Koran Burning Still Possible

By somebody, somewhere:


Thursday's announcements by Jones doesn't change Springfield, Tenn., evangelist Bob Old's plan to burn a Quran at his home Saturday and put a video of the event on YouTube and other sites. "That shows how strong his convictions are," Old said. "My event is about establishing who is God and who is not God. I will be burning a Quran, I'm not going to change my mind no matter who calls me." 

Old, an ordained Baptist minister who runs a ministry called Disciples of Christ -- but does not pastor a church -- compared himself to the Old Testament account of Moses burning a golden calf after finding the Israelites worshipping it.

Right. Meanwhile in Afghanistan:

Five Afghan protesters were wounded, three of them critically, when hundreds of men tried to force their way onto a NATO reconstruction base at Faisabad, capital of Badakshan Province in northern Afghanistan, according to civilian authorities. 

Muhammad Amin, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said four Afghan security officers were also wounded but he said that earlier reports that a protester had been shot to death proved false. Aga Noor Kentooz, the provincial police commander in Faisabad, said that that four people were wounded by shots fired from inside the base when a mob tried to force its way in. 

 The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force disputed the reports. "All of our reporting is saying that no ISAF forces have fired anything," Capt. Ryan Donald, a spokesman, said. He said there were also reports of shots fired at another Koran-burning protest, at Bala Buluk in Farah Province in western Afghanistan, where Polish forces run a Provincial Reconstruction Team base, though again it was not confirmed who had done so. 

Both Afghan officials' accounts said the trouble came after several thousand people left morning prayers for the Id al-Fitr holiday and attended a peaceful demonstration against the plans for the Koran burning. Although the Florida pastor, Terry Jones, said Thursday that he had canceled plans to stage the event on Saturday, in commemoration of 9/11, his subsequent comments left it unclear if he planned to go ahead or not.

We debated this some yesterday, and I agree that the notion that somehow an idiot preacher in Florida's threats justify violence is utterly meritless. I remain skeptical that meeting with this dude will placate anyone, anywhere. On the other hand, it will serve to cement the notion floated by Sarah Palin and John Boehner that building an Islamic community center in downtown New York, is somehow the equivalent of setting fire to someone's holy text. 

This is not so much conservatism, as it is a kind of blank-minded Christian populism. And there's part of me that thinks that that's the point, that there people here and over there who, more than anything want at each other, and consider anyone in the middle collateral. 

From Andrew:

It is a function of fringe Christian fundamentalism finally engaging fringe Islamist fundamentalism in a war of increasing terror and intolerance in a seamless global media world. It is the responsibility of all of us of actual faith rather than fanaticism to stand up and oppose this before it engulfs us all. 

 But you reap what you sow. You turn a benign Muslim community center into a "stab in the heart" of Americans (in Sarah Palin's words) and someone soon will up the ante. Which is why this summer has felt so ominous to me; and the forces itching for full-scale religious warfare more powerful and more unstoppable than any of the restraints in between - from the West Bank to Kandahar and Gainesville and Wasilla. 

One can hope and pray that this flare-up will be a warning prevented in time for the culture to take a deep breath and understand the consequences of religious fundamentalism openly embraced in the public square. But hope is scarce in this environment. Or we are seeing forces that cannot ultimately be stopped by anyone - until they have wrought the hideous consequences so many zealots on all sides desire.

What so many zealots desire, indeed. 

A quick but ominous close: A really intelligent academic once told me that if there is one way to truly close the black/white chasm, it's by finding another bogeyman, another enemy, another outsider that we could define ourselves against. No one can see the future. But you can see candidates--and frankly Muslims filled this role long before blacks.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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