In September of last year, Terry Jones, an attention-seeking fundamentalist Christian pastor from Florida, had the world on edge as he announced that he would be burning the Holy Quran outside his church. Coinciding as it did with the controversy over a proposal to build a mosque near Ground Zero in New York City, Jones achieved the notoriety he so clearly desired and then backed out of his plan at the last minute. This week, under considerably less media attention, Jones finally followed through with his plan.
It is to the credit of the Muslim world that they did not succumb to Jones’ bait. There were scattered protests in Pakistan over his actions but they were not attended by more than a few hundred people. After the furore over the Danish cartoons, the fear was that such protests may turn violent. Had that happened, it would have been a public relations coup for Jones and his ilk. Their intention is to show that all Muslims are irrational and violent; by killing and looting we would have given them confirmation that this is indeed the case. Now that Pakistani outrage at his puerile and offensive action has been noted, it is best to put Jones out of sight and out of mind. He feeds on attention and starving him of that will show that his actions have failed.
The Pakistani government, too, has played this in an appropriately low-key manner. Our ambassador to the US registered a protest with the American government. The US State Department also condemned Terry Jones’ action. The First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees freedom of speech — book burning, even if the book in question is a holy book, falls under that. Asking the UN to force its member countries not to allow actions that would hurt religious sentiment would also be pointless as it would certainly be vetoed by the US. It is time to move on and show through our deeds that we are better than Terry Jones.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2011.