"Islam is a religion of the devil," proclaims a sign on the "Dove World Outreach" church in Gaineville, FL, which is planning to burn Qurans on Sept 11 and encourages others to do likewise. Its pastor, Terry Jones, also opposes homosexuality. (The mayor of Gainesville is gay.)
Jones is publicizing his incendiary call widely via facebook and the internet and it is possible that others might follow his example, especially since politicians are stoking the fires of biotry and hatred.
The National Association of Evangelicals has condemned this call to desecrate the Quran and urged Jones to reconsider this action, but so far he is adamant. I have crafted a statement condemning Quran burning which is being considered for endorsement by the South Coast Interfaith Council, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, and of course my Quaker meeting.
If Qurans are burned on 9/11, and pictures of this heinous act circulate around the world, there could be a violent backlash, as there was when Danish cartoonists published disrespectful pictures of the Quran. This concerns American Muslims.
"We are not worried so much about how American Muslims are going to behave," one Muslim leader told me. "But there are many uneducated, poor Muslims around the world who will be very offended. Many of them cannot read the Quran, but they take it very seriously. There could be violence, and that would be terrible."
Another Muslim leader told me that much as he reveres the Quran, he values human life more: "If 1000 Qurans are burned, it is not worth the loss of one human life."
Muslim leaders are trying to figure out ways to counter this threat through education and raising public awareness.
For more info see http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/07/29/florida.burn.quran.day/index.html
Another concern troubling moderate Muslims: Ramadan ends on Sept 10 or 11, depending on how you calculate the beginning of the moon. Some Muslims use astronomical calculation, others insist on an actual moon-sighting. Some Muslim leaders are worried that if Muslims are seen celebrating on Sept 11, how will that play on Fox News?
Several Muslims have confessed to me that it's hard to be a Muslim these days, and that to be always on the defensive about one's religion is exhausting.
Even Disneyland has been drawn into this controversy. When a young Muslim woman asked to wear a hijab at a Disney restaurant, she was refused permission and this became a question of religious freedom for her and for others. Fox news reports: "Imane Boudlal, 26, of Anaheim, Calif., has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming Disneyland violated her rights when it ordered her either to remove her hijab or agree to work where customers couldn't see her at Storyteller's Café at the resort's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa."
Last night the Islamic Shura Council honored her for her courage in standing up for her beliefs. She wept as she told her story.
"Whether you wear the hijab or not wear the hijab is your business," said Dr Maher Hathout, chair of the Shura Council, as he gave her the award. "No one has the right to force you to cover or uncover. That is a matter of your conscience. We support and honor you for having the courage to follow your conscience."
These are the words of one of the most respected leaders of the Muslim community in California, and the USA. Those that imagine that Muslim men coerce woman to wear the hijab should take note that here in the USA, this is definitely not the case.
Also honored at the banquet was the president of the interfaith council in Temecula who stood in solidarity with Muslims who are facing opposition from some of their fundamentalist neigbors.
Muslims in America have often faced opposition when they have proposed building a mosque, but in the past their neighbors have used zoning requirements as an excuse for their opposition. Now they are openly expressing their fears and prejudices about Islam. This is both troublesome and an opportunity for education. A lot of work needs to be done to educate Americans about the true nature of Islam in our country and around the world.
See also: http://www.mpac.org/
Letter Opposing Quran Burning
We support the right of people of all faiths to practice their religion as their conscience dictates, to build houses of worship where they wish without being subjected to discrimination, and to be free of harassment and “hate speech” because of their religious views and practices.
We are grieved, appalled and outraged that a pastor in Gainesville, FL, purporting to be an Evangelical Christian, has called for the burning of Qurans on September 11th. We grieve because such an act is hurtful not only to the one whose sacred text is being desecrated, but also to the one who does the desecration. We are appalled because history shows that the burning of books can lead to violence. As Heinrich Heine, the 19th century German playwright, wrote prophetically: “Where they burn books, they will ultimately also burn people." And we are outraged because we honor and appreciate all sacred books and consider them worthy of respect and appreciation. As Paul expressed it so eloquently: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:19).
We feel that the burning of the Quran is a form of “hate speech” that could incite violence. As people of conscience committed to peace, we reject all forms of violence—whether physical, verbal or symbolic.
We therefore join with those of various faith communities, including The National Association of Evangelicals, the nation’s largest body of evangelicals, in condemning the call to burn Qurans. We urge people to read scriptures of other traditions with an open mind and heart, and to respect and appreciate the many ways in which people are being led to the One who is the source of Truth and Compassion.