Yesterday afternoon, as I played basketball in the driveway with my son and daughter, an argument arose over who hit the ball out of bounds. My feisty 10-year-old daughter tried to settle the argument by launching the ball at the back of her 12-year-old brother’s head. That made him so angry, he took the ball and kicked it into the woods. Game over.
Children have to be taught to settle disputes and express their opinions respectfully. Unfortunately, it’s a lesson some adults never seem to have learned.
Take, for example, Terry Jones, the pistol-packing Florida pastor who threatened to burn a Quran on 9/11 last year. Well, a little over a week ago, he… you guessed it. He burned a Quran.
If you recall, Jones didn’t go through with it last year because there was such an outcry from nearly everyone — President Obama, Secretary of Defense Gates, politicians from both sides of the aisle, celebrities, religious leaders, regular folk and pretty much anyone with a lick of common sense — that burning a Quran, and offending one and a half billion people, wasn’t a good or sane idea.
But it may have been General David Petraeus whose argument was the most convincing — at least for me. When I spoke with him last year, he boiled it down to a simple matter of life and death. General Petraeus said that there was nothing brave about burning the Quran over here while our soldiers pay the consequences over there — in Afghanistan, Iraq and now, Libya.
When I interviewed Jones last year, I did my level best to hear him out. But all I could think of was how I would feel, as a Christian, if somebody desecrated my most sacred book, the Bible. His only defense was to say that the Quran wasn’t sacred to him.
The leader of the Dove World Outreach Center — the irony in the name shouldn’t be lost on anyone — began this year’s campaign of hate with a new angle. Instead of a simple book burning, Jones decided to first put the holy book of Islam on “trial.” He dubbed it, “International Judge the Quran Day.” The thinking must have been that if the book were “guilty,” then it deserved to get burned.
About 30 people attended, 12 of whom formed the “jury.” For good measure, the mock trial featured a prosecuting attorney and defense lawyer. However, in case you have any doubts, it was Jones who was not only the “judge” in this kangaroo court but also the jury and executioner. I think you can guess the verdict. With the outcome certain, it’s a wonder Jones had it go on for more than six hours. After soaking a Quran in kerosene for an hour, Jones oversaw the torching of the book.
Fresh off last year’s circus as well as last week’s circus trial, Jones wants another 15 minutes of fame. So he’s now decided to fly to Dearborn, Michigan, on April 22 where he’ll protest outside the Islamic Center of America, the country’s largest mosque. Jones says he’s not protesting against Muslims, but that he’s protesting against Islamic law. He says he wants Muslims to “honor, obey and submit to the Constitution of the United States.”
Last I checked, I haven’t seen any lobbying efforts by Muslim Americans to have the U.S. Constitution overturned.
Ignoring Jones and hoping he disappears into obscurity doesn’t seem to work. If anything, he seems to have the survivability of a cockroach. Jones has to be confronted head-on, and that is exactly what an interfaith group of 35 pastors and imams from the Detroit-metro area is doing.
On Monday, the group spoke out against Jones’ visit and announced they were planning a prayer vigil in response. Reverend Charles Williams II of the King Solomon Baptist Church said, “As a Christian minister, silence for me would be consent.”
As much as I dislike giving Jones any more attention and a 16th minute of fame, silence and inaction in the face of bigotry don’t work. Worse, they can unfortunately — and incorrectly — signal approval or at the very least acceptance. Jones needs to realize that his words and actions make him the very thing he despises: He is no better than the fringe of Muslims who hate.
Hate masquerading as political protest is still hate, which is why Jones must be repudiated so he realizes that his actions are not only offensive, but also dangerous — especially to our troops.
We teach our children that they can disagree without being disagreeable. That lesson evolves as we grow older. As adults, we learn that we can protest peacefully and that we can oppose something without being offensive.
Like Terry Jones, my daughter tried to explain to me why she was right to throw the ball at her brother. I explained to her why she was wrong and sent her to her room, much to my son’s delight. But that was short-lived because he too was sent packing to his room with what we in the South call a “talking to.”
Terry Jones needs to be taught the same lesson, but his is not a game. His actions can have dire consequences for all of us. The lesson he needs to learn is that he has every right to express his opinion about Islam or to disagree with Muslims, but he doesn’t have to spit in their faces to do it. He didn’t need to desecrate a book that one and a half billion people hold sacred in order to make a point. He shouldn’t needlessly put the lives of our armed forces at greater risk.
Terry Jones lives in the South, so he’ll understand this idiom as well as anybody: Terry Jones needs a “talking to.” Here’s how you can talk to Jones.
This piece was originally published in The Huffington Post