Sunday, September 12, 2010 | Categories: Episodes
On Cross Country Checkup: Qur'an insult
When Florida Pastor Terry Jones announced a plan to burn copies of the Qur'an, he set more than a religious text ablaze.
He outraged Muslims around the world and brought down the wrath of his own country's leaders.
What are your thoughts ...on the plan and the response?
With guest host Evan Solomon.
Welcome to Cross Country Checkup. I'm Evan Solomon sitting in for Rex Murphy.
Our question today: "What are your thoughts on the Florida preacher's plan to burn copies of the Qur'an ...and the response to it?"
Seldom does a small news story balloon into a global controversy with the speed that we saw this past week.
A small-town Florida preacher with a congregation originally pegged at 50 -- yes, that small --decided he was going to make a point by burning a pile of Qur'ans on September 11th.
Well, he made more than a point.
Today we want to talk about the many issues raised by Pastor Terry Jones' plan to make a bonfire from the Muslim holy book.
Jones has since decided against it ...but not before igniting a blaze of controversy around the world.
The reaction in Muslim world was swift. Protests in Afghanistan and Indonesia.
Some turned violent as anger was directed at the entire United States. The protests were marked by flag burnings, attacks on Christians, and accusations that the book burning idea was orchestrated by the U.S. president himself.
World leaders were quick to condemn the plan to burn the Qur'an.
In Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and defence minister Peter MacKay joined U.S. leaders President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and General David Petraeus in calling the proposal a dangerous insult to Muslims around the world ...even suggesting the mission in Afghanistan would be put in jeoprody.
The reaction in the West was almost universal condemnation of the preacher's proposal.
And many blamed the media for publicizing the event, saying the preacher did not deserve any attention at all...for his stunt. Others said he was tapping into a deeper felt anger at radical Islam in the West in the post 9 11 world.
Here at CBC online, it quickly became one of the most commented-on stories of the year.
We want to know what you think.
What was your reaction to the news? Should the media have ignored the preacher?
What about the response ...should the leaders have weighed in on this story?
Did the threat to burn the Qur'an warrant the counter threats of death and violence from some extremist Muslims?
How do you balance the right to free speech (held almost sacred in the West) ...with the religious beliefs of some fundamentalist Muslims that such an insult should be dealt with by violence and death?
The week ended with a surprise ...a deal between a Florida Imam, Muhammad Musri and Pastor Terry Jones. Jones agreed to cancel the burning when a group of Muslims agreed to move the so called Ground Zero mosque -- that's the proposed Islamic cultural centre to be built in New York city not far from Ground Zero ...
But the deal later proved hollow because it did not involve the person with the power to move the controversial centre ...Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.
What do you make of all these events? Is there a growing tendency in the West to demonize Muslims? Is the feeling mutual? What is the best way to lower the temperature in such situations? Who should take on the responsibility for reducing tensions?
Our question today: "What are your thoughts on the Florida preacher's plan to burn copies of the Qur'an ...and the response to it?"
I'm Evan Solomon ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 137 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.
Globe and Mail
New York Daily News
New York Times
The question is not whether the Reverend Terry Jones can burn the Quran (of course he can), or whether he should (of course he should not), but rather what should our reaction be and more particularly the reaction of the Muslim community. In my opinion the answer to that question is that we should simply ignore this hate-filled kook.
Jones and his 30 followers are basking in the world-wide attention they are receiving. Yes their actions are hurtful to many Muslims just as many Holocaust survivors were hurt when neo-Nazis were permitted to express their First Amendment rights and march in Skokie, Illinois.
But when we just ignore these radicals we deprive them of the self-importance they crave. And then perhaps five or six curious onlookers will see them for what they are: small quintessential losers with dead-end lives living in their mothers' basements.
Please do not give anymore airtime to the moron in Florida. One wingnut preaching to 50 other wingnuts should not have put a stranglehold on the world's media. I am disappointed that the CBC is giving one of its flagship programs to this man and his skewed ideas of "dialogue". I for one will not be listening today.
I'm astonished that CCC plans to devote its program to this weirdo whose following includes at best 50 people in a country of what, 300 million? The media has definitely been part of the problem in this whole issue. As a former journalist, I'm embarrassed for all of you.
I can't believe we're going to spend a whole show discussing this ridiculous event (that we already know you, the media, has been trying to fuel fires with) giving an idiot in Florida more credibility through your program. Thanks but no thanks. I'll be switching this program off right now.
Red Deer, AB
The deliberate culture of Islamophobia by the powers that be is necessary to manufacture consent for an ongoing War on Terror. This is in reality a U.S. led imperialist war for hegemony, energy corridors, blood and treasure, not to spread democracy and stop Islamic extremism. The U.S. led NATO coalition is bombing and burning human beings. This should be a far more important issue then a wingnut from Florida threatening to burn books.
So much of the blame for this fuss has to be put on the media. If this pastor had done what he threatened with no publicity, where would we be today? If the fire department in Gainesville Florida had been at the ready, would he have been allowed to light a fire outside? And my main question is why wouldn't even one person in his small congregation have spoken up against this very very sick act by an obviously very sick man?
Fort Francis, ON
Why do you, and others in the media, keep referring to the potential NY community centre as a mosque? It is not a mosque, it is a proposed community centre with a prayer room where Muslims - and others - can pray. Let's be clear on this. The organization responsible for building the community centre is lead by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is on record taking a stance against Al Qaeda. Of course, the plan is not even to build it at "Ground Zero", rather it is a couple blocks away from Ground Zero. What neighbourhood is acceptable?
I am very upset to hear that CBC planned to have this crazy man given more air time. It is the media that has fueled this 'event'. Why does CBC think this incident is so important that it will spend two hours on CCC when the whole thing is over? Were there not enough other topics you could have chosen other than this one, especially topics that concerned Canadians? No proper marine charts in our Northern waters? More discussion on homelessness? More discussion on illiteracy and how this impacts on people, especially those who end up in our jails and prisons?
I am very disappointed in CBC on this one. You have one fewer listener today.
Of course it was a bad idea to burn the Quran. It would be much more purposeful if people would actually read the Quran and decide for themselves whether it has merit or not. Then we would understand much better why there is such conflict in the world.
Hornby Island, BC
First of all stop calling it the ground zero mosque, apparently it is an Islamic community centre. But most importantly, let's start talking about how these three major religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity, come from the same Abrahamic traditions. They all believe in the same God and it is becoming unbareable listening to all this nonsense from every side. If we can turn the focus on what we have in common then those on the outer fringes have less to argue about.
Galiano Island, BC
Most people miss the point about the nutbar pastor: the point is that he is committing a criminal act, a hate crime, inciting others to commit a hate crime and conspiring to commit a hate crime. If someone were to threaten to burn a stack of bibles publicly or desecrate any other religious symbol, in this country he would be charged. I don't know what the laws are in USA, but surely they have something similar. The point is not how his actions could serve as a focus for recruitment to any other terrorist organization or that US troops might be in greater danger. Wrong is wrong no matter what the context, and he should be prosecuted for it.
Meadow Lake, SK
I couldn't agree more with your second caller, Frances from Calgary. A plague on all their houses: religion is a pernicious nuisance. As Tom Robbins wrote, and here I paraphrase, "The enemy is not black or white or male or female or Christian or Muslim. It is the tyranny of the dull mind." Religion too often encourages mindless conformity. Masquerading as spirituality, it is used to repress the mind and spirit. The history of religion is a sad record of the misuse of secular power, a record made worse by the fact that religions are based on batty fairy tales.
By the way, isn't the hysteria around the potential burning of the Koran an exercise in bibliolatry? Isn't object-worship anathema to Muslims? Just asking.
Hello Cross Country,
Both the Mosque and the Terry Jones controversies are caused by a lack of education in regards to Islam. Has anyone else noticed that this imbecile bigot, Terry Jones, is pronouncing the word Imam "Iman" with an N at the end, instead of an M? As for the New York mosque, educated people know that Islam was not the cause of the 9/11 tragedies and that Moslems died that day.
In my opinion, organized religions have inflicted far too much pain, suffering and death. I believe very seriously that it is high time they be dismantled and banned forever. Personal beliefs should be just that, personal and private. After all, Christians, Jews and Moslems all believe in the same God yet savagely kill each other in this God's name. It would be funny if it wasn't so sad.
Incidentally, I always enjoy your show,
Thank you for your time.
Why aren't people recognizing this dispute as an example of idolatry, usually defined as worship of any image, idea, or object, interfering with true worship of God? It's a serious sin, in the theology of Christians and Muslims both.
Holding a copy of a book hostage on the one hand, and responding as though it's a true hostage on the other hand, is magical thinking, like sticking a pin in a voodoo doll.
There is a reason idolatry is a sin, besides the theology of it. It damages human reason and kindness, replacing it with wrath (another mortal sin) based on nonsense.
I think the appropriate action would not be to burn 500 copies of the Koran, but to distribute them so that naive liberals and the apostles of tolerance could discover that this Holy Text is even more frightening and intolerant than the Bible.
Quadra Island, BC
I don't usually involve myself in talk shows, but I feel the need to do so today. Some of the comments of your second caller brought up some of my concerns.
I do believe we should be able to think critically about all sorts of organizations. But criticism is different from acts that show disrespect for another's way of thinking, feeling and doing. A commentator on CBC radio yesterday made a connection between Muslim reactions to the potential Koran burning and how some people feel about their country's flag being burned. They feel shock and outrage because of the importance of that symbol to them. It doesn't matter that others may not share those feelings.
If we are to learn lessons from 9/11, I believe we must start there. Whether or not we share certain sensitivities should be secondary to respect for the importance of those sensitivities to other groups.
The bombings of the World Trade Centre and other targets were outrageous acts of disrespect, but demonizing all Muslims because of the acts of extremist fundamentalists doesn't change the world. Some parents ask their children, "if others jumped off a bridge, would you?" Just because others are disrespectful, does that mean we should support a disrespectful reaction? I say no.
How many Muslims does that caller know? How much has she read in the Koran? I know Muslims who assure me that the fundamentalists have perverted the Koran and that the miserable treatment she attributed to the teachings of the Koran is, in fact, called Sharia law, and not based in the Koran.
Learning about people and cultures helps us to distinguish between the many and the few (albeit highly visible) fundamentalists.
The U.S. and Canada are both complicit in contributing to the conflict of religions in Afghanistan and Iraq, by first sending in troops and then following them up with faith-based (Christian) Ministries to provide food, medicine and education. When Western soldiers are seen protecting Christians as they go about their ministries (and winning converts along the way) then we are involved in intensifying the religious nature of our interest in these countries and we should not be surprised by the backlash.
What I feel has been missed in the discussion is the questioning of why we feel the need to judge the religions of others. Why do we feel so threatened by those whose beliefs may not be identical to ours? I feel that if there was more education about the fundamental principles of all of the world's major religions, those who are up in arms about religions that are not their own would see that at their core, the major texts all teach the same things: love and compassion. And whether anyone around the world adheres to a religion or not, aren't these teachings innate beliefs of people that unite us all? If each of us focuses on our own ability to live lovingly and compassionately perhaps we will focus less on the beliefs of others. We are all living our lives the best that we can.
We are spending our valuable time talking about the relative merits of the myths ascribed to by a couple of tribes of goatherds between 1400 and 2000 years ago. Neither myth deserves respect, and the sooner that the rational amongst us make that statement loudly, the better. No religious belief deserves intellectual respect. And they only deserve the social respect that each of them allows the rest of society (which is very little, if one reads the news lately).
The Florida cult leader who threatened the burning of the Koran is only a literal believer of the Bible arguing against literal believers of the Koran. Neither they, nor their followers, in any degree, deserve our respect. Religion always ends up in the hands of them and their ilk. Those Moslems who demand fatwah are of the same mind as those Christians who liked the Inquisition. They all burn books and they all kill unbelievers. Religion is the most horrible blight that man has inflicted upon the world.
Please suggest to David Common that he not refer to the proposed Islamic centre as "the Ground Zero Mosque." It's not at Ground Zero.
It's over two blocks away from the World Trade Centre. It's not a mosque. It's a community centre, which will include a prayer room
and, more importantly, offer many services and facilities to anyone and everyone, not only Muslims.
The term "Ground Zero Mosque" is not only inaccurate, it's inflammatory and entirely constructed by anti-Muslim bigots and irresponsible media organizations. As Canada's public broadcaster, the CBC has no business joining the cacophony of media voices fuelling the flames of social conflict.
The problem really arose with the use of the expression "Ground Zero". This was originally used by scientists and the military to describe the area of total devastation around a nuclear blast. Let us compare the destruction of the WTC and the deaths of over 3,000 people at the hands of Muslim extremists with the deletion of the entire centres of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the deaths of millions of citizens (immediately or years later from radiation) at the hands a country whose banknotes proclaim "In God we trust."
It's not that I want to trivialise 9/11, but to put it into perspective. How many churches are there in the rebuilt centres of those ill-fated cities? If the Japanese can be tolerant, so can Americans.
Every decent person will reject what is a morally offensive act such as the burning of holy books. There is a need, however, to impress upon Muslims everywhere that our society will not tolerate a situation where we need to walk on eggshells whenever any views are expressed on Islam or Muslims. All too often, we are warned that the Arab street will erupt if we act or don't act in conformity with the Arab or Muslim view. This is nothing less than blackmail and our responsibility as a free thinking society should be to forcefully reject this type of cohesion.
To the callers and emailers who boldly proclaim that 'we should ban religion' to fix these problems. How reminiscent of the atheism of Stalin.
It's a wonder that such militant atheists seem to believe that so long as you direct your hate at all religions, then it isn't really hate. How ironic that they are so like-minded to the fundamentalist types who believe that the cure to all problems in the world is for everyone to believe just as they do.
How does that saying go about the speck in your neighbor's eye?
I believe the minister in Florida would not be running a church if it was taxed like a corporation. The same goes for a lot of the zany U.S. ministries. Secondly, a corporation would not be granted a permit to burn books. Thirdly, building anything at ground zero seems a major financial project as it is prime real estate. Only a corporation could afford the real estate on this site. Revoke tax free status of churches and they will definitely be building on some other site. Finally, we need to assure religions follow some form of human decency. Not sure how one would sell this to the public, though.
If you wanted to see religions unite have a politician put this tax issue on a platform.