I’ve been asked what I’d do about the crackpot pastor Terry Jones, the Quran-burning Florida redneck who keeps a poster of Mel Gibson’s ‘Braveheart’ in his office for “spiritual sustenance.” It would be wonderful to just laugh, but last week Jones’ idiocy set off the reciprocal idiocy of riots in Afghanistan that have so far resulted in at least 24 deaths (in addition to the 5 he caused last September when he first threatened to burn the Quran). It’s a horrendous example of how prejudice feeds prejudice and ignorance feeds ignorance — with the food being other people’s blood.
If ever you wanted proof that extremists of all faiths are the real co-religionists, this was it. Terry Jones meet your soul brothers: the Taliban.
What actually happened? The publicity-hungry Jones, whose entire church consists of some twenty family members, was encouraged to hold a mock trial of the Quran by Ahmed Abaza, a former Muslim who runs a deliriously amateurish satellite channel called TheTruthTV — that tell-tale capitalized Truth yet again. (Abaza’s testimony to his conversion to “the light of Christ,” apparently intended as heart-rending, is here, if you can stand it). Abaza obligingly live-streamed the trial proceedings, and then (the verdict being a foregone conclusion) Jones carried out his heart’s desire, got out a can of firelighter fluid, and burned a copy.
The American media acted with uncharacteristic wisdom and ignored the event. All might yet have been calm if word of the burning had not reached Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardawi and Afghanistan president Hamid Kharzai, who then tried to outdo each other in condemning it — an excellent way to distract attention from the real problems in their respective countries, especially at a time when both are highly aware that the call for regime change throughout the Middle East might spread to threaten their hold on power too. Three fire-and-brimstone mullahs took up the call the next day at Friday prayer, inciting an anti-American mob out for blood, and UN workers paid the price.
So what would I do? Well, as you can imagine, my fantasies at first tended to my own version of violent retribution, but then my better side took over. So here’s my proposal, courtesy of existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, whose play Huis Clos (No Exit) is starkly simple in conception: three people locked together in a bare room, slowly realizing that where they are is hell. As they tear each other apart with words, they conclude, in the play’s most famous line, that “hell is other people.”
Jones, Karzai, and Zardawi locked together for eternity, condemned to listen to each other’s vanity and bombast? That might not be the perfect punishment, but it’s a damned good one.
[The only question: should Jones be allowed to take his ‘Braveheart’ poster into the room with him? For the sake of ensuring Karzai and Zardawi’s ongoing torment, I’d have to vote yes.]
Damned damned good sentence, I’ll say.
Be an extremists in any religions is bad, in fact extremists it mean no mind! it means only emotion.
unfortunately some groups call them self Muslim there are very more extremists than other religions, Taliban or Qaeda they Wahhabism. for example driving for woman in Saudi Arabia is forbidden, but is not in Islam, I don’t know how human can be stupid!
like in Bahrain they killing people just because of religion!!
It is time American’s question their defense of absolute “free speech”. Most democratic countries have laws against “hate speech”. Such laws in the US might lower the heat of the pronoucements of irresponsible people.
I disagree a bit.
Taliban are extremist but this Terry Jones is not.
He is a crook and he is into money and fame.
He should be charged on 5 counts of man slaughter.
Burning of Quran is also violation of 1st ammendment.
He is free to express his views, burning Quran is like choking views he disagree with.
And last but not least, this for sure is crime of violence.
But unfortunately US Justice system is not as fair as we think.
This is completely unrelated to our post, but I wanted to say, I’m reading your book on the Shia and Sunni divide. It’s an emotive read, and very well done. I hope the second half is as good as the first.
My favorite line in the text was “..extremists of all faiths are the real co-religionists..” and I had to laugh at “Terry Jones meet your soul brothers: the Taliban.” I fully agree.
American people in general and American Muslims in particular must condemn and expose the crackpot pastor Terry Jones in media & also prosecute him by American law [….]
as easy as that .. no madness ,no yelling , no screaming, no violence , just by law … you can do it Dr. Lesley .. or at least can help ..
Ali — the principle of free speech is paramount under US law. This includes speech we detest as well as speech we approve of, and the reason why it does so is basic to real democracy: if speech we find hateful is banned, the next time round, it might be our speech that someone else finds hateful.
Much as I detest Jones and would love to see him behind bars — much as the vast majority of Americans detest him and would love to see him behind bars — his right to free expression is protected. The same would apply if he had burned a Bible.
He has, however, been thoroughly exposed and condemned. And it would be good to see Karzai, Zardawi, and the three mullahs who directly incited those Afghanis to violence equally exposed and condemned in their own society.
First ,I would like to thank you for your reply & for your amazing speech about Quran while ago, I still amazed about it . I’ve seen it so many times with Arabic subtitle & without. & I think only somebody with very good skills in pure Arabic language can say those observations , it was so beautiful & I wish if people in the west & in the whole world even in the Islamic world can see that beauty & mercy in Quran and don’t condemn it because of some ignorants or extremists behaviors .
Second , as you know prosecuting somebody doesn’t mean necessarily puting him in jail “seeing him behind bars as you said ” , however with all paramount of free speech & democracy I still believe there are some fines or penalties for anybody who insults people publicly or urging some people for some severe acts against other people . there is a motive behind any crime & urging is the main motive for hate crimes .. & the motivator should be punished logically, exactly like those Mullahs you’ve mentioned before..
Third , wish you all the success in your next book
Irony is what Lez says is true.
You can burn anything in your possesion
and its not inciting violence
Burning a cigarette or any other private thing is not the same like burning a book or symbol ..burning a book or symbol publicly means a demonstration against a nation & gives signs for some people to take some acts against that nation which believes in that book or symbol .. now what do think will happen for somebody who would burn the American Constitution publicly in front of the white house , or somebody who would burn the Bible publicly in the center of Vatican , or an American Islamic Clerk or an Islamic Scholar who would burn the Bible publicly in America … I think it would be a hard test for our believes in ” Freedom of Speech” ..
Ali, you now understand the principle of freedom of expression in the USA: it’s hard, but it’s vital for a free society. It is always being tested by people who want to ban some part of it — right-wingers wanted to ban burning the American flag, for instance, while liberals wanted to ban the right of Nazis to march — but it applies to all.
Plus you should know that my stance on Jones is not at all unusual. He has zero support here in the US — nada, nil — and is widely regarded as a crackpot nuisance. Please do not feed his absurd grandiosity and thirst for publicity by making him out to be more than he is.
yep, hate speech is protected by the first amendment. Unless it directly incites violence, like telling people to go around and kill other people, which Terry didn’t do, so his rights are protected. What is unfortunate though is that his actions are likely to produce more intolerance and hate in someone else, who may in turn resort to violence against a muslim.
It is very strange to me how religion, more specifically faith which primarily is a personal belief, gets exploited for personal promotion and used as a tool to condemn others. The arrogance at play here with extremists (of any religion) reaches profoundly immoral levels. The colossal ego needed to convince oneself that he/she is knows ‘the truth’, while others are misled. Unfortunately, I see a growing trend amongst rabid athiests who mirror the same arrogance.
It takes a lifetime (and more) to fully grasp and understand your own faith to address your need for personal growth and spiritual intellect… so how come some jump the gun…and assume they know it all?
I agree with Lesley that such acts of attention mongering are best dealt with by not giving it. Barring a few knee jerk reactions, it has failed to elicit desired response and publicity. Let us rejoice that, by and large, sanity prevailed.
Billion sentiments are played with to get a chance to rejoice.
Sanity prevailing….those who used to go 9 to 5, still going.