Are hateful provocateurs any better than terrorists?

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: Afghanistan, Conflicts And War, Terry Jones Channel: Opinion Views: 3763

Remember Christian pastor Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida? He caused an international uproar last year by threatening to burn 200 copies of the Qur'an, the Muslim Holy Scripture, on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Among others, the overall commander of forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, had warned at that time that such an action could provoke violence in Afghanistan and could endanger American troops. Jones subsequently promised not to burn the Qur'an. 

Last month, on March 20, however, with only 30 worshipers attending, Terry Jones held a self-styled mock trial of the Qur'an in which he presided from the pulpit as a judge. Sitting in judgment was a jury of 12 members of his church. Punishment was determined by the results of an online poll. Besides burning, the options included shredding, drowning and facing a firing squad. Jones said voters had chosen to set fire to the book, according to a video of the proceedings. So the Qur'an was burned. 

The hateful act drew little publicity inside the USA, but provoked angry condemnation in the Af-Pak region, where it was reported in the local media and where anti-American sentiment already runs high. Last week, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan condemned the burning in an address before the Parliament, and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan on Thursday called on the United States to bring those responsible for the Qur'an burning to justice. A prominent Afghan cleric, Mullah Qyamudin Kashaf, the acting head of the influential Ulema Council of Afghanistan and a Karzai appointee, also called for American authorities to arrest and try Terry Jones in the Qur'an burning.

Obviously, the U.S. government will not take any action against the Christian pastor. There is absolute freedom in this country to trash a religion, its founder and its holy book, although Tomahawks may be fired and bombs dropped to kill anyone considered hostile to the USA. The U.S. government doesn't have to put the suspect into a lengthy trial process; it is easier this way to simply vaporize him, his family and tribe, and the neighborhood he lived!

I am sure many westerners would see no problem with such a politically secular and chauvinistic attitude, considered so outlandish, one-sided or hypocritical by so many in the East. They forget that every freedom that we enjoy has its limitations. When the rights of others are violated, it is no longer deemed freedom but can be an abuse or a crime. Many of these bigots and self-righteous nuts like Jones forget that we live in a highly connected world in which information flies instantly. So the provocation here can trigger a political-diplomatic tsunami elsewhere. And we have witnessed plenty of such occurrences in recent years. 

Consider for instance, the reaction to the demolition of the Buddha statues in Afghanistan. In the days following the Taliban insanity, scores of Muslim houses of worship were burned down in many Buddhist majority countries in south and south-east Asia. The same was the consequence in Nepal during the height of Iraqi occupation when thousands of Nepalese Hindus burned at least two mosques including the "Jamaa" mosque, the largest mosque in the capital Katmandu, in protest against the killing of 12 Nepalese who had been working as cooks and cleaners for the occupation forces by an Iraqi insurgent group in August 31, 2004. In Nepalgunj, Nepal's western capital, nine houses inhabited by Muslims were burnt down. At least three Muslims were killed; several Muslim shops and businesses were also destroyed by the angry mob. 

And who can forget the post-9/11 backlash in the USA - the steady stream of more than 800 cases of violence and discrimination suffered by American Muslims at the hands of know-nothing abusers? (It is worth nothing that while Muslims make up about 1 percent of the U.S. population, they are victims in 14 percent of religious discrimination cases. These range from homicides and mosque burnings to job, school and zoning law abuses, according to the Justice Department.)

Afghanistan is not impervious to information either. Its people had more than its share of troubles since the 1970s with foreign occupation forces and their stooges. Deeply religious and reflexively volatile, it has long been highly reactive to perceived insults against Islam. Thus the provocative desecration of the Qur'an in Gainesville was not lost in its information radar screen. Last Friday some 20,000 protesters overran the compound of the United Nations in Mazar-i-Sharif, the northern Afghan city, during which 12 people died. The dead included at least seven United Nations workers, and five Afghans. The top U.N. official in Afghanistan blamed Taliban infiltrators for the killings. Violent protests against the burning continued on Saturday in Kandahar where 9 people got killed and 81 injured. 

The attack once again underscored the latent hostility toward the nine-year foreign presence here, even in a city long considered to be among the safest in Afghanistan. The indiscriminate NATO bombing campaigns and drone attacks that have killed thousands of civilians have only reinforced the perception amongst most Afghans, including the western-back government of Karzai, that these western forces and their mercenaries have no respect for Afghan lives. They want them out. 

Terry Jones, the provocateur responsible for triggering this latest episode, was well aware of the consequences of his sacrilegious action. He remains unrepentant and says that given the chance he would do it all over again. He audaciously demanded that the United States and United Nations take "immediate action" against Muslim nations in retaliation for the deaths. "The time has come to hold Islam accountable," he said.

Such deranged talks from a bigoted Christian pastor should not surprise us. In the post-9/11 era these Christian zealots have been trying everything possible to expand the West's war against the Muslim world. Knowing very well that they are protected by laws, these provocateurs have abused the notion of freedom of speech to incite violence, thereby endangering the lives of too many innocent people. And one death is too many!

It is high time for the U.S. government to understand that their nonchalant attitude against these 'terrorists' sends out a very incoherent message to the rest of the world when they see the same government justifying their bombing campaigns against hideouts of a radical Muslim cleric for inciting violence against occupation forces in a Muslim land. They call it the pinnacle of hypocrisy! It is simply inexcusable.


Dr Habib Siddiqui has authored nine books. His book: "Democracy, Politics and Terrorism - America's Quest for Security in the Age of Insecurity" is available at

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  10 Comments   Comment

  1. Asia from USA

    Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim,

    Looking at this situation rationally and against the backdrop of Quran and Sunna, I see this as a test for the Muslim Community. We as a group are currently incredibly ignorant of our Deen.

    For example, it seems as if both the common people as well as the leadership (Mullahs, Presidents, etc) are completely ignroant to the fact that the best way to correctly dispose of a Quran is through BURNING; completely destroying the letters of the Mushaf so nothing dirty/dishonorable happens to them.

    Rasulallah (saw) also told us not to destroy the idols of other people because that would cause them to destroy things that are of religious importance to us. Well, look at what destroying the Buddha statues did for our community. MULTIPLE Masjids and Muslim Lives were destroyed in return.

    We can not hope that anyone but ALLAH will come to our aid, so we may as well stop complaining that the US or any other country is not doing anything to protect the Muslim Community. Allah tells us not to take them as Friends/Protectors. Gosh, I wonder why. We need to come together as the one Ummah that we were created to be, stop this Nationalism which is Haram and become more knowledgeable in this way of life, because it is our ignorance that is destroying us.

    Any good in the above statement is from Allah and bad in this statement is a fault of my own, and Insha-Allah HE will protect us from our faults and bring us all closer to HIM. Ameen.

    As Salaam wa Alaikum

  2. Nuraini from Malaysia

    To many of us in the east, where our cultures all favour social harmony over the

    individual's interests and desires, we view provocateurs as pretty much the same as

    terrorists as they both sow discord and enmity in the land. The terrorist starts with the

    killing right away, but the provocateur leaves a trail of fighting and killing in his wake. But

    the western cultures value the individual much more than the society and it is in such a

    culture that hypocrisy like this can be found.

    To be honest, I mostly felt amused over this man - I don't believe that he qualifies to be

    called a 'pastor'. Imagine the All-Seeing God looking over this puny human attempting to

    'hold trial' over His Word, I almost pity him. No, I do in fact pity him, if he does not repent.

  3. Ajazz Saadut from US

    It would have been best if Pastor Terry "Fame Monster" Jones, head of a small church in Gainesville, Florida, had never been allowed to grab media attention and notoriety by threatening to burn a Koran on September 11th 2010 to protest the construction of a Muslim community center near the site of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. When you hear crazy people yelling crazy things on the train you ignore them. You don't ask them for an interview. But somehow this guy's sad publicity stunt has become a worldwide news story. And, despite the fact that Jones has temporarily "suspended" plans to burn a Koran, violent protests have erupted in Afghanistan anyway. (The Five Best Tweets About the Koran Burning Insanity. Share 0diggsdigg by Beverly) Gayle King, editor of Oprah's O magazine, had a more reflective response:

    "I realized this morning: the way I feel Pastor Jones does not represent the same way most Muslims feel about the 9/11 highjackers." Later, on her Gayle King Radio Show she said that Terry Jones is a terrorist who held the whole world hostage. October 2010

    My comments:

    Terry Jones called off his bonfire of Qur'ans after claiming he had a deal with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf that would move the Islamic Center from lower Manhattan near the site of 9/11 attacks. Imam Feisal quickly denied that he had agreed to move his project.

    Beverly called Terry Jones a Fame Monster, who wants to become famous. Gayle King said it best. She said, "Terry Jones is a terrorist". Yes, Terry Jones is a Terry-rist


  4. paagle from usa

    This article is chock full of false equivalencies and whataboutery.

    "there is absolute freedom in this country to trash a religion, its founder and its holy book, although Tomahawks may be fired and bombs dropped to kill anyone considered hostile to the USA. The U.S. government doesn't have to put the suspect into a lengthy trial process"

    These are not comparable. One deals with laws internal to the nation, one deals with external relations. Not that I consider it a valid standard, but Islam does recognize the difference between relations within a community and outside. (Unfortunately it also tilts laws in favor of those with the favored faith).

    The laws in favor of free speech ensure that unjust and/or nonsensical practices don't become enshrined in law or custom. Furthermore, Muslims use their religion as a basis to say all sorts of horrible things against non-Muslims. I've seen on the streets of Seattle Muslims preaching very offensive things about various non-Muslim practice (my mother, wife, sister and female friends are not whores because you can see their shape and sometimes their bare arms and legs). I see the flag of my country burned all over the Muslim world. Muslims seem to think its fine to use their religion as a rhetorical device (at best - in Muslim countries rhetoric is too often followed by violence) against non-believers, to say those people are less than the faithful, but get upset when other people speak against the religion used to disparages them.

    While I agree that our govt is too quick to resort to weapons that cause massive casualties, such events must be treated on a case-by-case basis. I'm sure the readers of Islamicity will disagree with my assessment of these cases, but to imply as Dr. Siddiqi does that the US engages in willy-nilly bombing of foreign peoples is wrong and not useful to reaching any understanding between peoples.

  5. Bob Dobalina from USA

    Rob said "How would Mr Jones feel if the local mosque burnt the

    stars and stripes and held a bible burning in his town. He is ignorant rude and uncaring. He deserves all Allah gives him."

    Would American authorities allow Mr Jones to murder 20 Muslims in revenge as happened in Afghanistan? If that was true, I would suggest that Muslims burn flags and bibles until there are no more Muslims in America.

  6. kovitz from Canada

    That's what Terry Jones wanted, he opened the tiger cage.

    We can not blame the tiger!!!!

  7. Judi from USA

    Jones and is followers will answer to Allah for their deeds--as well as those who react (and how they react) ---burning the Quran does not "erase" its words--the words started out in the mouths of the believers not on paper. Spend your time memorizing the words and The Words will always be with you.

    Better for Allah to handle the punishment than for mere man to decide the punishment- A wrong met with a wrong does not a right make.------WHO will burn in the hereafter?..WHO will sit by the waters?........

  8. Maya V from AK

    Most of the time freedom of speech is just a hypocrisy and Glittering generalities pricinples in the mind control techniques. Where was it when wikileaks published the news? Why is that anti-semitism is looked down while Muslim bashing is a fashion?

    This devil should be punished for inciting hatred. He was warned by US officials about the consequences. His actions resulted not only the mental agony of billions but also in deaths. He deserves punishment.

    Side note: Before calling others, he should have looked at the mirror to see who resembles devil.

  9. Rob from Canada

    The pastor in question is responsible for the out come. He had been warned and knew full

    well what would happen. Yes it was wrong of the Muslims to kill afterwards. I know that

    God asks us to turn the other cheek, but we only have two, so I suppose after trying it his

    way we are allowed to strike back. How would Mr Jones feel if the local mosque burnt the

    stars and stripes and held a bible burning in his town. He is ignorant rude and uncaring.He

    deserves all Allah gives him.

  10. Farzana Razvi from USA

    We as Muslims should use the tactics that are prescribed by the Qur'an and the sunnah of the Prophet (sas),none of which included killing of innocent people and hate speech.The Prophet (sas) never resorted to violence in spite of people calling him a madman,a magician etc.They even tried to kill him and used very derogatory speech to address him yet he was very patient and Allah (swt) rewarded him and the Muslim ummah with victory.