March 20, 2011 may well be the day we look back and point out the beginning of the end for peace in the Middle East for Americans. What has happened on this day is the culmination of nearly a year of controversy over the plan to burn Qurans as a public display of protest against Islam. Terry Jones, who backed off his plans for a Quran-burning last summer, has now gone ahead with it, endangering relations with every Middle Eastern country and Muslims all over the world, not to mention the lives of civilians and American soldiers. And for what?
Terry Jones is quoted as saying "Muslim dominated countries can no longer be allowed to spread their hate against Christians and minorities." The hypocrisy of Mr. Jones's actions are almost too numerous to count. First of all, you have a man who, while condemning Muslim countries for hate, he is promoting xenophobic fear and hatred here in America. Secondly, his actions will likely spark further hate toward Christians in Muslim-majority nations. The sad part is that their reactions - the demonstrations, the riots, and the subsequent deaths and violence - bring us back to square one in terms of creating a bridge to that culture so very different from our own.
It makes me wonder what would happen if there was a well-publicized Bible burning in the United States to protest the intolerance of fundamentalist Christianity. I can imagine that there would be an endless firestorm. Christians would be aghast to have their holy book burned because the group doing the burning believes they are intolerant and hateful. They would be rightfully upset to be labeled so callously, to be diminished to the size of a label, and called oppressive. It would be wrong. And so is Mr. Jones.
I don't believe that Islam is a religion rooted in hate, any more than Christianity is. True, there are passages in both the Quran and the Bible that sound like they promote hate and intolerance of others. But if Christians can claim that their holy book does not promote hate despite those passages, why aren't Muslims allowed to make that claim?
It's a shame that this act of intolerance had to be committed in the U.S., and that it was meant to be a protest against perceived intolerance. It is the product of ignorance and blind hate, and will likely translate to greater unrest, more death, and less amicable diplomacy in the Middle East for a long time to come.