Rev. Terry Jones is an asshole.
There will be a lot of talk in the coming weeks about Jones' culpability for the murder of ten U.N. workers, and not a few Afghan citizens, in a Friday riot protesting Jones' burning of a Qur'an. Those on what passes for the "left" side of America's political spectrum will blame him too much; those on the right will blame him too little. It will all be meaningless, because there is no fixed amount of villainy to go around. In this imperfect universe, there is an inexhaustible supply. The despicableness of those who attacked an Afghan U.N. mission this week and beheaded several of its foreign workers in no way mitigates this simple fact: Terry Jones is a huge, irresponsible, cavalier, life-endangering, moronic asshole, and we're all lessened by having to share a state with the man.
Here are the facts, as ascertained from the New York Times:
Terry Jones, the Gainesville pastor and author, briefly became famous last year for threatening to burn a Qur'an. He backed off after nearly every religious body in the world condemned the plan's stupidity and uselessness. Before he did, several riots resulted. In one of these, in Fayzabad, Afghanistan, three people were killed.
One might have hoped Jones would learn a lesson, or several lessons, from this experience. He may have learned, for example, that inflaming the rage of crazy people can have undesired consequences. He may have learned that having the right to do something doesn't make it right to do that thing. Unfortunately, all he seems to have learned is that Qur'an burning is a guaranteed way to get press coverage. (Shame on the media for proving him right.)
So on March 20th, Jones staged a mock trial of the Muslim "holy" book, declared the document guilty, and torched it. The news shortly arrived in Afghanistan. Outrage simmered, and exploded into the streets of the city of Mazar-i-Sharif after Friday prayers. An angry mob converged on the local U.N. mission, overpowered the guards, and executed ten foreign workers, two of whom were beheaded. Five Afghan citizens died as well.
The men (or women [or children]) who committed these crimes are barbarians; possessed of a vile, theocratic, authoritarian mentality that the world would be better off without. Of course, Terry Jones already knew that -- that's why he's so hung up on the Qur'an in the first place. He knew how these individuals would react to his Qur'an burning, but decided that the faceless innocents who would bear the brunt of the Islamists' rage mattered less than his rhetorical grandstanding. Jones has now made his point -- yes, Islam can be brutal; what valuable information -- and all it cost was 15 lives. So far. I wonder if he thinks he overpaid.
Probably not, because Jones technically hasn't paid anything. Nor does it appear he intends to. He has never announced plans to burn a Qur'an in Kabul or Mecca, and I don't imagine he will. Jones' refusal to wage spiritual war in environs less cozy than Gainesville reflects an obvious and repellant cowardice. If Jones is willing to sacrifice lives for his beliefs, the apostles he reveres would likely suggest he begin with his own. They did, after all. Islam isn't the only religion to revere its martyrs.
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