A little-known pastor from Florida has been at the center of a debate about the burning of the Islamic holy book, the Qur’an. Starting in mid-July, Rev. Terry Jones tweeted to his followers on Twitter, criticizing Islam as fascism and President Barack Obama’s support for a new Kenyan constitution that could allow abortion and codify Islamic law. His final tweet of the day said, “9/11/2010 Int Burn a Koran Day.”
Beginning with that announcement, the pastor from Gainesville, Fla. initiated a struggle that would begin two months later, that has brought about deadly protests in Afghanistan, requests from foreign leaders that Jones discontinue his threat, and a plea from Gen. David H. Patraeus, who said images of a burning Qur’an could endanger U.S. troops.
According to Ramez Islambouli, a professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic at John Carroll University, Rev. Jones’ plans to burn the Qur’an are totally unacceptable. “Burning the sacred book of more than a billion Muslims is uncivilized, especially coming from a person who claims to be a man of God,” Islambouli said.
The plot has sparked a fire of imminent hatred on an international level, as those who practice Islam are outraged at the desires of Jones. “Burning the Qur’an, to me, screams hate,” said Samie Farhat, a sophomore at John Carroll University who practices Islam. “As a Pastor, I think Terry Jones should remember that Christianity preaches peace and love, not hate.”
Protests against Jones’ threat began first in Indonesia on Sept. 4 where thousands took to the streets and protestors held signs that said, “You burn a Qur’an, You Burn in Hell!” On Sept. 6 in Kabul Afghanistan, protestors chanted “Death to America” and burned an effigy of Jones. Three days later, Pakistani protestors in the city of Multan burned a U.S. flag. Still the protests have not culminated, with more protests in Puli-Alam, Afghanistan in which Afghan security forces opened fire, injuring protestors.
“Although Rev. Jones does not represent Christianity or the U.S. as a whole, his actions will be portrayed [to those protestors in the Middle East] as the actions of Christians and Americans,” said Islambouli.
Eventually, Jones’ plan was halted after a phone call from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who was gravely concerned that going forward with the plan would endanger forces overseas. Jones had stated earlier that he would discontinue his plot if contacted directly by the President or Defense Department. In addition to Secretary Gates, Gen. Patraeus noted that images of a burning Qur’an could easily be used by extremists against America.
“It almost seems like Jones is provoking the extremists,” said Farhat. “Extremist groups are always trying to carry out terrorist attacks, so who’s to say there wouldn’t be an incentive for these radical Muslims to attack after they see pictures of burning Qur’ans?”
Jones reportedly called off the burning ceremony scheduled for 9/11, claiming he had secured a deal with the Imam to move the planned mosque in New York City away from Ground Zero to another location. However, organizers behind the planned Islamic Cultural Center have come out denying claims against the decision to move the mosque. At this time, no decision has been made on moving the mosque.