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.