Posted on September 9th, 2010
From disparate perspectives that may perhaps contribute to the edification of all interested parties, in the last ten days WAIS has been entertaining the eternal issue of God’s existence and the equally controversial issue of institutionalized religion’s role in society. Amid such WAIS discussion, sparked by Professor Stephen Hawking and his new publication, just by coincidence comes a tiny religious fundamentalist group ready to promote hate and precipitate violence on a wide scale–all in the name of Jesus!
During the current crisis of socioeconomic dislocation for millions of Americans (and billions throughout the world), the religious right in America has been gaining strength a few weeks before the congressional elections in November. There are close to one million web sites devoted to Burn the Koran Day and the Florida group and its affiliates is running slogans like the following:
“Christianity - the religion of redemption and forgiveness v. Islam - the religion of terrorism!
“The Dove World Outreach Center, a non-denominational church in Gainesville, Florida, will celebrate “Burn the Koran” day on September 11. Terry Jones, pastor of the church, says the burnings will be held on church grounds “in remembrance of the fallen victims of 9/11 and to stand against the evil of Islam. Islam is of the devil! On its website, The Dove World Outreach Center sells ‘Islam is of the Devil’ T-shirts.” www.thelastcrusade.org
Naturally, religious leaders from Islam, Judaism and Christianity have tried to publicly distance themselves from “extreme fundamentalists down south” calling Islam a religion of the Devil and doing so under First Amendment protection–no matter that their “religious” words and actions promote hate crime against another monotheistic religion and its followers. Along with Secretary of State Clinton and NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmusen, world leaders have pleaded with the Florida group and the undetermined number of people in the US and the world that agree with burning of the Koran on 9/11 not to go through with such high-profile symbolically hateful act that could precipitate violence. The question of course is not that this particular religious group led by Terry Jones is carrying out a symbolic crusade against Islam on a very symbolic day, but what are the political, economic, social, and cultural conditions that gave rise to such a movement? Islam and Christianity have a long history of antagonism that dates back to the Crusades, followed by European Imperialism in Muslim lands for the primary purpose of commercial and geopolitical exploitation. With the division of the World between East and West, the antagonism continued with Muslims detesting atheistic Communist East and cooperating with the capitalist West more out of expediency and “lesser of two evils proposition.” The Cold War ended. Islam took another look at the West immersed in a materialistic culture whose hedonistic value system it was spreading along with its products and services–and always under a patron-client integration model that favored the Christian West. Then there is the that unavoidable issue not just of religion, but of race that has so stigmatized the history not just of the US, but the entire Western Judeo-Christian World. Does Western Civilization have room for Muslims as they are, or must they conform to Western Civilization’s value system in order to be accepted? Given Western policies toward Muslim countries and given how the Western media and entertainment industry–motion pictures and TV–have portrayed Muslims, how is anyone surprised at Burn the Koran Day?
Religious hate crime in the US has risen sharply in the last decade. Hate is a moral issue, if the authorities choose to define it as such–as in the case of a previously unknown Christian pastor in Florida calling for the Koran’s burning. Laws defined politically as in this case, are not enforceable. Politicians who laid the foundations for the atmosphere of hate crimes in direct and subtle forms through foreign and domestic policies that are detrimental to a particular religious group are now asking for religious tolerance for a very specific case. If a Muslim group in Cleveland called for Burn the Bible Day, I wonder if the authorities would not define the term hate crime legally instead of morally. Within 24 hours the FBI would have arrested and every single individual connected with the announcement and their distant relatives and friends and interrogated them without due process–all under the US Patriot Act.
Watching on TV extremist Muslim leaders warn America that if the Koran is burned on 9/11, there will be retaliation is predictable, and I would have expected nothing less from the other side of the three-sided coin of monotheism! In the endless “cycle of eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” practice of an ancient dogma that sinister leaders and faithful followers of the three monotheistic religions pursue, reason and compassion cannot and will not prevail because tangible interests and historical culture clashes are far stronger!