Thursday, September 9, 2010

Koran burning

As Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida gears up to commemorate the anniversary of September 11 by burning Korans, it was encouraging to hear President Obama critique Jones' actions from two angles. He echoed the comments of many other administrative and military officials when he pointed out that this could well be a 'recruitment bonanza' for Al Qaeda. And it seems almost certainly true that people will die, somewhere, because of Jones' actions (and equally certain that the religious nutjob from the sunshine state won't be one of them).

But Obama was also careful to make the point that Jones' actions are not just dangerous for U.S. soldiers (and to Americans and Europeans living across the world), but are morally wrong. They constitute, he said, a fundamentally 'destructive act', and are 'completely contrary to our values as Americans [because] this country has been built on the notion of freedom and religious tolerance', although I suspect, judging from the demonisation of Muslims around the building of the Cordoba Mosque that a worrying number of people no longer ascribe to this foundational principle. Obama, as well as Mayor Michael Bloomberg, should be praised for supporting the right of people to build a mosque near the former World Trade Center site.

The argument needs to be made, again and again, that the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11 were made not by the Muslims of the world, but by a discrete group of people with a political agenda. That a feeble-minded, hate-mongering fundamentalist, whose mean-spirited intolerance bears a striking resemblance to what he is supposedly denouncing, doesn't understand the distinction is one thing--and something that should be condemned as widely as possible for the moral void his proposed actions exhibit. That his actions (rightly protected under the Constitution) will be taken by some equally intolerant people as representative of the views of all Americans, is unfortunate.

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