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Pastor Terry Jones runs a church in Florida called the Dove World Outreach Center. That's a nice-sounding name. A dove stands for peace, and we're all for world outreach. It's groovy, man. Let's join hands and sing "We Are The World."
Unfortunately, Pastor Jones idea of peaceful world outreach takes the form of a good, old-fashioned book-burnin'. He got lots of publicitiy over his collosally stupid plans to burn a stack of Korans in a kind of unholy bonfire against Islam (attendees must bring their own weenies and marshmallows).
The one-man theological malpractice of Pastor Jones, which was universally condemned here in America, was met with the restraint and reasoned perspective so typical of the Middle East - there were riots in Afghanistan and Indonesia, calls for jihad against the Great Satan, chants of "Death To America," death threats against Jones, he was burned in effigy (irony alert), etc, etc. You know, the usual. One Afghani citizen who is running for parliament there said if Jones went through with his Koran-burning, any American found anywhere in the world would be murdered by Muslims.
Take that, Pastor Jones. Nobody out-nutballs the extremists in the Middle East, so don't you even try, you amateur. Must be the heat. Perhaps the radical Islamists don't realize it, but their hysterical overreactions to these things actually feed into the thinking of those like Pastor Jones. We can only hear you call us the Great Satan so many times before some of us start to think you're serious.
Enter Imam Feisal Rauf, the holy man behind the Ground Zero mosque/community center/athletic center/interfaith center/9-11 family outreach center/Popeye's chicken franchise. Rauf told CNN that he would never have located his mosque near Ground Zero if he had any idea it would cause controversy. Don't ask me how someone can be THAT clueless. I wonder if Rauf is also mystified as to why the Jews didn't care for the Nazis. The Imam went on to tell CNN the Ground Zero mosque couldn't be moved for "national security" reasons. In other words, the radical Islamists won't like it. Moving it will bring yet more violence down upon Americans. Imam Rauf warned, “If this is not handled correctly, this crisis could become much bigger than the Danish cartoon crisis, which resulted in attacks on Danish embassies in various parts of the Muslim world.”
Yup, they kill people over cartoons. What more needs be said ?
Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of this 'do it our way or we'll kill you' message the radical Muslims keep sending us. That makes me want to move the mosque all the more, just so it won't appear we are acquiescing to their threats and intimidation.
Yesterday, there were attempted treaties and more skirmishes in this battle of the religious nutballs. Pastor Jones said he would call off his Koran-burning if the Ground Zero mosque was moved. “We would consider that a sign from God,” said Jones. He claimed he reached an agreement with the mosque people to move the mosque. Rauf said there was no such deal. Then Donald Trump offered to buy the Ground Zero mosque building at 25% above cost to settle this “serious, inflammatory, and highly divisive situation." The mosque people flatly denied the offer, calling it “just a cheap attempt to get publicity and get in the limelight.” Pastor Jones called off the Koran-burning, and then I believe he called it back on again, but I admit I'm losing track.
After Jones called off his Koran-burning, and before he called it back on again, maybe, yet another bunch of religious nutballs dashed into the fray. The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), that loving group of pseudo-Christians who hold up signs saying "God hates fags" at the funerals of fallen American soldiers to spread their message that Gawd is punishin' America fer toleratin' homos, has pledged to hold their own Kooran-burnin' if'n Pastor Jones don't hold his'n. Their message:
"WBC burned the Koran once – and if you sissy brats of Doomed america bully Terry Jones and the Dove World Outreach Center until they change their plans to burn that blasphemous tripe called the Koran, then WBC will burn it (again), to clearly show you some things."
Not to worry, WBC. You've already clearly shown us sissy brats some things, just not the things you intended, you unbelievable douchebags.
This story has become so surreal that I can barely believe I'm writing it. Reality truly is stranger than fiction.
What do we make of all this ? Some would say this proves that "religion poisons everything," as Christopher Hitchens claimed in his book God Is Not Great. The problem there is, Hitchens' view is itself extremist. The vast majority of Christians in this country live peaceful lives and help people. The looniness of the Dove World Outreach Center and the Westboro Baptist Church is totally alien to them. Likewise, we have millions of Muslims living peacefully in this country. Muslim radicals don't define them any more than Christian radicals define us (although the Muslims seem to have a lot more radicals, judging from what I see happening in the Middle East and other parts of the world. There's definitely a problem there).
Extremists come in many shapes and sizes. They can spring from many different wells, religion being but one of many. Extremism can also take the shape of, say, government (like a government that's $13.2 trillion in debt and spending money like there's no tomorrow). That doesn't mean all government is bad, anymore than a few religious nuts means all religion is bad.
What I'd like to know is, in the words of the great Martin Luther King, "why can't we all just get along ?"
No, wait, that was the not-so-great Rodney King. Darn. If anyone should have his Kings straight, it should be me. Anyhow, the sentiment is the same. Let's run with it.