Julie MarshThe ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks is approaching, and with it comes plans by a Gainesville, Florida church -- the Dove World Outreach Center -- to burn the Qu'ran.
The church applied for a burn permit, which was denied by the city of Gainesville based on prohibitions in the city's ordinances. Regardless, Dove World Outreach center intends to proceed with the bonfire as scheduled.
Dove World Outreach Center insists that the purpose of this act is "to raise awareness and warn ... about the teaching and ideology of Islam, which we do hate as it is hateful. We do not hate any people, however. We love, as God loves, all the people in the world and we want them to come to a knowledge of the truth. To warn of danger and harm is a loving act."
However, I wonder if Dove World Outreach Center is taking seriously General David Petraeus' warning of the possible consequences of the burning.
The top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan advised, via email to The Associated Press, "Images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan -- and around the world -- to inflame public opinion and incite violence."
History supports Petraeus' warning. According to the AP, a Newsweek story in 2005 alleging deliberate mistreatment of the Qu'ran incited riots in Afghanistan, which killed 15 people and injured many more. In fact, at a rally in Kabul yesterday, "several hundred Afghans ... burn[ed] American flags and an effigy of Dove World's pastor and chant[ed] 'death to America.' Members of the crowd briefly pelted a passing U.S. military convoy with stones."
I'd like to think that Dove World doesn't realize that their actions are viewed by some as representative of the US as a whole. Unfortunately, it appears that's exactly what they want -- to speak for the rest of us. Delivery of their message is paramount, no matter who gets hurt along the way. Their pragmatism is as extreme as their beliefs.
On the other hand, I submit that Muslims who believe Dove World speaks for the rest of America are seeking reasons to hate us. The planned burning of the Qu'ran has been condemned at all levels of government. Gainesville mayor Craig Lowe called Dove World a "tiny fringe group and an embarrassment to our community." US and NATO officials have likewise spoken out against the event, as have other religious groups.
Nonetheless, the act of burning the holy book of Islam is extremely incendiary -- no matter how small the group doing it may be, no matter how widely the act and the group are condemned.
The most recent news updates indicate that Dove World might heed the warnings it has received and cancel its plans. I hope that for the sake of our troops they do. Abstaining from the planned burning won't stop Dove World from spreading their message of hate in other ways, but at least it will prevent retaliation against our troops.