Lessons From The Whole Quran Episode

When Terry Jones, a Florida pastor, announced his plan to burn Qurans on 9/11 with a tweet and an “International Burn a Koran Day” page on Facebook, he ignited an international conflagration of outrage.

As news spread, worldwide condemnation and anxiety mounted. At least two people died in a demonstration in Afghanistan. It seemed this obscure self-proclaimed pastor in Gainesville, Florida, was determined to carry out an action of catastrophic global consequences.

Now that the crisis is over, CNN asked contributors to write their observations of what happened, and what lessons the pastor’s threat and the events that followed can teach us.

Canadian Prime Minister Condemns Qur’an Burning

The Toronto Star – September 8, 2010
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper referred to his Christian faith to “unequivocally condemn” a Florida church that plans to burn 200 copies of the Qur’an. “I don’t speak very often about my own religion but let me be very clear: My God and my Christ is a tolerant God, and that’s what we want to see in this world,” he said.
Harper was adding his voice to the global outcry against a Florida preacher who plans to burn copies of the Qur’an in a bonfire Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Rev. Terry Jones has since rescinded his protest. Defence Minister Peter MacKay added, “This initiative is insulting to Muslims and Canadians of all faiths who understand that freedom of thought and freedom of religion are fundamental to our way of living.”

UK religious leaders condemn Koran burning

10 September 2010
After 9/11, and after 7/7, the Ahmadiyya community based in Morden in Surrey invited the news media to film a cross-community condemnation of intolerance and hatred. In light of the furore caused by Pastor Terry Jones in Florida, who had announced to burn Korans on 11 September, the Ahmadiyya community once more invited people of different faiths to a common service condemning extremism. Local religious leaders and councillors “made a stand for reason and tolerance”.
Jewish, Catholic, C of E, Bahaai and other Christian denominations all took part in an event for the cameras, as well as an American Embassy official. They made statements condemning Terry Jones’ threats to burn the Koran. Some quoted the Bible, others referred to Nazi book burnings. The Reverend Andrew Wakefield — well known as a contributor to “Thought for the Day” – acknowledged that in the face of the Florida panic, perhaps faith leaders needed to make more effort to convey through the news media the extent of interfaith community cohesion. At least 8,000 people attended Friday service, discussing how to fight hatred with prayer.

Obama and Religious Leaders Call for Religious Tolerance

Prominent Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders held an extraordinary “emergency summit” meeting in the capital on Tuesday to denounce what they called “the derision, misinformation and outright bigotry” aimed at American Muslims during the controversy over the proposed Islamic community center near ground zero.
They said they were alarmed that the “anti-Muslim frenzy” and attacks at several mosques had the potential not only to tear apart the country, but also to undermine the reputation of America as a model of religious freedom and diversity.

Gen. David H. Petraeus warned on Tuesday that any video of Americans burning the Koran “would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence,” endangering the lives of American soldiers.
In Gainesville, Florida, clergy members, academics and elected officials planned dozens of events to counter the plan to burn Korans, as planned by Pastor Terry Jones, starting on Wednesday with an interfaith prayer service.

Converted teenager: reconciliation with family not possible

Despite efforts by courts in Ohio and Florida, Rifqa Bary, a runaway teenager from Ohio says reconciliation with her Muslim family is not possible. Ms. Bary converted from Islam to Christianity and fled home with the alleged assistance of a Christian pastor claiming she would be in danger due to her conversion. Ms. Bary’s attorney argued that the continuing fear of being hurt by her family makes reconciliation impossible.

CAIR commends Florida Jewish group for condemning hate speech

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) commended the Florida office of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) concerning the anti-Islam hate of Dutch politicial Geert Wilders, who was recently given a standing ovation at a Florida synagogue.

At the end of April, CAIR called on members of the Jewish community to condemn “Nazi-like” statements by Wilders, who claimed that “Islam is not a religion” and “the right to religious freedom should not apply to this totalitarian ideology called Islam” at a Palm Beach, FL synagogue. He received applause and a standing ovation from his statements. In a statement released by the ADL Florida Regional Director, Andrew Rosenkranz said: “The ADL strongly condemns Geert Wilders’ message of hate against Islam as inflammatory, divisive and antithetical to American democratic ideals. This rhetoric is dangerous and incendiary, and wrongly focuses on Islam as a religion, as opposed to the very real threat of extremist, radical Islamists.”

Legal experts say feds are resorting to immigration laws to keep Youssef Megahed detained

Youssef Megahed, a legal, permanent resident of the United States, has been re-arrested just three days after a federal jury found him not guilty of explosives charges. Legal experts cite Megahed’s detention as part of a federal government tendency to use immigration law when federal prosecutors don’t have enough evidence to convict persons in the criminal court. “They lost the case criminally because they don’t have a good case, and they turn around and prosecute him in immigration where the standards are lower and where you can keep somebody mandatorily detained simply by alleging he’s a terrorist,” said Miami immigration lawyer Ira Kurzban.

Megahed has lived in the United States with his family for more than 11 years, and is being held without bail as immigration authorities attempt to move deport him based on similar facts for which he was prosecutes in federal court. “The real problem is a complete fiction in immigration law,” Kurzban said. “On the one hand they say it’s not a criminal proceeding; it’s only a civil proceeding. That gives them the right to detain people forever, to abbreviate their constitutional rights, even though detention is clearly a punishment.”

Florida Muslim detained after being acquitted of charges, CAIR seeks release

On Tuesday, April 7, the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) will hold a news conference to call for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release former USF student Youssef Megahed.

In April 2007 Megahed, along with Ahmed Mohamed, was arrested for allegedly having explosives in the trunk of his car. Mohamed pleaded guilty last Friday to the charges and is serving a 15-year prison sentence, while Megahed was acquitted and freed from custody.

ICE took Megamed back into custody while he was shopping with his father at a local Wal-Mart. They have accused him of “civil violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act” and have placed him in deportation proceedings. He must present his case to an immigration judge to be freed from the charges.

Muslim community finds message on church marquee offensive

A sign posted outside a church in Jacksonville, Florida that reads “God Loves You, Allah Hates” has caused offense against local Muslims. A reporter from Channel 4 News called the pastor of the First Conservative Baptist Church to get an explanation, but was hung up on. One Muslim woman who asked not to be identified said: “What have I done? What have I done to deserve that kind of hatred in my neighborhood? The thing that bothers me so much is that this is in my neighborhood, where I live with my children. To know that people that feel this way are in my neighborhood is scary.”

CAIR has called the church’s sign offensive and wrong, citing that concerning the matter of words – God and Allah – the two quintessentially mean the same thing.

Full text article continues here (Some news sites may require registration)

Muslims Urged to Boost Political Participation

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling on American Muslims to exercise their civic responsibility by taking part in the November presidential elections. CAIR is asking Muslim voters to utilize its ‘Civic Participation Guide’ offering step-by-step advice for working with candidates, elected officials, organizing voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives. With large numbers of Muslims in swing states such as Ohio, Florida, and Michigan, CAIR believes that the American Muslim community will be influential in helping to determine the next president of the United States.

Full-text article available here. (Some news sites may require registration)