Burning the Quran and the Satanic Verses: Is there a difference?

Whilst some Muslims around the world demonstrate with rage, others find this cheap media stunt by the US Pastor, Terry Jones, rather amusing; he appears like the typical ignorant rugged hillbilly with a tiny band of followers. From his interviews, he fits the profile of those ignorant Americans raised on a diet of Zionist Fox News and baseball, who would struggle to comment on the US history and geography, let alone the rest of the world.

His interview on CNN bought a smile to my face, as it did to the CNN Presenter who was trying to clarify the justification for burning the Quran; it is obvious that he lacks ability to articulate his case, compounded by the fact that he has not even read the Quran or any scholarly literature that elaborates on the subject. Indeed, he sounds like a man who does not read much.

His allegations that Quran advocates violence is laughable, as the same teachings can be found in the Bible, some of the laws derived from the Old Testament are much harsher than the Quranic laws. It seems the pastor is also unfamiliar with the Bible. If we talk about the actions or reactions of some Muslims, that needs to be assessed against the actions of violent Christian-America. I am not talking about the daily shootings at schools and shopping malls, rape, bombings, and the high level crime rate inside America, but the killing of innocent people in distant land.

This is the nation that dropped the Atom bombs and chemical weapons on innocent civilians; over last century it has killed millions for profit, and continues to do so in the Middle East. Allegedly, their ‘loving’ Christian god commanded George Bush to carry out the slaughter of innocent people. Numerous videos depict the cruelty of US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, who are often killing civilians for sheer enjoyment, true to their sadistic nature. The Pastor needs to take closer look at his nation with its awful history.

The Muslims should have ignored Terry Jones, and by the usual emotional reaction of some it has only given him far greater media attention than he deserves. I guess for sensitive issues like this, the hearts and emotions rule over the mind.

It’s ironic that a ‘Christian’ pastor, whose flock constantly peddles the message of ‘love’ and ‘forgiveness’ can demonstrate so much blanket hate towards another community. Such hypocrisy is not surprising, as many prominent US-based preachers have consistently demonstrated this over the years. How many have swindled money from their docile flocks? How many TV-Evangelists have been caught with their pants down after lecturing about sexual morality? What bout the numerous claims about healing, later exposed as fraudulent. Not to mention the recent revelation of those celibate Priests sexually molesting children.

Far from the central Christian message of ‘love’, this pastor represents a new breed of extremists: Christian-Zionist, who has anything but love; these people are simply evil. Incidentally, why is the Pope silent on this issue? Where are the prominent Christian Priests issuing condemnations? Had this been Muslims burning the Bible, the entire Muslim community would have been put on the docks. For the actions of few Muslims, we are all frequently held accountable; the same principle should also apply here with Terry Jones.

Let us leave aside the religious dimension, most of us live in a secular society; thus, let us examine the secular arguments of free speech which underpins this issue. This has resurfaced the old debate of the right of freedom of speech against ‘selective’ curbing of it, to prevent incitement to hate and violence. In defence of Terry Jones, the issue of freedom of expression is pointed out, along with the example of the Muslims burning the Satanic Verses of Salman Rushdie, in the past. The obliging media selectively pushes the arguments of incitement to hate and violence to the back, and the argument of the right of free speech for Terry Jones is brought to the front. It works in reverse for the Muslim action and reaction, as it is always measured against the principle of incitement to hate and violence, rather than a right to express their viewpoint.

Both, the Satanic Verses and the actions of Terry Jones are provocation, and not a reaction; one can also include the Danish Cartoon in this category. Rather, the Muslims will point out, if the media opposed the book burning of Satanic Verses, why did they not demonstrate the same level of opposition to the burning of the Quran. Moreover, the ‘Satanic Verses’ is not a sacred scripture with millions of followers around the world. Thus, if anything, the response to curtail free speech of Terry Jones should have been greater. This merely confirms that media consistency is the exception, and media-hypocrisy is the norm.

Most Islamophobes are overt racists or closet racists. It is the culture of war on terror that has encouraged them come out and target Islam and Muslims, which has been fanned by the mainstream media for decades, significantly increased post 9/11; the racist Islamophobes are enjoying the free ride. Since racism has become unacceptable, the overt racists are quick to deny their racist motive, and make the technical argument that targeting religious group is not a racist action; however, when you prod under their white skin by examining the behaviour and track record of its prominent members, the racist agenda becomes clear. For example, the disparity in response to the decades of IRA bombings in the UK to the single incident of 7/7 makes it obvious. The entire Irish community was not put on the dock, they were not viewed with the same level of disdain, and the response was confined to the perpetrators, nor were there any calls for repatriation or curbing immigration from Republic and Northern Ireland. The National Front never marched into the areas populated by the Irish community.

In the UK, the EDL (English Defence League) fits this profile of being over racists using the cloak of opposing radical Islam. I think it would be more accurate to call it ‘reactionary’ Islam to the ongoing oppression in the Islamic world. If you oppose radical Islam, then why is the basis of your organisation a racial one? Surely, being English has nothing to do with opposing radical Islam? Even their name gives the game away. The EDL and their ilk of racists are adopting a more politically correct slogan, and concealing their racist agenda behind targeting Islam and Muslims. To support their claim of being non-racist, the EDL present the likes of Gurmit Singh, but the core organisation is simply an unofficial branch of the BNP (British National Party).

A partial solution to this problem is to engage them intellectually. It’s unlikely the majority of the followers of EDL or Terry Jones know the issues in depth; they do need educating. In the UK, I am sure, many Muslims would happily engage with the EDL followers when they are sober, over the nation’s favourite food: the Indian curry!

From the days of the Civil Rights movement to the LA riots of Rodney King shows line of progression, protests can and will eventually turn violent. The oppressed ones will rise in revolt eventually. If you demonise a racial group, you will get a violent reaction eventually, and why that should be any different for a religious group. Soon, such a reaction might take place in a large scale, and gradually the targeting of a religious group might become as unacceptable, like racism is at present.