Canceled Quran Burning

Jaime Toplin

Muslim groups across the globe are “fired up” over a small church’s canceled plans to burn copies of the Quran.

Controversy arose when Pastor Terry Jones of the tiny Christian Dove World Outreach Center planned to burn copies of the Quran on September 11, 2010 out of anger towards the plan to build the “Ground Zero Mosque,” an Islamic cultural center near the site of the terrorist attacks. After much protest from the community, Jones called off the burning, but then revoked his statement, saying that the burning was “suspended, not canceled.” He later changed his statement again and said that his church will “not today, not ever” burn the Quran to protest Islamic ways. He flew to New York and, on NBC’s “Today,” told the public that the church’s goal, “to expose the [element] of Islam that is very dangerous” had been achieved, reports the Associated Press.

The New York Times reports that Interpol, an international police organization, warned its 188 member nations that “there will be tragic consequences” if the burning took place as planned.  In Kabul, Afghanistan and Multan, Pakistan, anti-American protests, marches, and, according to the New York Times, American flag burnings took place in revolt. Pakistan’s English language paper, The Nation, ran an article from Pakistani Christian groups denouncing the burning as well as Jones for “trying to start a conflict between the Muslims and Christians”

Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran’s foreign minster, also warned of consequences, stating that the burning would “face reactions by the world’s Muslims.”

The Daily Star, a Lebanese paper, reported similarly. An editorial mentioned that if the burning did occur, it would “likely ignite a fire of rage that could consume swaths of the globe.”

President Obama agrees. At a September 10th news conference, he warned again that protests against the burning could endanger American lives, but also that Jones’ threat was “something that could cause us profound damage around the world, and so we’ve got to take it seriously.”

Gholam Rahman, a founding member of the Muslim Community of Palm Beach County, told the Palm Beach Post in an interview that “the damage [internationally] has [already] been done to some extent because they know there are such kooks in the United States […] this sort of antics from a leading country like the United States are dangerous” Rahman also noted how “ridiculous” Jones’ statement was, and how it was blown out of proportion by the media in a potentially damaging way. On the effects the burning could have had on foreign relations, NBC reports that “the setback to Pakistani perceptions of America could be immeasurable” if the burning were to occur.

Surprisingly, NPR reports, Islamic media devoted much more time and space to covering preparations for the Eid-al-Fitr (a celebration marking the end of Ramadan), than they did to the Quran controversy.

At least in Pakistan, there is an understanding that “[Jones] is not in line with the general thinking of American people,” as Shah Mehood Quershi, Pakistan’s foreign minister told NBC. He added that they have been “promoting interfaith dialogue, interfaith harmony” and that he “hope[s] better sense prevails.” Despite understandings like these, Akbar Ahmed, a professor of Islamic Studies at American University, told NPR that many Muslim groups fear “copycat acts and a rising spiral of violence” towards them. Some worry for the safe future of their religious groups in the United States.