Like many of my friends, I often use Facebook to share articles about issues that preoccupy me. I've been very careful, however, not to post anything about the Qur'an burning that is scheduled for this Saturday, September 11.
Even though I've been consumed all summer by the obvious anti-Muslim racism that seems to be growing and erupting throughout North America and Europe, I've refused to bite on the Qur'an burning because it seems so stupid and I'm reluctant to give it more attention than it deserves. And yet I can't resist paying attention long enough to discuss why I think the event doesn't deserve attention.
Although declaring "International Burn a Quran Day" is pretty hideous to me, particularly in light of the Fox News fueled hate-fest going on in the U.S. these days, I'm actually not overly troubled the act of Qur'an burning. While many Muslims hold the Qur'an as sacred and treat it with the utmost respect - including washing before touching it, shelving it on the highest shelf, avoiding placing it on the floor, etc., I don't expect other people to share our perspective on the sanctity of a book. Book burning, of course, is a symbolic act of dogmatic hostility and censorship. It's hard not to get swept up by the hints of Inquisition-type intolerance, but maybe that's my point. When a 50-member church that has gained infamy exclusively through petty acts of bigotry plans an event like this, its followers come across looking like querulous adolescents - at best - and certainly not like dangerous Inquisitors.
It's hard not to think about the Danish cartoon fiasco. Although I am sympathetic to the free speech issues involved, I still find the decision to publish those cartoons troublesome. My objection had nothing to do with perceived Islamic prohibitions against the depiction of the Prophet or any such sensitivities, but had to do with the responsibility of the press. National newspapers wield a social power in no way comparable to that of the ironically-named Dove Outreach Church, and Jyllands-Posten's decision to propagate racist attacks against a minority group was legitimately met with alarm, criticism, and opposition. (The form of the demonstrations, of course, is another matter.)
Unfortunately, the wrong-headed protests over the Qur'an burning event have already begun. It is my genuine hope that any Muslim groups planning opposition to the attention-seeking antics of a few wingnuts focus their energies on something else. The Qur'an, as a physical book, doesn't need defending. In the digital age it becomes almost silly to worry about the destruction of mass-produced texts. If racism is the real issue, we have to remember that racism is about power. Terry Jones and his followers only have as much power as we're collectively willing to afford them.
- Qur'an Burning Nonsense