Ignorance

(Originally, I wrote this in September of 2010, but did not post it, as the person in question changed his mind and did not follow through on his proposed burning of the Qu’ran and Talmud. I am posting it now, as the “pastor” changed his mind again and was part of a group that “put the Qur’an on trial“, convicted it and proceeded to burn the Muslim holy book. )

I am so deeply disgusted with the plans of the “pastor” in Florida who plans to burn copies of the Qur’an and Talmud on the September 11th anniversary. I feel ill when I think about someone so completely ignorant. How can any thinking human being be so disrespectful?

The person in question is the senior pastor of a church in Florida. This church has previously put anti-Islam signs on the front lawn of his church and congregation members sent their children to school wearing T-shirts with anti-Islamic messages on the front. The pastor invited Christians to participate as a way of remembering the attacks in 2001.

I am stunned by such displays of overwhelming ignorance.

I really dislike ignorance. Ignorance, in contrast to stupidity, to me means that a person has chosen not to understand something. It is a choice that a person makes to be ignorant. There is a world of knowledge and information available to anyone. It’s so sad when people choose not to use the available resources.

WTC Memorial Lights from the Empire State Building
WTC Memorial Lights from the Empire State Building

The event is timed to coincide with the anniversary of September 11th. The implication here is two-fold. The first is that followers of Islam were the cause of that tragic attack. The second is that only Christians died in the attack.

On the first point, you need to ask, at what point does a persons activities no longer reflect the values of his or her community? The 19 terrorists murdered 2,977 people of all races, religions and countries. Why should those 19 people still be considered followers of the prophet after committing an atrocity of such a scale? Would Christians consider someone like David Koresh (his Branch Davidian followers killed 4 federal marshals) or Rev. Jim Jones (he forced 909 of his Peoples Temple congregation to commit suicide) to represent mainstream Christian values? No, of course not.

A related argument is to ask if it is right to judge the actions of a community of about 1.5 billion people based on the actions of 19 people? Would it be fair to judge Christians based on the actions of David Koresh or Jim Jones? Would it be fair to condemn all Roman Catholic males as ephebophiles or pedophiles because of 4,392 priests allegedly involved in the Catholic sex scandals in the United States?

No, that would not be valid. And so it must also be when it comes to September 11. It is time to stop associating 9/11 with Islam. There was widespread condemnation of the atrocity by Muslims around the world in the hours and days after the attack. The Islamic community made it clear that they did not support the actions of those 19 so-called Muslims or the al-Qaeda leadership.

The second fallacy from the “pastor” is that only Christian Americans died on 9/11. In fact 2.1% of the people killed on September 11 were Muslim. That’s three times higher than the Muslim population in the U.S. (0.6%). About 15% of the victims were Jews. The victims likely included Hindus and Sikhs and atheists and agnostics. More than 90 countries lost citizens.

The actions of this pastor and his followers are a symbol of the rising Islamophobia in America. Another example is the campaign against the Park51 community centre, also known as Cordoba House, in New York City. It made me just as ill when I read what was happening there too.

Freedom of religion was one of the founding reasons for the existence of the United States. It is a basic human right – to practice a religion without fear. The early colonists fled the enforced religions of their birth countries to seek religious freedom in the New World. It is protected by the First Amendment in the Constitution, which also forms the first part of the Bill of Rights.

When they attack another religion by physically destroying their holy book, these Floridian religious bigots are going against the very freedoms that their ancestors sought and worked so hard to achieve.

By turning against the founding principles of the country, they do a great disservice to their countries heritage of free and open religion, free from persecution and government interference.

I also feel that so many of the people who have such hatred or fear of Islam do not understand the deep connections between the three Abrahamic religions. I doubt that this pastor is aware of these connections.

The Dome of the Rock, the location of the First and Second Temple and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Dome of the Rock, the location of the First and Second Temple and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Muslims, Christians and Jews all pray to the same God – all are monotheistic religions. Jesus was a Jew, born of Jewish parents. It was at the Second Temple, the most holy place in Judaism, that he threw out the moneychangers. He was crucified on the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover, a celebration by the Jews of their release from slavery in Egypt by Moses. The Prophet Muhammad is buried in Medina with an empty tomb next to him for Jesus, who was considered a great prophet in Islam. When Muhammad made his night journey (Isra and Mi’raj) to heaven, he met Moses, who counseled Muhammad to petition Allah to reduce the number of Salat prayers from 50 to 5 per day. According to tradition, the Foundation Stone, which is currently inside the Dome of the Rock, is the spot where God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, and was the location of the First Temple (the location of the Ark of the Covenant), and Second Temple (the location where Jesus threw out the money changers) and is the spot where Muhammad ascended to heaven during Isra and Mi’raj. According to tradition, Abraham and his son Ishmael build the Kaaba, the most holy place in Islam, towards which all Muslims pray during the Salat.

Speakers' Corner, Hyde Park, London
Speakers' Corner, Hyde Park, London

The three great monotheistic religions are deeply tied together through tradition, history, geography and devotion to a single God.

(This is an important topic to me, and because I wanted to adequately express my feelings, I’ve spent about 8-10 hours writing and rewriting. I also did not specifically name or link to the pastor or his organization because I don’t want to provide any more publicity – it seems that this might be the true root cause of his actions)

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