that our rights come from God is not to suggest that our system of laws come from Divine revelation; rather, it is to insist that since these rights do not come from government or any other hand of man, they cannot thus be taken away by government.

That aside, good points, as John Adams was famous for pointing out that our system of government and personal freedom is for the government of a moral and religious people, it being unfit for the governance of any other. Without the responsibility that Christianity demands, a free society could not exist. Atheists should be thankful for these founding principles.
September 14, 2010 7:31 PM
lfon, if your definition of "Christianity" is a sort of fuzzy Unitarianism where everyone gets to decide for themselves what Christianity means to them, what you are saying actually makes sense. In fact, at least some of the founding fathers DID seem to feel that way about Christianity, or at least their personal versions of it.
September 14, 2010 9:39 PM
But -- again -- such a fuzzy Unitarianism is such a diffuse "religion" as to be practically meaningless.
September 14, 2010 9:42 PM
Come to think of it... The government set up by the founding fathers seems to have had a lot more in common with Wicca, oddly enough, than Christianity -- at least in practice. "An it harm none, do what ye will" -- isn't that the basic premise of US liberty?
September 16, 2010 6:11 AM
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