I’m about to get political and religious, so if that isn’t your thing, feel free to skip over this blog entry. You’ve been warned.
The past few days, I’ve been inundated with news regarding Reverend Terry Jones of Florida. You know, the guy who declared September 11th to be Quran burning day in the US. Though, in my opinion, this was a large publicity stunt designed to gather followers to his church and deep-pocketed conservative sympathizers to his side, and though he’s now stating that he’s not going to carry out his protest, the results of his actions are far-reaching and probably more dangerous than he realized, or cared about.
First, quick question. It’s okay to vilify every Muslim on the planet and burn their sacred text because of the actions of several extremists…is this the message I’m getting? Because if it is…I’d like to theoretically suggest we vilify every Christian, Catholic, and Mormon on the planet and would like to offer up the Bibles and Books of Mormon to the sacrificial fires. After all, they’re all responsible for the actions of embarrassingly extremist groups, like Jerry Falwell, who blamed the 9/11 attacks on feminists, or the Westboro Baptist Church, which insists on protesting military funerals with horrific signs and screams, dishonoring our fallen heroes. Or how about the Concerned Christians who had to be deported from Israel in 1999 because they were planning to attack holy sites in Jerusalem to earn admission to heaven? Or the Army of God which routinely attacks medical clinics which support abortion or birth control?
Oh…suddenly, it’s not okay to vilify an entire group of people for the actions of several militantly extremist groups…is it?
Right, Left, Conservative, Liberal, Atheist, Agnostic, Christian, or Muslim. I don’t care. Each organization has extremists among them which the rest of the organization is embarrassed to be associated with. I’m not glorifying or idealizing any group – everyone has their people hanging out in the dark corners.
Here’s the deal though; yes, in America we proudly proclaim our right to freedom of speech, religion, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is well within Rev. Jones’ rights to stage his protest and burn someone else’s holy texts. However disgusted it makes me personally, I will champion his freedom to assemble and protest.
But by the same token, I will champion any other organization’s right to assemble– and that means that if a group decides to build a mosque on the island of Manhattan, I believe they have a right to do so. It’s part and parcel of that whole freedom of speech and religion we love to shout about as Americans, but suddenly try to maneuver around when it’s used against us.
What Rev. Jones’ proposed was extremely dangerous to our troops and civilians overseas. Many of them are currently serving in countries where they may as well have targets painted onto their backs, and have worked for years to establish a tenuous relationship with the communities they’ve been thrust into. They’re living in already hostile conditions, and the local communities see our citizens as speaking on behalf of all Americans…(sort of like how we consider all Muslims to represent the extremists..no?). By enraging the Muslim world, Rev. Jones is putting the lives of our soldiers and civilians at risk – a fact which has been pointed out to him, repeatedly, by the White House.
Yes, he’s exercising his right to free speech. But, isn’t it sort of like shouting fire in a theater? It’s illegal to do so because a LOT of people are going to get hurt. If your free speech is going to incite violence, and you’re doing it with the INTENT to incite this violence, then I believe you should be held responsible for the violence that erupts as a result.
I don’t blame all Christians for the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church. I don’t blame all Muslims for what happened on 9/11. I don’t understand why we’re penalizing a group of Muslims who want to build a house of worship on the same island the World Trade Center stood on. It’s NOT directly on Ground Zero, and let’s just be honest; Manhattan is HARDLY holy ground. Visiting the remains of the WTC, I walked past bars, pawn shops, strip clubs/burlesque clubs, and smoke shops. On the same block as the memorial museum, there were prostitutes looking for a john.
In my opinion, if we’re going to stand for freedom of religion, speech, assembly, and protest, we have to be even handed. We can’t support the rights of one group and exclude another, simply because we don’t like what they have to say. I feel like we seem to be picking and choosing where and when we employ these rights, and when we remove them to serve some other cause. We’re taking dangerous turns with regards to the rights we guarantee our citizens, and I’m deathly afraid of where it’s going to lead us.
Alright, I know this is a hotbutton issue. Go ahead, let me hear it; tell me where you stand.