The chorus of voices speaking out against the Rev. Terry Jones’ plans to hold a Koran burning on September 11th grew louder every day this week. Terry Jones is the pastor of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida. It is ironic that a church that includes “outreach” in its name is behind these plans. It is far from a winsome approach, obviously, to burn the books of another religion. This church is a small one, and I’m sure the pastor has relished the attention that the media continues to heap on him. It all began with his abhorrent mission which drew excessive coverage of his church’s “Burn a Koran Day”.
The interesting aspect of this spectacle has been the prominent voices of today’s leaders who have waded into this quagmire. General Petraeus began the admonitions against such an extremist, incendiary protest on Monday, September 6th. “Images of the burning of a Koran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence,” Gen. David Petraeus said. “Were the actual burning to take place, the safety of our soldiers and civilians would be put in jeopardy and accomplishment of the mission would be made more difficult.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the 50-member church’s plan “outrageous” and “aberrational.” She stated that it was “unfortunate, it is not who we are.”
By Thursday, September 9th, President Obama spoke out on the plan to burn the Koran. The President did avoid calling the pastor by name when he stated that “the idea that we would burn sacred texts of someone else’s religion is contrary to what this country stands for. It is contrary to what his nation was founded on.” Last of all Defense Secretary Robert Gates called Rev. Jones to ask him to reconsider his plans. While everyone emphasized the security risk to our troops to support their incessant decrying of Terry Jones, the spectacle of such a concerted effort to silence dissent and protest is more than a little disturbing. Certainly everyone involved has Constitutional 1st Amendment rights to speak out and to protest. However, it is disconcerting to witness the strong arm of government officials uniting its power to quell protest.
Eventually the entire debacle has brought into focus the fact that there is a blaring parallel to the debate about building a mosque at ground zero. Silencing protest is un-American. No one questioned the right of PINK to protest during the Bush presidency of eight years. Americans of every stripe, including media outlets and politicians, spoke of then President Bush FAR WORSE than a “dog”, as Obama recently complained about his own personal treatment. As disgraceful and offensive as political debate may become at times, it is certainly crucial that we are all diligent guardians of first amendment rights. Defenders of the plan to build a mosque at ground zero seem only aware of the right to practice one’s religion with little acknowledgement at the moment for freedom of speech. It has been the voices of citizens of New York City and other American citizens who spoke out against that particular location. This is a major difference between the two issues since the recent outcry against Terry Jones’ plans to burn Korans has primarily come from some of our highest government officials.
Contrast the treatment of this radical Christian pastor in Florida to the reception given Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of the ground zero mosque in New York City. As recently as Friday, September 10th, President Obama made a point to reiterate his original position on construction of the mosque.:
One of those inalienable rights is to practice their religion freely. And what that means is that if you could build a church on a site, you could build a synagogue on a site, if you could build a Hindu temple on a site, then you should be able to build a mosque on the site.
Today America remembers the terrorist attacks on 9/11. It seems to me that there are so many other statements and issues that need to be addressed by our President rather than continuing to misuse the bully pulpit to flail away at American citizens’ opposition to the Cordoba House.
Imam Rauf continues to insist that the Cordoba House is an effort to “build bridges.” It is part of his lifelong work of “outreach.” Taxpayers recently footed the bill for the Imam’s State Department journey to the Middle East for more “outreach.” If you are a Muslim traveling overseas to interact with other Muslims like yourself, exactly where is the “outreach”?
It is interesting to notice the halfhearted attempt to re-label the project Park 51. In July, spokesman Oz Sultan said, “the new name puts emphasis on the community center aspect of the project rather than religion.” However, in his opinion piece this week in the New York Times, Imam Rauf continued to refer to the mosque project as the “Cordoba House”:
“Above all, the project will amplify the multifaith approach that the Cordoba Initiative has deployed in concrete ways for years. Our name, Cordoba, was inspired by the city in Spain where Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed in the Middle Ages during a period of great cultural enrichment created by Muslims. Our initiative is intended to cultivate understanding among all religions and cultures.”
Here, the Imam is insisting that his goal in this project is one of outreach. But his determination to cling to the original name of the mosque, Cordoba House, is revealing. Cordoba was a Moorish capital after Muslims conquered a city in Catholic Spain. If the Imam were actually concerned and motivated by bringing peace and healing as he states, wouldn’t he respond with some compromise on the location of his dream project? There is no shortage of mosques in this area, with one located only two blocks away. The issue does not involve religious intolerance when there are hundreds of mosques in NYC.
Amir Taheri, in his article, “Islam Center’s Eerie Echo of Ancient Terror”, explains the religious symbolism that the ground zero location embodies:
In fact, the proposed structure is known in Islamic history as a rabat — literally a connector. The first rabat appeared at the time of the Prophet.
The Prophet imposed his rule on parts of Arabia through a series of ghazvas, or razzias (the origin of the English word “raid”). The ghazva was designed to terrorize the infidels, convince them that their civilization was doomed and force them to submit to Islamic rule. Those who participated in the ghazva were known as the ghazis, or raiders.
After each ghazva, the Prophet ordered the creation of a rabat — or a point of contact at the heart of the infidel territory raided. The rabat consisted of an area for prayer, a section for the raiders to eat and rest and facilities to train and prepare for future razzias. Later Muslim rulers used the tactic of ghazva to conquer territory in the Persian and Byzantine empires. After each raid, they built a rabat to prepare for the next razzia.
It is no coincidence that Islamists routinely use the term ghazva to describe the 9/11 attacks against New York and Washington.
Does this graphic depiction of the perception sure to be clearly comprehended in the Islamic world really amount to “outreach” or a “bridge” to peace? The Imam now says that the location cannot possibly be changed because to do so would cause security risks to American troops. His position was reinforced once again by our President as recently as September 10th, as noted above.
In Soledad O’Brien’s interview on CNN with Imam Rauf, he voiced his own opinion of Terry Jones’ plan to burn Korans:
O’BRIEN: You’ve heard about this pastor in Florida, Terry Jones, who is proposing burning Korans on 9/11. What do you think of that?
RAUF: I would plead with him to seriously [sic] what he is doing.
RAUF: It’s going to feed into the radicals of the Muslim world. It’s dangerous. General Petraeus has said that. It is something that is not the right thing to do on that ground.
O’BRIEN: Do you think he has a right to do it?
RAUF: And more importantly — and more importantly — well, we have freedom in this country, freedom of speech. But with freedom comes responsibility.
I agree with Rauf’s point about responsibility that comes with freedom. I think that he would do well to apply this same principle to his own Cordoba Initiative.
With security risks at stake due to the actions of a 50 person, radical extremist church in Florida, and now with the precise location of a mosque in NYC bringing us more- what- attacks by radical Islamic terrorists? Will more soldiers die in Iraq and Afghanistan due to our choices at home as we slog through debates about constitutional rights in America? Outreach to such peaceful religious groups sure is volatile. I am afraid at this rate that we may need to burn some more bridges if they are erected by the offensive aggression of the Cordoba Initiative. And of course, I am only referring to engaging in more strong political discourse rather than quaking and quivering in fear of the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and who will continue to attack our troops on the battlefield.