Religious extremists do extreme things, no matter their religion. That”s why we”re not surprised that the wrong-headed leader of a small church in Florida plans to burn a Quran, Islam”s holy book, in a bonfire on Sept. 11.
What”s surprising is the support he says he”s gotten.
Pastor Terry Jones, the leader of a 50-member evangelical church in Gainesville, boasted at a press conference that supporters around the country have mailed Qurans to him to add to the fire. A Facebook fan page supporting Jones” “International Burn-a-Quran Day” has more than 11,000 followers.
That so-called Christians would take part in such a display, or support it, is more than ignorant and disrespectful. It”s un-Christian, un-American, and above all, dangerous.
Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, has said as much, warning in an e-mail to The Associated Press that “images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence.”
There was a time when an unbalanced, insignificant leader of a tiny church would go about his business unnoticed. But this is the Information Age, and Islamic extremists around the world are among those taking notice of what Jones is planning.
Yes, Jones has the right to free speech, and can burn what he wants. But just because you can do something, doesn”t mean you should — with freedom comes responsibility. The action flies in the face of religious tolerance and undermines America”s interests around the world.
Right-minded Christians don”t want to be lumped in with Jones. An entire religion shouldn”t be judged by the actions of a few who twist it to their own ends. The same is true of Islam.
The Quran-burning comes as tempers are flaring over the building of an Islamic center a few blocks away from Ground Zero in New York City. To consider the location of the center disrespectful is to blame all of Islam for the 9/11 attacks.
“I don”t think it”s going to do anything more than incite more tragedy and confusion between Christians and Muslims,” Pastor Steven James of United Christian Church in Columbus said of the Quran-burning.
We agree. That some still stoke division, mistrust and fear in the name of religion is the real tragedy.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.