Qur’an-burning pastor should receive no legitimacy

The absurdity of this past week was matched only by its sad irony. While Muslims celebrated Eid ul-Fitr, the end of Ramadan; Jews celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the new year; and America remembered and mourned the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, it seemed the biggest story this week was Terry Jones and whether or not he would burn a Qur’an.

It seems hard to believe that a hateful pastor from a small church in Gainesvile, Fla. could have caused the chaos that he did. But Sept. 11 has come and gone, and no Qur’ans were burned at the Dove World Outreach Center. A week from now, the media will have moved on. Yet it seems likely that Terry Jones will remain. The media and world leaders have granted him legitimacy, and he may join the ranks of Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher and James Crowley (of Obama beer summit fame), catapulted to his two weeks of fame thanks to the remarks of those in power.

Jones was far from the only one advocating burning Qur’ans in the past week. Destruction of this holy book actually took place. Protesters ripped pages out in Lafayette Park across from the White House and some members Westboro Baptist Church actually burned Qur’ans. We are appalled by these offensive acts, but we also accept that fundamentalism will never be fully erased. Media coverage and official statements only lend these groups legitimacy. Fortunately, these acts received only a small amount of media attention.

It is hard to say whether the Qur’an-burning-that-wasn’t was a publicity stunt, an act of hatred, or a horrible delusion. Likely it is a combination of all three. Whatever the case, we condemn it, just as we condemn all such acts of bigotry, intolerance, and violence. While we do not dispute the right of these extremists to burn whatever books they want, that does not mean it is appropriate. The pastor burning a Qur’an and the warlord burning an American flag represent the same ugly side of human nature.