To burn or not to burn? That is the question. If it was up to Gen. David Patraeus, the U.S. Commander in Afghanistan, the answer would be a resounding NO! However, it is not up to the General. In fact, Gen. Patraeus and the brave men and women of our Armed Forces stand on the front lines of freedom, securing our rights (sometimes with their lives) that we currently enjoy in the United States, including the right to build mosques near Ground Zero and the right to burn copies of the Koran.
For some inexplicable reason, Gen. Patraeus thought it necessary to comment on the plans of a small Gainesville, Florida church — the Dove World Outreach Center — and its pastor, Terry Jones, to burn copies of the Koran on September 11, the 9th anniversary of the attack on this country by Islamic extremists. Although I do not doubt for a minute Gen. Patraeus’ concern for the troops and his belief that the Taliban and other Islamic radicals will exploit this insensitive and un-Christlike act, I do not fully understand why the General would want to give even more publicity to a 50-member church and their fringe pastor that no one had heard of before last month?
When I first read about this staged event, I was tempted to write about it, but then I thought, “It’s not worth giving this guy any more free publicity.” Now, in what is arguably beyond Jones’ wildest dreams (or prayers), THE Commander in Afghanistan has weighed in on this controversy by condemning the planned book burning. No one that I know would condone or endorse such behavior, even if it is legally and constitutionally protected by the First Amendment. The idea of burning books or record albums (I’m dating myself), while “inspiring” to the cult-like followers of this Jones, in reality turns off those in our communities that we should be trying to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with. If a pastor thinks that Muslims are going to hell, wouldn’t it make more sense to build bridges than to burn books? It should go without saying that what Jones’ and his followers are planning is not only reprehensible, but likewise the opposite of outreach, if by outreach you mean reaching out in LOVE to those who are not followers of Christ. Not sure that burning Korans is the ideal way to git ‘er done in the Muslim outreach department! Just a thought.
Condemning the Dove World Outreach Center and Jones is easy. What’s not so easy is determining what actions Americans can take that WILL NOT offend or enrage the radical elements within the Muslim world. Koran burning — right out. Cartoons depicting Mohammed — can’t do it (well you can, but no one will publish them). Saying that “Islam is a vile and wicked religion” — ask Franklin Graham if that one will fly.
No reasonable person would dispute that burning Korans is idiotic and highly offensive, not to mention counter-productive for Christian dialogue with our Muslim friends and neighbors. However, what disturbs me about General Patraeus stepping into it, is the mindset that it reveals when it comes to how we as a country will deal with Islam. President Bush, who I generally agreed with, said that “Islam is a religion of peace.” I believe many Americans — rightly or wrongly — have grave doubts about the truthfulness of that statement. Helping to raise doubts about the “peacefulness” of Muslims worldwide, especially in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who oversees the effort to train Afghan security forces, made comments that were particularly eye-opening:
Allegations of mishandling the Quran have interrupted Afghan security training at least twice this year, Gen. Caldwell said. In one instance, a Quran fell to the ground when an American officer opened a locker during an inspection of Afghan trainees’ barracks. The rumor quickly spread that the officer had thrown it to the ground, angering the trainees at the camp. “He quickly apologized, but rumors took off like wildfire,” Gen. Caldwell said. “It was so hard to get the misperception turned around we stopped all training for the rest of the day. (read full article here)
Apparently, on accident, a Koran fell on the floor when a locker was opened for inspection. Although I cannot understand how this would have been the American officer’s fault, he “quickly apologized.” Apology accepted. Case closed. Let’s move on. Right? Wrong. No, instead all he** broke loose. Let’s put this into context. If an Afghan officer opened a Christian’s locker and his Bible accidentally fell on the ground, would there have been an apology? I think we all know the answer to that question. Furthermore, if said apology was given, would the Christian soldier have started a rumor which led to complete and utter chaos? I think not.
It’s easy for Gen. Patraeus to say that the Koran burning on September 11 will be used by the Taliban and other radical Muslims to stoke the fires of hatred of the United States:
It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community.
But, let’s be realistic. Whether or not the Dove World Outreach Center follows through with its “action” to burn Korans, Islamic extremists world-wide will use any and every excuse and no excuse at all to vilify Western culture in general and the Judeo/Christian worldview in particular. Even if the action is innocent, there will be many who are more than willing to fan the flames of anti-Americanism worldwide, especially in the Muslim world. Why? Because we are in a war with Islamic extremists. Are all Muslims extreme? Of course not. But, if the burning of Korans by a publicity-seeking pastor of an insignificant 50-member church in Florida results in world-wide rioting and propaganda videos, then we have a far more serious problem with the “religion of peace” than either Gen. Patraeus or George Bush might care to admit.