Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fanning the Flames

Some people are thinking of having a Burn-a-Koran day on September 11th. That’s not even remotely original; we’ve always burned things we disapprove of—books, bras, heretics and witches; Jews, Moors and Christians; slum buildings and Korean stores during riots; the other guys’ fields during a war; Joan of Arc, the Knight Templars, the still-beating hearts of sacrificed prisoners (the Aztecs were particularly good at that) and a host of other flammable items, including many effigies of Presidents Obama, Clinton, Bush (1 and 2), Johnson, Reagan and Kennedy.… We’ve somehow associated burning with cleaning, an interesting connection of sorts that really doesn’t exist, ask any fireman.

The would-be Koran burners belong to the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, a 50-member Christian evangelical church led by a Reverend Terry Jones. He made his feelings on Mahometanism perfectly clear last week when his church put up a sign that read “Islam is of the Devil!” Reverend Terry (I assume he prefers that name so as not to be confused with the Reverend Jones of Kool-Aid and Jonestown fame) has gotten a boatload of publicity for the burning stunt, which he deems a freedom of speech issue. Religious and political leaders are falling all over themselves in their haste to disassociate their faith from his, and he’s playing it coy. Maybe he will, and then again, maybe he won’t. Meanwhile, the relatively small town of Gainesville is getting ready for an apocalyptic media invasion and has asked neighboring communities for help in crowd management.

Maybe it’s the hurricane season, but this has all the makings of a good little tempest in a teeny-tiny teapot. Radical Muslims have been trampling the US flag for at least two generations and many Bibles have ended up fueling Afghani goat roasts—little is forbidden in the pursuit of religious fanaticism. What’s interesting is how many important folks with better ways to spend their time have felt the need to chime in on the subject. Yesterday (Tuesday) an Emergency Faith Leaders Summit on anti-Muslim sentiment discussed the burning-to-be. General David H. Petraeus warned it could endanger US troops in the Muslim world, as if these were not already in harm’s way. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it ‘un-American,” and in a statement that really calls for a new speechwriter, added, “I am heartened by the clear, unequivocal condemnation of this disrespectful act that has come from American religious leaders of all faiths.” Take that, Reverend Terry! What the statement lacks in grammatical transparency, it more than makes up in the number of syllables.

Here’s my suggestion: We provide the airfare to send Reverend Terry and his band of pyromaniacs so they can display their freedom of speech in a seriously Muslim country, say Libya, Chechnya or Kazakhstan. We provide matches, gasoline, and those little portable firepits Home Depot sells for $49.95. We do it on Pay Per View and we send marshmallows.

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