Friday, April 1, 2011

Hatred begets murder

What is one to think? I sometimes just despair about the utter evil that people engage in, carelessly inciting hatred against each other and wreaking havoc upon the innocent. So-called pastor Terry Jones put the Qur'an on trial on March 20 at his church in Florida. It was defended by an imam from Dallas (I feel sorry for that man!). The certainly not-impartial jury of his church declared the Qur'an guilty, and decided that the punishment was burning. The whole event was video-taped and can be viewed on the internet. (Search for the video yourself, I don't want to link to it).
On the video, a pastor named Wayne Sapp is seen igniting a kerosene-drenched copy of the Koran with a plastic lighter. Members of the church watch the book burn for several minutes while several photographers snap pictures. Finally, Mr. Jones says, “That actually burned quite well.”
How vile.

I am irresistibly reminded of the medieval disputations that Jews were forced to engage in, defending Judaism and its holy books from Christian accusers (often Jews who had converted to Christianity; the accuser of the Qur'an in Florida was a Muslim who had converted to Christianity). The Talmud was tried and found guilty in Paris in 1240, and then burned in 1242 and 1244. It was also burned in Italy in 1553 (see The Jew in the Medieval World, pages 163-169 and 191-193).

12 people working for the UN were killed by a mob today in Afghanistan in response to the burning of the Qur'an. The UN workers were people who were working for the rebuilding of Afghanistan, who came to create and not to destroy. The mob attack began because three mullahs at the Blue Mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif "urged people to take to the streets to agitate for the arrest of Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who oversaw the burning of a Koran on March 20. Otherwise, said the most prominent of them, Mullah Mohammed Shah Adeli, Afghanistan should cut off relations with the United States. 'Burning the Koran is an insult to Islam, and those who committed it should be punished,' he said." The mob hunted for Americans to attack, but not finding any, went to the UN compound and attacked it.

Terry Jones, the so-called minister, reacted in this way:
Mr. Jones said in an interview with Agence France-Presse on Friday that he was “devastated” by the killings of 12 people in a violent protest in Afghanistan when a mob, enraged by the burning of a Koran by Mr. Jones’s church, attacked the United Nations compound in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. “We don’t feel responsible for that,” he told the news service.
I know that the First Amendment precludes arresting Jones, but I feel that he is morally responsible for the killings in Mazar-i-Sharif, along with the three mullahs who incited the mob and the people who actually did the killing.

Jones pretends to be a minister of the Gospel - the same Gospel that teaches Christians, in the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (5:44-45): "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous." He also says (5:39): "But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also."

Instead of doing what Jesus commanded his followers, "Mr. Jones demanded that the United States and United Nations take 'immediate action' against Muslim nations in retaliation for the deaths. 'The time has come to hold Islam accountable,' he said."

I'm not a Christian, but I can imagine how they feel when they see how Jones has twisted the Gospel he pretends to believe in and uses it to incite hatred and violence. I know how I feel when other Jews use Judaism to incite and justify hatred and violence against Palestinians - shame, and anger that my religion has been hijacked to bring more evil and violence into a world that is simply reeling with it. May God have mercy upon all of us, the righteous and the unrighteous together.

Update, Saturday morning, April 2

Apparently there were other people involved in the incitement to murder. Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan who to me seems increasingly like he's making a play for Taliban support, spoke publicly about the Qur'an burning last Thursday.  
The latest demonstrations were sparked by sermons at Friday Prayer this week over the Koran burning. A week earlier, Friday Prayer had not provoked such reactions, even though the Koran burning had already taken place.

Both Afghan and international news media had initially played down or ignored the action of Mr. Jones, the Florida pastor. This Thursday, however, President Hamid Karzai made a speech and issued statements condemning the Koran burning and calling for the arrest of Mr. Jones for his actions. On Friday that theme was picked up in mosques throughout Afghanistan.

There is no provision in American law for arresting anyone for burning a Koran, or for that matter a Bible, which the courts would consider protected free speech.

“Karzai brought this issue back to life, and he has to take some responsibility for starting this up,” said a prominent Afghan businessman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of concern over retribution if he was publicly critical of the president. “Karzai’s speech itself provoked people to take such actions,” said Qayum Baabak, a political analyst in Mazar-i-Sarif. “Karzai should have called on people to be patient rather than making people more angry.”
There were also riots in Kandahar today, where nine people were killed. Rioters rampaged through the streets, and seem there to have been directly led by the Taliban. "Zalmai Ayoubi, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the rioters attacked the Zarghona Ana High School for Girls, burning some classrooms and a school bus. The school is supported by the United States Agency for International Development. The Taliban have opposed girls’ education."

Mark Potok writes in the Hatewatch blog:
And, ultimately, responsibility for this atrocity obviously rests mainly with the murderers who committed it and those who encouraged them to act in  response to Jones’ provocation. But as barbaric as the crowds were, it’s hard to avoid assigning a great deal of the blame to Jones, even though his despicable actions are protected under the First Amendment.

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