The Pastor, the Internet, the Guardian, and Islam

A guest post by AKUS

Now that everyone, it seems, with access to a keyboard and blog has had their say – and continues to have their say – about the Koran-burning Pastor I thought I might as well weigh in from the particular perspective of CiF Watch and how the Guardian handled the matter on “Comment is Free”.

Unlike historical cases when religious books were burned with the full support of the government of the time and apparently much of the populace–very often the Torah and Talmud – in the USA  self-anointed pastor Terry Jones is opposed by the full weight of opinion of those in government and most citizens. While all agree that he has the protection of the 1st Amendment for freedom of expression and religion, most have also stated that burning a Koran is imprudent and requested that he and others not do so.

In pre-Internet times, Jones would have been found wandering the street next to his church holding up a placard, perhaps equipped with a megaphone, and almost no one would know of his existence. Passers-by would have crossed the road to avoid him, and parents would have told their children it was rude to make fun of the crazy man. It is the Internet and the mainstream media that suddenly catapulted this non-entity into public view.

The Guardian did not hesitate to provide a platform via the Internet to Mya Guarnieri so that she could continue its habit of feeding anti-American hysteria by describing Jones’ views as the start of a nation-wide wave of anti-Muslim hatred. Guarnieri did this in an article with a title that played to two of the Guardian’s favorite tropes, Islamophobia: the new antisemitism, illustrated with a picture of the Ku Klux Klan from 1962. Concluding her article in the usual “rush to judgment” style of CiF columnists Guarnieri wrote:

“Gainesville’s struggle is a mirror for the country. And so are my memories. In the past, there was antisemitism, roiling just below the surface. Now, there is Islamophobia. If Terry Jones burns copies of the Qur’an in Gainesville, he’ll leave a shameful scorch on us all.”

Guarnieri was sharply pulled up by many commenting below the line – even by this Muslim:

If Gainesville is a mirror for the country, we seem to be doing OK. Another Guardian stalwart, Michael Tomasky, proposed the silly idea that Hilary Clinton go and run a silent protest opposite Jones. In fact, Jones withdrew his plan after a discussion with an Imam, even if there was some misunderstanding about the exact content of the discussion. We remain unscorched, even if a handful of imitators did burn a few pages of the Koran in New York on 9/11.

Many more went about remembering 9/11 peacefully. Across a political and generational divide, former First Lady Laura Bush and current First Lady Michelle Obama shared the stage gracefully in Shanksville, PA, where Flight 93 went down, remembering the dead without calling for jihad against the entire Muslim world.

The article the Guardian should have someone writing, using the full capabilities of its Internet presence to disseminate it, is the one that says to the Muslim world that America believes in freedom of expression and so should you, even if you disagree with the ideas being expressed, and America will not be frightened into abandoning such core values. The Guardian should be writing:

“In America, people believe that freedom of expression is more important than spreading rage, violence, hatred, religious extremism, and, yes, fear, every time someone writes a book, makes a film, draws a cartoon, says something, or performs an act with which you do not approve. Only through such freedom can evil be brought out into the open, discussed, and dealt with, instead of it lurking in the dark corners where everyone knows it exists but are unable to confront it. You in oppressive Islamist dictatorships know whereof we speak.

Moreover, America will not change its ideas about free-speech out of fear of Muslim retribution, even as it watches rioting and threats of murder in the capitals of Islamist nations throughout the world. America is sending you a message – we will retain our belief that people have the right to say and do as they will as long as it does not harm others, even if it is not necessarily wise, or proper, for them to do so.  We will not be cowed into turning our backs on our values in order to placate you”.

This, I fear is the article we will never see on “Comment is Free”.

Instead, we were given this heavily commented anonymous editorial:

Burning the Qur’an: All faiths must fight against the forces of bigotry

“There is no easy distinction of left and right in these trends. What defines them is an angry, defensive reaction against an imagined threat to identity: national, secular or Christian.”

A strange way to look at 9/11 and the American reaction with not a word about the angry, offensive response by radical Islamists to imagined threats to their religious identity.  The BTL comments to this editorial express widely held views representing quite rational fears developing in the West based on genocidal anti-Western vitriol, bombings, beheadings, and other lethal attacks – all which the Guardian and the wider Islamic (and non-Islamic) world consistently try to ignore at their peril.

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