I haven’t quite managed to get excited by the idea of one bunch of religious fundamentalist lunatics burning some else’s holy book in the hopes of provoking another bunch of religious fundamentalists into some sort of reaction. Yet.
Terry Jones, “pastor” of the wonderfully ironically named “Dove World Outreach Centre” is going to turn the other cheek in true Christian fashion by burning the Qu’ran. The fact that there’s something in his time-worn features that makes me think of Joseph Merrick just add to the fun.
There is something curiously fascinating about this whole exercise. I doubt that Terry Jones has anything more in mind than attracting a few more bums to his pews, along with the attendant lovely lucre. And it’s perfectly within his free-speech rights to burn the Qu’ran or, indeed, the bible. Yet people who normally flock to support such actions, such as the American Civil Liberties Union have been strangely reticent. Sarah Palin, famous for her populist idiocy, has denounced the idea. People are advising Muslims to say off the streets on “book burning day”. Celebrities not usually know for their interest in spiritual matters, like Angelina Jolie, are weighing in. The UN is said to be “concerned”.
Scanning the papers and websites, I can detect a deep-seated unease about the Qu’ran burning day. I get the feeling that people aren’t necessarily averse to burning the Qu’ran, but they’re very keen to say that they don’t approve of it in the hope that it will take them off the list of potential targets. People are clearly afraid that this blatant provocation will lead to retaliation.
And this is really where I overcome my natural revulsion of burning books: people clearly seem to be afraid of the consequences of this day. It may bring a terrible retribution. However, if it doesn’t, and if similar, future events don’t bring terrible retribution, then maybe people will come to accept that actually, Muslims are not any different from the rest of us.
Until we can burn a Qu’ran with the same casual insouciance as we burn a flag or burn the bible, we will not be truly comfortable with Muslims among us. These actions should bring opprobrium, strong words and discussion.