Blue: Koran burning does not warrant murders

Brandon Blue

Remember last year, around Sept. 11, when Pastor Terry Jones of Florida’s Dove World Outreach Center said he was going to exercise his freedom of speech and burn a Koran? Remember how the Westboro Baptist Church actually did burn a Koran on Sept. 11, 2010?

Well, Jones actually did it. And guess what happened?

On Friday, 15 people were murdered in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan over Jones’ burning.

So the natural question is this: Who’s responsible?

First, we have to ask what happened. In Florida, Pastor Jones held a “trial”in a kangaroo court with the Koran in the dock.

Predictably, Jones, finding no irony in his own organization’s name (the Dove World Outreach Center), found the Koran guilty. A copy of the Koran was promptly incinerated by a worshiper, Wayne Sapp.

What happened in Mazar-i-Sharif? A crowd of what I can only assume to be mental patients recently sprung from an asylum somehow heard the news and decided to kill some U.N. personnel — people who have absolutely nothing to do with Pastor Jones, nor even specifically the United States.

I find this response unacceptable. I appreciated the criticism of Pastor Jones. It was an interesting look at the First Amendment — when should we use our rights, and when should we restrain ourselves?

I came to the conclusion that part of enjoying the right to freedom of speech is knowing when and when not to use it. I chose to disagree with Jones’ intended burning and applauded him for what I interpreted as seeing reason and calling everything off.

It seems the scales on Jones’ eyes returned. I now view the Dove Outreach Center, as all reasonable people should, as having no redeeming merits, guilty of fomenting hate, figuratively and literally playing with fire, and reaching out nowhere but into its own proverbial pants to spiritually masturbate itself over its disgusting view of justice.

This said, Jones and his rogue gallery in Florida incited nothing but — I think, rightly-placed — anger. Were I more fervently religious and someone so openly mocked my religion, I can see some anger on behalf of myself and believers elsewhere. The Muslim community has every right to condemn Jones’ thick head and hard heart and should. I certainly do.

But killing people, even killing Jones, were Friday’s mob able to do so, is absolutely wrong. I can’t even begin to describe the foaming-at-the-mouth overreaction that unfolded in Afghanistan. All that Jones and Sapp did, misguided though it may be, was burn a book.

That’s what the Koran is — a book. It’s just a book, printed on regular paper with regular words. What matters are the ideas in that book — that’s what makes the Koran so precious to so many millions of people. I understand that Muslims have a great deal more respect for the Koran than most do for other books, the Bible included, yet the Koran is still, in reality, paper and ink.

Burning the Koran’s tangible form does to Islam what burning a Bible does to Christianity — absolutely nothing.

This is exactly why I’m not going to blame Islam: Islam is only an idea. A single idea does not push people to terrorism. A single idea does not drive someone to kill.

Bear in mind that people weren’t killed in America — they were killed in Afghanistan, which is a country different from ours in ways besides the religious ones. Stories of the U.S. “kill team”are still fresh, I’m sure, in the minds of the Afghani people. Reuters reports that leaders such as Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai and Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, have condemned Jones’ Koran burning. It’s no stretch for me to see reasons the Afghani mob justified to themselves murdering innocent people over this.

Yet, it was wrong. The world holds the Afghani people to a higher standard. They aren’t savages. They’re just like you and me. Their perversion of justice, killing unrelated innocents, is far more grave than any minor infraction Pastor Jones is guilty of.

The question of what exactly unfolded Friday and why is bigger than this column, but I look forward, as I hope the rest of the world does, to the murderers of UN personnel being brought to justice.