Last September, pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida cancelled his plans to burn the Quran amid outspoken condemnation from religious leaders (like Interfaith Alliance President and State of Belief Host Rev. Welton Gaddy) and national security concerns. Yet this past Sunday, Jones seemed to basically renege on his decision not to burn a Quran when he oversaw a mock trial and “execution” of a Quran at his small Florida church. After soaking the Quran in kerosene for an hour, pastor Wayne Sapp set it aflame with the approval of Jones and in the presence of nearly thirty other members of the church. While it may not have drawn the huge crowd he had expected at the cancelled September Quran bonfire, it remains an absolutely reprehensible act which only serves to increase tension between faiths and encourage extremists of all faiths.
Jones states that “We had a court process. We tried to set it up as fair as possible, which you can imagine, of course, is very difficult,” but given that Jones fully admits he has never read the Quran, has no understanding of Shariah law, and has no legal training, it seems he can only be deluding himself into thinking that this “trial” was in any way fair or just. In fact, he shows little more than ignorance and intolerance in his attitude and actions, a dangerous combination which threatens both national security and interfaith relations. In a nation that values freedom of religion and diversity, Jones’ actions have no place and only serve to discredit his own faith and religion as a whole.
This incident is just one more example of the rise in Islamophobia in the US and follows on the heels of Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) hearings on the “radicalization” of the American Muslim community. Such bigotry only proves the need to educate the public and policy-makers alike. Without engaging immediately in these issues through education and dialogue, the US risks becoming hostile to certain religions, betraying the very principles on which it was founded. To this end, there is currently a Sense of Congress resolution in the House of Representatives that expresses the need for our government to counter anti-Muslim sentiment, bigotry and violence and I hope you will take a moment now to email your Representative and ask him or her to support this legislation. You can do so via Interfaith Alliance’s action alert by clicking here.
Click here to listen to Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, discuss the increasing anti-Muslim trend plaguing our country, the impact he believes it is having and who he believes is behind it. You’ll also hear Greg Lebel, Assistant Professor of Political Management at The George Washington University on the role of religion during the campaign season. (Please note, these are extended versions of the interviews originally broadcast nationwide.) -Ed.