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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

To those against the Quran burning: you're doing it wrong

Book burning. (cc) Michael
Bina (mrtwism),
As many know by now, a small church in Gainesville, Florida has gathered national attention with its plans to burn copies of the Quran this September 11th. Muslims, other Christian churches, General David Petraeus (U.S. commander of the war in Afghanistan), the U.S. Attorney General, and even the President have all been urging the church's pastor to call off the event, but their approach is misguided.

At least as far as the General, Attorney General, and the President are concerned, the argument has been that such an event will inflame public opinion, incite violence, and endanger U.S. forces. Firstly, if one was of the mindset of those in this Gainesville church, then confrontation would be expected; perhaps welcome. As for U.S. forces, part of their duty is to fight for our freedom of self expression, so from these folks' perspective, not putting on their event to lessen danger to the troops would undercut a major reason for having troops in the first place.

But worse, the real problem with this line of argument is that it is based on fear. It attempts to motivate with the fear of violent reprisals from extremists. The very endeavor of terrorism is about motivating people through fear of violence. In that regard, this approach turns the President, the General, and everyone else voicing this argument into the media services center for the terrorists. In order to terrorize a people, you must do two things: violence, and make broad threats of further violence unless compliance takes place. People who try to motivate by threatening further violence from terrorists are simply saving the terrorists time and expense on the second part of the terrorism formula. Osama doesn't need to make another video because Obama already has.

Consider that the people in this church already have a mindset based on fear - fear of islam and what it means, and this argument is only more of the same. To make matters worse, the pastor has been getting death threats, which only serve to justify his fear-based views and see himself as some kind of warrior or potential martyr. Fear should never be used as a tool, no matter how good you think your cause or purpose.

The right approach is the truth. The real reason why members of this church shouldn't burn the quran has nothing to do with fear of reprisal. Is that why you don't burn qurans? Simply because you're afriad of Muslims attacking you? If this fear didn't exist, you'd be burning Qurans? I hope not. Let me share with you why I don't burn Qurans...

  1. I am not unaware of the fact that Islam does not equal or necessitate terrorism. I understand that most Muslims are not terrorists and do not condone terrorism.
  2. I believe that two wrongs don't make a right. If I am offended by some Muslims' choice on where to put a mosque, or even by the terrorism of some, it doesn't justify similar behavior. My behavior is based on my values and standards; it is not to be determined or controlled by the actions of others. How I behave is about who I am, not about who they are.
  3. I have tolerance and respect for the beliefs of others, even if I don't share those beliefs. I do this because I would want the same in return, and because I know that's the only productive way diverse people can proceed in the future.
  4. A love for learning gives me a natural revulsion at the idea of destroying books. A respect for reason and thinking brings me to reject the notion of 'dangerous ideas and thoughts'. I believe thinking people can learn about all things, evaluate them, and come to good conclusions without censorship or banning things.
  5. Love of my fellow human beings makes me considerate of their feelings. Even if I think they have bad ideas, I separate the ideas from the person. If I disagree with them, I will try to discuss with them in the spirit of brotherly love.

These are the reasons why we should not burn Qurans, and they are the only legitimate reasons to present. When we resort to fear based arguments, we ourselves forget those principles above. Before long, we start to believe what we're telling the people in Gainesville - that fear of reprisal is the reason for not burning books. If burning the Quran was right, then no fear of reprisal should stop the people of that church or this nation. But, alas, it isn't right, and that's the point.

The issues burdening the people of the church in Gainesville run deeper and are more broad than this one topic. They don't see that, ironically, their position at its core runs counter to these American and Christian ideals and virtues. The only road back from their dark place can be a loving and truthful one. Unfortunately, walking that road may take longer than the time until this planned event, but if we had all been promoting these positive points, perhaps some with a wider conscience at the church may have been reachable. Perhaps they still are.

No matter what happens on the 11th, let us remember that these people are burdened by their own demons, and more of the same toward them is not the way out.

Comment, Tom B:
Hatred does damage to the 'hater'. Violence invites retaliation. Fear is a very unpleasant emotion. So if one wants to be an unhappy, fearful person inviting others to hurt one, go for it. Personally, it's a lot easier to just live in an imperfect world trying to 'get a grip' on one's emotions and 'power' through 'stuff.' Oh, and courage is precisely the refusal to let fear govern one.

Comment, @nervoustwit:
Finally someone says something sensible on this subject. You're right. Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. That's not just a biblical idea, any mature adult of any belief system would agree that it is a sensible way to live. The fear factor that dominates the dialogue on this subject typifies our cultural self-centeredness. Similarly, most people who object to sending troupes over-seas usually site the cost, and the risk to American lives as their main reasons.

Comment, little chair:
Thank you for reminding us about the dangers of using fear as a motivator.
It's nice to see/hear/read that some people do not enjoy inciting destructive emotions in other people, for whatever reason. Compassion and tolerance for fellow human beings is the only way to move towards peaceful... times.

Comment, DT Strain:
Thanks for the comments everyone. As for having the right to do this, I do support that right and would not agree with government interference or force from others to prevent it. But not everything we have a right to do, is right to do. And for those who say that it doesn't matter because it's just a book, or that they themselves wouldn't care whether they did it, or that Christians and Muslims 'deserve one another', I'd ask you to consider the following. It's true that it's just a pile of paper. Books are destroyed all the time, when they're old, discarded, won't sell, and so on. And, it doesn't even really matter so much whether others care what you're doing or not - not in itself. What matters is *motivation*. What will performing certain acts based on anger, hate, fear, or even apathy or disregard, do to your 'soul' (or, to your habits, inclinations, and character as a person). Actions condition us over time. What is a person like who would do things needlessly without concern for the feelings of innocent people, or who wish for those they dislike to meet horrible ends, or who justify any kind of action on the basis of the same behavior by their worst enemies? And becoming more like that kind of person - how will that affect your quality of life? When we act from pure motivation - good, loving, and pure motivation, we cultivate a character that is more capable of enjoying a deeper and more genuine joy.

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