"Church plans Quran-burning event" reads the relatively obscure link on CNN's website. You can't be serious...
In what has largely just been a blogosphere outrage so far (although I would imagine this juicy of a story will go mainstream rather quickly), the "Dove World Outreach Center" has taken upon itself to launch a worldly, dove-like message of hate against Muslims. If you thought the Danish Muhammad cartoon incident was bad, brace yourself. This might just be worse.
Why? Because it's in America... as if radical Muslims needed another reason to hate America. Well, they got one anyways.
I'm not even going to touch on the idiocy of the event planned by "Pastor" Terry Jones from Hatesville, FL. That should be obvious if you have any sort of brain whatsoever. Feel free to cut and paste:
Dear Dove World Outreach Center:
Go [insert your favorite expletive here] yourself.
The Rest of Us Christians
But the issue did inspire me to write about radicalism, a practice that anyone who knows me will know I abhor. I don't really like radicalism about anything, but for the benefit of our Floridian nincompoops (I'm happy to see that that word actually passed Firefox's spell checker), I'll focus on religion.
Radicals don't really need much goading; most of them have probably made up their minds one way or another and not much you or I could say will change that. Radicals of the "Islamic" persuasion probably just see Qu'ran burning as an opportunity to recruit those "on the bubble" to their cause. Thanks Terry.
Radicals of the "Christian" variety (I put Islamic and Christian in quotes because I don't think radicals properly represent either religion) think that it's a good idea to burn the Muslim holy book. Thanks again Terry.
While we're on the subject of thanking Terry for things - muchas gracias in advance for the backlash that American soldiers, aid workers, etc. living in the Muslim world will receive as a result of your actions.
As with most things, I try and think of solutions when presented with a problem; in this case radicalism. But before I do that let's talk about what won't work when trying to get either side's radicals to grow a brain.
Let's assume that Christian radicals and Islamic radicals (I'm going to leave Jews out of this one entirely) have a common goal: either eradicate or convert the opposite side. Admittedly, the Islamists of today have been known to use some pretty violent acts to perpetuate their cause, while modern Christianists (I just made up a new word) burn holy books. But we shouldn't forget that Christianity was (and still has the potential to be) used as an excuse for brutality in the past and some of the rhetoric coming from the great State of Florida today is just as appalling as that coming from the other side.
So if the goal is to eradicate or convert, the method by which this is accomplished is hate. Whether claiming jihad against the heathens or calling Islam the religion of the devil, the tool is hate. And it's a very sharp tool indeed. However, if one looks rationally at a largely irrational situation, one can see fairly quickly that neither side will be eradicated or converted by hate from the other side. Radicalism will not end when one side "wins the war" against the other.
Which brings me to the solution, albeit one that will take time and will not be easy. Put simply, Christians must solve the problem of radical Christianity. And Muslims must solve the problem of radical Islam.
As a predominately Christian nation, there is nothing that America (or arguably non-Muslim Americans) can say or do that will dissuade Islamists from radicalism. I would even assume that quite often this has the opposite effect. It is up to Muslims - the moderate, peace loving, intelligent ones like my Turkish family, Pakistani colleague, and countless Iraqi friends - to unite against radicalism. You don't have to agree on which lineage is the true Islamic lineage from the Prophet or whether you pray five times a day or three; but you do have to agree that the Taliban, al Qaeda and other radical groups that promote violence and degrade women don't properly represent you and the deep traditions on which your faith is built.
Similarly, as a nation gripped by Islamophobia, there is not much even a moderate Muslim can say to a American Christian radical to change his/her mind. That has to come from us: the Christians of the world who strive for peace and reconciliation amongst all people of all races, nationalities, and faiths. We are the ones that must stand up against the hate represented by Pastor Jones and his bigoted parishioners. The National Association of Evangelicals is on the right track by calling for the cancellation of the bonfire, but the outrage also has to come from the people (see carefully-worded letter in italics above).
Christianity, like Islam, at its core preaches love and moderation, giving followers a blueprint for how to lead better lives serving others. Yes, there are the occasional epic battles in the holy books, but I'm pretty sure some of those were just added later so that it would make a better movie.
To make a long story even longer... Love thy neighbor. Reject radicalism. Educate yourself about those things that you fear the most.
And by all means root against the University of Florida at any chance you get.