Friday, September 10, 2010

Thoughts on National Burn a Qur'an Day

This Saturday, on the nine year anniversary of the World Trade Center attack, Reverend Terry Jones along with the Dove World Outreach Center made plans to burn 200 copies of the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an. His own reasons for doing such an act are easily summed up with his catchphrase, "Islam is of the Devil". His hope is to show awareness of the evils of the Islamic faith by doing one of the greatest sacriledges that one can possibly do against Islam.

As I'm typing this now, There's been many developments to the story, including waffling on the decision, a meeting that may or may not exist between him and the organizers of the upcoming Manhattan Islamic community center, and a bid by Donald Trump to purchase the site for 125% of its purchased price.

Let's step back for a bit and start from the ground up regarding this entire situation.

America and Religious Freedom

The United States of America has long stood by its strong message and mission statement towards religious freedom. The First Amendment of the United States constitution outlines the basic rights towards religious freedom, which prohibits the making of any law that respects an establishment of religion or impedes the free exercise of a religion.

A recent event that outlined this example was the controversy towards building an Islamic community center within two blocks of Ground Zero. Known as the "Ground Zero Mosque", many protested its location and implied that its intent is to serve as a "victory monument in the name of Islam", despite the fact that it is not being built by any terrorist organizations, but instead by concerned Islamic leaders who wish to help and give back to the community. This issue is fraught with a lot of emotions and feelings, but to deny its construction is to violate our own Constitution.

The announced Qur'an burning polarized the nation in very similar ways to the Ground Zero Mosque. Some that would argue for the Ground Zero Mosque would then argue against the Qur'an burning, simply on grounds of protecting whom they believe to be a persecuted Islamic community in the United States, which have been erroneously linked to an extremist terrorist organization.

Coming from a pure legal perspective, burning the Qur'an is a protected free exercise of religion. Terry Jones would be burning the Qur'an as an exercise in his religion, and therefore, the government cannot intercede. In this manner, I am for the *right* of them being able to do this protest, because it's what America stands for in the Constitutional sense.

On other grounds, however, I am against the logic that Terry Jones is using to stage such a protest.

Eye for an Eye

One argument that I've seen often on the internet can be summed up as an eye for an eye.

"We see footage and pictures on the news all the time where flags, books, and effigys are being set on fire by extremely angry, oppressed people. If they are able to do these things, then why can't we?"

My answer is extremely simple: Just because they can do it, doesn't mean it's right. Copying them doesn't make it any more right.

There are many things in life that we see people do, some of them against moral, societal, or legal standards. Some will get into a justification or entitlement mindset, where to be on equal footing, one thinks that they can do the same exact mistake that they witnessed someone else doing.

"That person just started driving on the shoulder during traffic, I should be able to do that too!"

"My wife cheated on me with another man. If I do the same to her, that's fair, and then we'll be even"

"My best friend told someone a secret that I held dear, I'll let one of her secrets slip as well."

All of these are different ways of seeing the same issue. What gives some the desire to revenge rules upsets by doing the exact same thing? It's contrary to its purpose. Here's why.

- Doing the same tresspass accomplishes nothing, and most likely will make the situation worse. Let's take the example of the wife cheating on the husband. The initial response to the news in this context is clearly anger - they are angry about the fact that their wife cheated on them. The husband's next action will usually be a "cry for help", which can be many things. A "cry for help" can be anything from sitting down with his wife and expressing how he's feeling and opening the lines of communication, or it could be going out and doing the same thing that she did. Both will accomplish the "cry for help" (which is just a fancy way of saying "I want to try and feel better / get rid of the negative feelings I have"). However, the second reaction will only beget more anger - If he felt angry because of what she did, doesn't it stand to reason that if he did the exact same action as she did, that she'll get the same emotional response? If that's the case, then he's only made the situation worse.

- Failure to address the original concern. If the wife cheated, there's a damned good reason why, and if the husband goes and does the same thing that she did, he is only addressing a symptom of the real problem instead of attacking the root. If he talks with her, then perhaps he'll find out that she feels she isn't getting enough time, attention, love, support, communication, etc, and then they can solve the real problem instead of beight caught in the consequence. Communication can find out what the concerns are and how to fix them, going out and having a revenge lay won't.

- Risking violating your own rules. If the situation never arose, would you have consciously done the same thing with the same fervor that is fueling the reaction? If his wife hadn't cheated outside the relationship, would the husband have consciously decided that he should have an affair? Perhaps this husband has some very strict rules regarding the behavior and standards of what a married man should do - that he should never cheat on his wife could be one of them. However, if he sees his wife violate one of these tenets that *he* holds dear, should he decide to sleep with another, he's not making his decision consciously, only out of raw reaction, and in the process, violates one of his rules. This isn't a productive way to live, being reactionary to this extreme will only hold ourselves back.

Given all of these points now, think upon the following:

- If I burn this Qur'an, will this make the overall situation better or worse for all parties involved? This includes the US, Christian communities, Islamic communities, terrorist organizations and armed forces.
- If I burn this Qur'an, am I acknowledging and attempting to understand the original reasons behind the flag burnings that I've seen on the news?
- Would I have burned this Qur'an as a conscious choice if I had never seen an American flag being burned?

The Destruction of Knowledge

Another reason why I'm against the proposed Qur'an burnings is that I associate it with a desecration and brutal intent to destroy our own knowledge.

I am a spirit worker, a priestess of Arawn, and most of my Celtic-tied knowledge comes from two sources: spirit-taught knowledge and group knowledge, which going back far enough, also has roots in spirit-taught knowledge. The first is known as Unverifiable Personal Gnosis, or UPG. This is the concept that an individual's spiritual insights may be valid to them without being verified or acknowledged by others. The second is a mix of Shared Personal Gnosis (SPG) and Confirmed Gnosis (CG), in which SPG is gnosis that is shared by a number of people, with CG being a "graduated" SPG, where so many people believe it that it's almost universally accepted.

The closest that I have to a holy text is The Mabinogion, which is a collection of prose stories from medieval Welsh manuscripts. There are no specific things in that book that are outlined as to how you live your life, like how The Torah, The Bible, and The Qur'an do. A lot of this knowledge was destroyed through the course of time or radically altered to "fit" the Christian ideal. Because of this, a lot of knowledge that was possibly written down pertaining to my Patron Deity has been destroyed, all but the small story at the beginning of the text.

Both major parts of my life - my spritual and my logical side - abhor the destruction of knowledge. My spiritual side is a bit raw regarding how so much of my religion's knowledge was destroyed by the Christians, and my logical side argues that problems are a lot harder to solve when we lack the appropriate resources. These are the primary reasons why I personally oppose the proposed burning of the Qur'an.

As a sidenote, each religion takes burning its holy books rather differently. I asked Arawn in passing if he would oppose anyone burning the Mabinogion or other Celtic texts, and I felt a small simmer of anger, but most of it was wise and sage calmness. Basic response was "We've had our knowledge destroyed before, and it will be destroyed again in time. We'll always be here, and if someone seeks for us, we'll answer. If we want to be heard, we'll find one who listens."

The Qur'an has a totally different reaction towards burning, from what I understand. Burning the Qur'an is one of the worst things that you can possibly do to a Muslim - consider how careful they read it, ritually washing before even touching it to read of its words.

Subset Theory

Finally, the Qur'an burning will not accomplish its intent. In fact, even the intent is misled.

Terry Jones' intent is "Islam is of the Devil".

I propose that Terry Jones' true intent is "Extremist Islamic Terrorists is of the Devil". Why? Because although Extreme Islamic Terrorists (the ones behind 9/11 and other such acts) are Muslim by definition, but all Muslims are not Extreme Islamic Terrorists by default. This is basic subset theory.

If the second example is the case, then I might be inclined to agree - extreme religious terrorists of any sort are not desireable.

The stated reaction to "Islam is of the Devil" is to burn the Qur'an.

Let's see what burning the Qur'an will actually do:

- Sadden and outrage Muslims worldwide, most of whom have led peaceful and productive lives.
- Mobilize extreme Islamic terrorists into mobilizing against non-muslim troops (this targets US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq).
- Gives Al'Qaeda and other terrorist organizations a nice recruiting tool.

The final effect can be summed up as "Alienate Islam, Strengthen and Mobilize Extremists Islamic Terrorists"

"Islam is of the Devil" does not equal "Alienate Islam, Strengthen and Mobilize Extremists Islamic Terrorists"

"Extremist Islamic Terrorists is of the Devil" is actually very close to "Alienate Islam, Strengthen and Mobilize Extremists Islamic Terrorists", so in some ways, he's trying to manifest and create what his true intent is.

The current situations regarding Radical Extremist Terrorists is enough already, we need not add more fuel to the fire and try to manifest a reality that has a substancial capability to utterly destroy us.

The Final Word?

Tomorrow we'll see the final decision as to if the plans will go through. Terry Jones seems to be on the edge of the cliff, a truly torn person between the two options in front of him. Almost anyone with some sense of the religious can feel the internal struggle that he is going through right now. I sincerely hope that tonight, he prays and communes with his god, and finds the answers that he so desperately seeks.

If the Qur'an burning does go through, this will be an interesting time to be alive.

1 comment:

  1. As my Journalism Ethics and Legal Issues professor said about this case, "Yes, they have the right to do it, but nobody ever got smarter burning books."