Daniel Ruth

Gainesville pastor with Koran-burning plans fits mold of other radicals

Pastor Terry Jones, of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, displays his disdain for Islam with his signs. Jones was planning to burn copies of the Koran on Saturday, but has since changed his mind.

New York Times

Pastor Terry Jones, of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, displays his disdain for Islam with his signs. Jones was planning to burn copies of the Koran on Saturday, but has since changed his mind.

In the hands of yahoos, ignorance is a powerful weapon of mass delusion. • It now appears the "Rev." Terry Jones and his fellow travelers of trailer trash theology have opted not to throw a Koran barbecue Saturday night. Perhaps the vicar of virulence's last minute change of what's left of his mind indicates it finally dawned upon him that drawing worldwide condemnation and ridicule was not a stirring Chamber of Commerce moment for his hometown of Gainesville. • A lot of damage already has been done. Symbolically, at least, the "Rev." Jones already has managed to turn Gainesville into a redneck version of "Fahrenheit 451."

If it was the intention of the "Rev." Jones to inflame Muslim emotions, spark outrage toward the United States as a place of religious intolerance and potentially put lives at risk, he succeeded before even striking a match. His perverse Islamophobic work is mission accomplished.

And isn't it somehow insanely fitting that on the "reverend's" office wall looms a picture of Mel Gibson, who is to open-mindedness what Nazi book burnings in the 1930s were to the Enlightenment.

Saturday, which marks the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorism attacks, ought to be a time for reflection, a moment to honor the lives lost on one of the most tragic days in American history. Instead, the "Rev." Jones, a backwater pastor of perfidy, hijacked this solemn occasion in order to advance his own befuddled views of Islam.

In his own twisted way, the "Rev." Jones has more in common with radical elements of Islam than he realizes.

Insecure societies rely on maintaining the illiteracy of the populace to retain their hold on power. The more educated a citizenry, the greater the probability people will question the status quo or the ideology of those controlling their lives.

It is why the Taliban fears the building of schools. It is why unwitting teenage suicide bombers are so easily manipulated and led to their deaths with promises of an afterlife filled with virgins.

The 9/11 tragedy was fueled by al-Qaida's illiterate interpretation of the Koran, just as the Dove World Outreach Center's threat to burn Islam's holiest tome is a doltish reading of the Bible. Both Osama bin Laden and the "Rev." Terry Jones, it turns out, are brothers under the skin of oppression.

Mohamed Atta's box cutter has become the "Rev." Terry Jones' Zippo lighter — both tools of simplemindedness, both just as dangerous.

Chances are, some 25 years ago or so, had this very dim-witted man announced he was going to engage in a Koran book burning, hardly anyone would have paid much attention outside his immediate congregants (all 50 of them) who attend the "Rev." Jones' cathedral of creepiness.

But in today's 24-hour news cycle, and with the power of the Internet to take literally any deranged Holy Roller of heresy and make a celebrity of him, it was inevitable Saturday's planned affront to roughly 1.5 billion Muslims around the world would go viral — and vocal.

One would think that if one were about to engage in a act of religious persecution and a figure like Gen. David Petraeus, who commands U.S. troops in Afghanistan, weighed in to suggest conflagrating the Koran was a very bad idea, even a complete simpleton would have figured out before Thursday that maybe Saturday night would be best spent reading the Psalms rather than conducting Gainesville's answer to libricide.

If there is a silver — or perhaps a glowing — lining to the "Rev." Jones effort to turn Gainesville into the global laughingstock, it is this event also sparked a broad interfaith movement — Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Evangelicals, Protestants — to decry the threatened Koran burning.

And that is certainly a positive thing since in the wake of 9/11 this country has often struggled to come to terms with Islam.

So in a very ham-handed way, if the "Rev." Jones' intention to defile one of religion's most holy of texts awakened a renewed appreciation for the value of free-thought, free-expression, free-association and rights guaranteed and protected under the First Amendment. Perhaps from the embers of this faux man of God's biblical huckstering some good will emerge.

Soon now the media trucks will have all packed up and left the "Rev." Jones to be alone on the ash heap of his own self-promotion, his 15 minutes of infamy expired.

Innocents simply going to work and men and women of uncommon courage perished nine years ago this Saturday. That is what should be remembered and honored on 9/11 — not a dreadful little man who expected to be armed with a torch and a stunning, uneducated grasp of the meaning of faith.

There will be no book burning Saturday in Gainesville, and that's good. Now what do you think the odds are the "Rev." Jones would ever bother to actually read the Koran?

Gainesville pastor with Koran-burning plans fits mold of other radicals 09/09/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 10:15pm]

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