Extremism Produces Extremism

About three weeks ago, Pastor Terry Jones burned a copy of the Qur’an. Jones had planned to burn Qur’ans on September 11th of last year but was persuaded against it. However, last month, Jones put the Qur’an “on trial,” found it guilty, and executed it.  The consequence of Jones’ action was violence in Afghanistan that left at least 20 people dead and more than 80 injured.

Jones’ action in itself is insignificant. Despite the fact that burning the Qur’an is extremely offensive, his actions do not represent the vast majority of Americans and should really be ignored. But the reason that this story should receive  any attention at all is because it demonstrates clearly the way that extremism fuels extremism.

By burning the Qur’an, an act that many Christian leaders denounced, Jones set out to purposely provoke Muslims around the world. Unfortunately, Jones was successful and some Muslims in Afghanistan responded violently disregarding the calls in the Qur’an for moderation in Muslim responses.

Moreover, when asked about the deaths of non-Muslims that resulted from burning the holy book, Jones maintained that it was worth it in order to achieve a larger goal. His response echoes that of other extremists, Muslim and non-Muslim alike: death is acceptable for a larger goal. Moreover, Jones does not seem deterred and has suggested that next he wants to put the Prophet Muhammad on trial, which has the possibility of creating more violence.

Extremist behavior that is meant to provoke is highly problematic because it produces extreme responses. This applies not only in the case of Terry Jones but anyone or any group that utilizes strategies meant to provoke another group of people. For example, violent acts by Muslim extremists have lead to extreme animosity directed towards Islam and Muslims worldwide. Similarly, after the provocation of the 9/11 attacks, hate crimes against Muslims in the United States increased dramatically.

Some might argue that Jones has the right to exercise free speech; however, with free speech comes responsibility and to set out to provoke and harm the sentiments of an entire group people is problematic, especially if the response will be extreme like the  initial act.

What did you think of Terry Jones’ act? Do you think that burning the Qur’an is an extreme act? Are there limits to free speech? Please share your thoughts below.

2 thoughts on “Extremism Produces Extremism

  1. I just posted this on another site discussing the same issue.

    “Some of what you say is acceptable. Muslims could protest against extremists, I don’t think it would help any, though. As for the case in Beslan, there were contradicting statements, some ppl said that one of the terrorists in the hostage taking began acting weird, and the others with him were reacting to that as if “what is he doing, or saying?”. I can’t say I know where that “evidence” is now, but there are some who say they’ve seen it or heard about it. With the Soviets, I wouldn’t doubt they might try to do something like that. I don’t think their government cares about it’s own people and might use children as a weapon, if need be in the Chechen war. They care more about how the world perceives their handling of the war, than about people’s lives.

    Why do Christians, or secularists feel they have to try and anger Muslims? If Terry Jones hadn’t burned the Qur’an (that’s what I was told by friends, that he didn’t go through with it after all) would his life have had less meaning to him? What was the real point of the stunt?

    What is the real point of any of it? Insulting Islam, Muslims, their holy Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, why bother? Are those people’s lives richer as a result of all their inward hate and outward displays of so-called “freedom”? I think they have to free themselves from the burden of HATE” (probably that stuff about the Beslan hostage taking is too “paranoid” for most)

  2. This is my website, if youre interested. I like to discuss freedom of speech, that’s what I’ve done this week, there will be other blog posts soon, maybe on different topics as well.