Heading Back to Jordan (and just in time)
I’m headed back to Jordan today and am almost as excited today as when I boarded the plane about a year ago to come for the first time. I had a wonderful visit, but I’m happy that I am leaving before Pastor Terry Jones commemorates the anniversary of September 11th with “Burn a Koran Day.” If you haven’t been following the media-storm around this one, an obscure pastor from Florida, who believes Islam is Of the Devil, is leading his 50-member congregation in a psychotic ritualistic burning of the Holy Book of Islam to, quote, “bring to awareness to the dangers of Islam and that the Koran is leading people to hell. Eternal fire is the only destination the Koran can lead people to so we want to put the Koran in it’s place – the fire!” With the vitriolic debate surrounding the NYC mosque culminating in this hateful event, I don’t think I’ve ever been more frustrated with the growing Islamophobia in our country.
Many might rightfully point out that this guy does not represent the majority, or even a sizable minority in our county, but his voice is out there, is getting attention, and is being broadcast all over the world. Whether it’s fair or not, we will be judged by people like this. What’s that? It’s not right that a religious zealot with weird facial hair, twisting an otherwise peaceful religion to make hateful, condemning comments, via a face-to-camera video proclamation, backed by a small extremist band of followers, should come to represent millions and millions of people – the vast majority of whom completely disagree with him?
Well, I agree. It’s not right. But we should certainly know from first-hand experience that this is what happens. My frustrations for the past few weeks have stemmed not from people’s opinions on the NYC mosque itself, but from the rhetoric surrounding it and the dangerous, uninformed illogical leaps that people make to support their opinions. Terry Jones: is as representative of American views on Islam (and Christianity) as the violent jihadists: who took part in the attacks on 9/11 are representative of Muslim views on the West (and Islam itself). Terry Jones: Christianity as Violent Jihadists: Islam. The mass public in the US makes negative associations with Islam because of extremist images we see in the mass media, just as the mass public in the Muslim world will be affected by the images of their Holy Book being set aflame on US soil, by Americans – there have already been protests all over the world, from the streets of Afghanistan to the US Embassy in Indonesia, and General Petraeus himself has urged the pastor not to go through with the plans as “It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort.” We should be able to see how misinformation and negative images of Islam have been poisoning a nation like ours, with a strong rule of law and smart, capable leaders. Imagine what kind of damage the same kind of filth could do to a nation as volatile as Afghanistan.
So before we condemn Terry Jones (which we obviously should) or worry that he’s spreading the wrong message (which we obviously should), we need to take a look at ourselves and wonder if we have been receiving the wrong message, from the wrong sources ourselves.
[For these same thoughts expressed with a sense of humor, check out this incredibly poignant must-read article from the Onion, the hilarious fake news source, titled Man Already Knows Everything He Needs to Know about Muslims.]