I am not big on wasting my space on lunatics. I try not to provide free publicity to those who do nothing with their lives except to seek that publicity. You can be confident there will be no Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton columns coming from me. But I feel the need to speak clearly and succinctly on an issue that deeply bothers me, and that is the threatened Quran burning in Florida. I do not really want to go into details about the pastor, or what he has been accused of elsewhere in his pastoral career. I somewhat fan the flames just by giving this “leader” of a 50 or 100 person church a platform.
But I feel it is very important to speak to my Muslim friends and students, as well as to my Christian friends and students. While this is a “no brainer” issue, it is important to say to my many friends who follow Islam that this is not Christianity, and it has nothing to do with Christianity. It is a price of free speech in this nation, and right now it is a high price. I cannot speak to what fanatics may do as a result, any more than I can speak to the fanatic who would hold this event.
But I can speak to what we can be as a people. What we can do is talk to one another respectfully, listen to each others’ viewpoints because we have a common foe, and think long-term. I almost wrote on the Manhattan mosque controversy, but I thought the discussion had been handled quite well in our local newspaper. I was particularly taken by the wisdom of my colleague, Dr. Anwer Ahmed, who leads a local Muslim community. I was surprised to find that he was opposed to the mosque’s location near Ground Zero.
UPDATE: Shortly following the publication of this column, the pastor in question held a press conference announcing the cancellation of the Quran burning, but then publicly retracted his guarantee that the protest would not occur. Ultimately, the demonstration was canceled.
What I was not surprised by was the wisdom in his reasoning. He felt that some people of his faith were not being dialogical enough, that they were not putting themselves in the place of those who were opposed to the mosque. My argument as an American for the mosque’s location is that it brings together three of our most cherished freedoms in one decision: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly. Though I was bothered, as was Dr. Ahmed, by a lack of dialogical reasoning in some Muslims, I was bothered as much by a lack of dialectical reasoning in Americans opposed to it.
By dialectical reasoning I mean the ability to think long-term. In the short-run, the mosque’s location is incredibly painful and causes significant anger in many Americans who were permanently affected by the attack on our nation. But the long-term effects of directing where people worship will reverberate and, in the long run, impact a lot more Christians than it will Muslims. America is a nation built on the idea that we may speak freely, even if those who went before us have made some of what we say sound heinous. If we are not a nation that allows people to worship freely, what are we? What is unique about this place? And what freedoms are we fighting for in the Middle East?
We should think long-term, and, if we are wise, swallow the pain that goes with allowing the freedoms of speech, worship, and assembly that make us who we are. There will be days we regret doing that. In fact, what is about to happen in Florida is one of those. We would like to shut the Quran burning down, and shut it down right now.
Will there be demonstrations all over the world? Of course. Are American troops threatened? I am guessing yes. Will this help recruit fanatics to a cause? Undoubtedly. But, in the end, this “pastor” and his heedless minions are actually just setting themselves on fire. Stand back from the flames, ladies and gentlemen. Somebody could get hurt. Given time, they will burn themselves out into irrelevance. And, when they do, I will be standing, shovel in hand, ready to begin building the bridges back to my friends in Islam about whom I care deeply.
Dr. S, Amazing article! Thanks for your insight. J
Thank you for a great article on an important topic for our country. I heard in the last hour that the event might be called-off by the “pastor”, but in my opinion, the damage has already happened in many ways. I’m glad the University of Florida students voiced opposition to the burning.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Very well said Dr. Shaub! Hope all is well. 🙂
Jay and Kristen, great to hear from you! Jennifer, I’m hopeful that they will avoid making things worse. But who knows? I appreciate all three of you commenting!
Good article from Dr. Mike Shaub.
Quran should not be burnt. Quran is considered a holy book for Muslims, like we the Christians have the Bible. We already know how it is hurting when the Bible is being burnt in countries like Saudia over centuries; you just need to carry one, a Bible, and see what will happen when they find it with you, in Saudia.
Burning the Quran is unethical, also think about millions of Christians who will suffer or even die from this in the middle east and other Islamic countries. I am from the Middle East and know how is it there.
As I am Christian now, I believe we should respect the different believes of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhas, and all other faiths, cause this is what Our God Jesus Christ taught us.
I disagree Dr Shaub. Perhaps long term thinking applies to relationships where the other person isn’t on a jihad quest to kill you, but it most certainly does not apply here. The fact that even a “cancelled” Quran burning endangers lives is a really sad state of affairs, and not a reason to shame the pastor, but to further escacalate the way are dealing with these savages. There is a right to religious speech, made free of any concern for repercussions. Period. This is not Nazi Germany, and we are not a weak nation that requires tact in our geopolitical approach, especially when it comes to matters of our fundemental national values.
Shane, I always respect your perspective, but I’m not sure I understand the parallel to Nazi Germany. I agree that we are not a weak nation. But it seems a pretty broad brush to paint those who want to build the mosque with the terrorists who attacked, and continue to attack, us. I agree that the Middle East threats are a “sad state of affairs.” I don’t think we should inhibit free speech because we are afraid, nor do I think we should inhibit speech by the Florida pastor. We just ought to call the Koran burning what it is: “a sad state of affairs” as well. I would be more concerned if it was a government response, but, as a Christian, I am concerned that it is seen as a “Christian” response. And I thought I ought to address it.
If a mosque is funneling money to terrorists, it ought to be subject to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, just like any criminal enterprise. Seize the assets, file federal criminal charges, put the bad guys in prison. The same is true for any church funneling money to terrorists. Short of that, they ought to be free to speak, free to practice their religion, free to assemble. Not because I am always comfortable with what is said, but because this is the United States of America, and these are our founding principles.
Thanks for your response Dr Shaub! If you were to look at the history of knowledge, I think very little of it would be found to have been accreted through trying to prove how right the other person was.
The comparison to the Third Reich is actually not very extreme in this case: it’s simply an example of a sovereign government that failed to uphold its end of the social contract in protecting its citizens from repercussions faced as a result of non-violent religious practice, though the failure is better described as a positive, rather than a negative one, such as would be the case here if we as a society decided to take the path of limiting our rights in the face of danger rather than extolling them as even greater virtues.
Should attempts be made to distinguish between the Florida pastor and the rest of Christendom? What task is more prone to pedantry than defining heresy? It is not as though if the Mosque at Ground Zero is built that we should claim its construction as something “Christian.” Instead, both instances should defined as what they are, the progeny, as is the entirety of the free world, of less than a handful of 18th century thinkers, among them Hume, Locke, and Montesquieu (in order of contribution, from total abstraction to complete concreteness).
I do agree, however, that friendly accommodation, hospitality being the earliest recorded moral, should be extended to legitimately peaceful purveyors of Islam, and the requirements for building a Mosque in Manhattan should be no more strict than are for other structures. The friendly accommodation stops, though, where intrusion on personal liberties begins.
Interesting article Dr. Shaub.. I actually watched Terry Jones on FOX News this past weekend. He was on “let it Rip” show with other guest speakers that did not share his opinion. It was a good debate overall. I personally think that the burning of a holy book is immoral and wrong. I actually sat down and tried to brainstorm the consequences of burning a holy book. The result was not surprising as I couldn’t think of anything other than increased hatred and grudge.
Also, some countries in the middle east are corrupt to a level that no one can imagine. I don’t think religion was the reason for it to be that corrupt. Religion is merely a self-discipline or an ethical guidance for our daily life. The reason is more likely to be the false interpretation of the holy book by extremists to their followers. Those extremist start false propagandas in order to make their narrow-minded followers fear others and therefore be loyal to them by all means (conspiracy theory). This is exactly Terry Jones’s approach to this issue which proves that he is just a radical who tries to attract media attention and suck the mind of few narrow-minded people.
I can’t help but wonder, what is accomplished by burning a Holy book? No good ever comes from an act completely rooted in ignorance and hatred.
I am a big believer in free speech, and strongly believe the pastor should be able to say anything he wants regardless of the pain it causes. Speech should never be taken away or censored because people don’t like what you are saying. The pastor should probably be allowed to burn the Quran, Bible, or any other Holy Book he chooses, but he should not be given 15 minutes of fame by the news networks. The real tragedy of this situation lies with the American media. Because the news networks are classless in their pursuit of ratings, garbage like a Quran burning becomes front page news instantly. In the United States you should be able to say almost anything you want, but that doesn’t mean hatred and ignorance should be spread across the nation/world just because it is shocking. Without the American media pumping this act of bigotry our pastor friend in Florida would be relegated to a completely irrelevant Youtube channel.
Burning any Holy Book is a disgusting act, but it is legally allowed. The media should display a much greater conscience with regard to the stories it covers and work collectively to keep ignorant PR stunts out of the spot light.
Thanks for the article! This is something that I also don’t understand peoples reactions to. If someone says something crazy and clearly wrong, we should not give what they say the time of day. Like you said they are simply setting themselves on fire, but sometimes we extend the crazy peoples fame or message way longer than necessary. Of course there are times when the comments need to be addressed, but I also believe if they were ignored, a majority of them would give it up. Many of these people see opposition as a sign that they are doing the right thing and feeding that only prolongs these types of things. We spend way to much time talking about clear cut issues and ridiculous stories than we should be.
Thanks for the post Dr. Shaub. As a Christian it hurts me to see this radical pastor abuse his right to free speech in such a way and drag the name of Christians every where through the mud with him. Burning a holy book doesn’t send the message of love that a church should send, instead it promotes the opposite: hate, ignorance, and prejudice.
Initially I was opposed to the building of a Mosque near ground zero because the terrorist responsible for the September 11 attacks were affiliated with the Muslim faith, but after reflecting on this blog I am beginning to reconsider my original stance. It would send a very strong message to those, like the terrorist behind the attack, who harbor extreme hatred toward America if the Mosque was built. I would show them that this country does not hate them or their people, but is actually inviting them to worship as they see fit. The freedoms af Americans are what the terrorists were trying to destroy with their attacks, and if we let our opposition to a small group of people cloud our judgment of a major world religion and compromise our freedoms of religion and assembly then they have won.
The actions of that pastor really upset me. One of my best friends is Muslim and my dad was stationed in Iraq for six months. All this guy accomplished was to offend people (which I guess was the point) and put American soldiers in danger (probably not the point). Although, everyone has the right to free speech, being ethical is about more than following the law.
I am almost equally offended by an article in the battalion today titled “Aggies should stand by their opinions”, which attacks homosexuality. I don’t know what else to say other than I am am so deeply saddened by people’s capacity to hate others.
In agreement with Rita, I was offended, just like the pastor intended. Also, I agree with the fact that being ethical is more than simply following rules. I believe the majority of people with opinions face the ethical issue of open-mindedness on a regular basis. It is always a struggle to find a balance between standing for your beliefs and being understanding someone else’s. As a Christian, though, I do not believe that anger and condemnation towards other religions brings Christ any glory. We constantly go against our own beliefs/religion (whether we admit it or not), and I can testify to the fact that my God does not draw me to redemption by condemning me.
Being open-minded and willing to listen is a major element of virtue. Lack of defensive attack often proves a person’s strength in their belief. I’ve found that those who retaliate too quickly are the ones who are unsure of themselves, not necessarily those who are strong and sure of what they’re fighting for.
I agree with Brooke that open-mindedness and a willingness to listen to and respect a person’s beliefs, although they may be different or contradictory to yours, proves a persons strength in his or her own beliefs. I believe everyone should be allowed to have their own opinions and ideas. I do not believe a person has to accept or agree with anothers’ beliefs, but I believe it shows integrity to respect these beliefs. The freedoms that allow us the choice to be who we want to be are what make America great, and no person should be denied these rights.
This is a very interesting article Dr. Shaub, and I have conflicting feelings about it. On one hand, I agree that freedom of speech is guaranteed to each person who is a citizen of the United States of America. On the other hand, however, I think it is important for this country to continue operating how our founders intended it to – as a nation founded under one God. It is hard for me to sit back and be complacent to the fact that America is turning into a melting pot of cultures, especially since every other country in the world has been able to maintain their individuality without dissent from the rest of the global population. While I do agree with freedom of speech and tolerating differences, this country is heading in a direction away from all the things that once made me proud to be an American.
While I acknowledge the destructive harm that has been caused by the one man, I also want Christians and Muslims to recognize the gravity of our words and actions as we speak of this incident. It shows the need to be educated before we speak and our need to place ourselves in the places of those who are unlike us.
This incident reminds me of what happened recently at UCLA. A white student posted a YouTube video filled with racial slurs and ignorant insults toward the Asian community at the school. It received a ton of negative feedback as it quickly became viral at campuses outside of California. She eventually left the school. As an Asian-American, the comments she made hit close to home. I have always grown up in communities where it is painstakingly obvious that I am the minority. High school, A&M, and my internship have made it glaringly obvious that I currently live in a world where some people are uneducated and ignorant to other cultures. At the same time, I have learned a lot about the kinds of responses I can make.
UCLA, the Quran burning incident, and the Manhattan mosque provide us with the opportunity for reconciliation. I think it’s first important to acknowledge what has been done. If you don’t care about these issues and passively blow it off, it can cause irrevocable damage to the already wounded hearts of people affected. Once we acknowledge what happened, we need to forgive each other without expecting the same back. These times allow us to reflect and hope to be better. Despite our differences in race, socioeconomic status, religion, culture, etc., I believe it is a duty to reconcile our inherent differences and, quite simply, love each other.
I have to agree. I was following this chain of events sadly, knowing that it would accomplish nothing but bringing anger and danger upon Americans. I am very glad that in the end the demonstration was canceled, but the fact is that this man was, as all of us are, representing the United States. I think that although most of us have at least a vague idea of how great and influential our country is. Unfortunately many of us forget how we, on an individual level, can affect the entire world, simply because we are Americans.
I’m writing this a few hours after President Obama announced the confirmed death of Osama Bin Laden. I know that for many, this is considered a long-awaited victory, and a way for them to get closure. I also feel that this event increases the level of responsibility that we have as Americans. By that I mean the responsibility to differentiate between having achieved a victory over a terrorist group, and the view some may have of having achieved a victory over an entire region of the world, or the entire Muslim population.
We as a great country, and consequently we, as citizens of that great country have a duty to the rest of the world. I simply hope and pray for wisdom for us all in the coming weeks.
It’s sad to read this blog written about 6 months before Terry Jones, the Florida Pastor, actually decided to burn the Quran on March 20, which led to 12 deaths in April. I was also suprised that this act was protected by the freedom of speech. As I understand it, freedom of speech is limitted in the US if it incites people to riot and Terry Jones, as well as everyone else, was aware that burning the Quran would incite riots. I just want to reiterate what everyone else has said before me, even if this is protected by the freedom of speech, this act proves that an ethical action is more than just what you can legally do. It reminds me of my favorite definition of ethics, doing more than you can, but less than you are allowed.
This issue is very controversial, but essential to America and the world as a whole. America was founded on the idea of equality, free speech, free religion, etc. and it does seem that if you took any of these rights away, America would no longer be the country to go to in order to achieve the ‘American Dream’ of complete freedom. I also find it very upsetting that one pastor could portray such a negative image of Christianity and go against the Christian belief of respecting and loving everyone, including your enemies. Burning the Quran is disrespectful and offensive and the pastor should have understood the importance of religion and the desire for other’s respect for your religion.
In reference to the mosque, I think there is a fine line between being considerate to Americans who lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks, and freedom of speech. I agree with the opposition, but I do believe it is hypocritical to demand these freedoms that are given to all Americans, and then oppose the building of a place of worship. The main issue is whether the building was being built in order to offend Americans and the intentions of the supporters of the mosque.
I believe that the bill of rights is the foundation upon which we as Americans have build our ideals. When you hear about people like the pastor in Florida that is creating all of this controversy, its difficult to understand how an individual can have such a disregard for the freedoms that we have been so fortunate to live with. In these types of situations one particular quote by the philosopher Voltaire comes to mind, “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it.” This quote explains how we as Americans must deal with individuals that take extreme stances on issues that seem to be based purely on hate.
On the subject of Mosque being build in ground zero, I feel that we are unjustly stereotyping all Muslim’s as extremists. These generalizations and unproven beliefs about Muslims and only stokes the flames of all those that see Americans as selfish and culturally ignorant. I sympathize for those that lost loved ones to the terrorist attacks in 9/11 but we must uphold the right of freedom of religion.
I feel that sometimes it is hard for two religions to get along well because they share different beliefs and values. In addition, people will go in an extreme way to become fanatics. Thus, it is even harder to let two different religions get along because fanatics always disrupt the friendly relationship.
I believe that Dr. Shaub’s blog is a good remainder that does not forget to listen to others, be respectful, and think long term. It is a simple principle being popular for a long time “When you harm others, you will harm yourself eventually.” And it is true in the other hand “When you are kind to others, you will receive kindness finally.” Stick to your beliefs and values and never forget to adhere to simple principles of being a good person. Sometimes, mutual concessions are necessary and no harm to your own religions. Then, the world is in harmony.
I have pretty strong feelings against the burning of the Quran. Yes, its one of the freedoms we are granted in our country and I don’t believe the government should stop them. However, the long term effects will be felt by all Americans. People around the world will see that Americans, specifically Christians, not an individual church did it. It’s really a shame that the people of the church can’t see the implication of their actions. That what they want to do is not loving people as God loves us.
I have pretty conflicted feelings about the Mosque in New York. Again, I don’t think it’s the governments place to stop the Mosque from being built. But can’t the people doing it see what message they are sending? It’s hurtful to the people who lost friends and family. If they are trying to build a bridge for tolerance, it doesn’t seem like the right way when so many people are offended by it. Why is it so important for them to use that location?
This post was a good reminder to think how your actions affect people in the long run and to put yourself it someone else’s place and see why they feel a certain way about an issue.
Very interesting idea’s concerning freedom of speech and religion. It is sad that often times radical individuals become the faces of their respective religions. I too like others that posted was originally very against the mosque at ground zero. However, I think you make some very valid points about what kind of a message it would send if the mosque was built, good and bad. This is a very complicated ethical issue, and I can honestly say that I am in no way sure what is best, but I know have a more broad and well informed view of the issue.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishes freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly. These freedoms are an important part of what makes this country great. It only makes sense that it can also come with a great cost. The burning of the Quran and the building of the mosque may be legal, but may not be ethical by most people’s standards. There will always be people on each side of an issue, because there would be no issue if no one supports it. I am a firm believer in doing whatever makes you happy. If you can burn a holy book and live with yourself, go for it. Just be prepared for the consequences.
It’s really amazing how one sided people can think. It’s even more amazing how one sided the freedoms this nation was built upon are implemented (not always but it happens enough). I completely agree with the need of viewing situations like these from a long run perspective. America is too much of a melting pot to take one stance and one viewpoint, especially when that ‘one’ is only our own. I think people fail to realize that while their purpose in this life is definitely important, it is not the only one. We need to make an effort to sync the importance of our lives to that of others. I was not directly affected by 9/11, but I do feel that if people on both sides took the time to look past the face/building/any other physical representation they see and pay attention to the thoughts and emotions within there would be much less tension in our nation and in the world.
I can’t agree with you more on this issue. I thought you brought up a great point when you mentioned “dialectical reasoning,” focusing on the long-term aspect of decision making. Regardless of how controversial a decision might be, I’ve learned over the years that it’s always wise to weigh the consequences of one’s decisions over the long-term. This is because thinking long-term drowns out a large portion of one’s irrational emotions that often surface during, and play a biased role in, quick decision making. When possible, it’s always a good idea to take a step back and think about how your actions will be viewed and received a year from now, rather than acting on impulse and regretting something in the future. Thanks for posting and sharing, your thoughts and wisdom mean a lot!
I feel there is a very fine line here. I do feel the pastor has every right to conduct his protest, but I do agree with you Dr. Shaub that this is not Christianity. The war on terror does not have an identifiable target. Those wishing to punish the Muslims in this country for the work of radicals are wrong. We are a country who welcomes all. Our diversity of thought and background gives us strength.
I feel there are a lot of misconceptions and mistrust between the two religions (Islam & Christianity), but the only way to overcome these is through dialogue and more importantly the ability to listen.