Awash in Flames

The Dove World Outreach Center in Florida is planning on burning the Islamic Holy text on the anniversary of September 11th, despite statements from the White House, General David Petraeus and even Glenn Beck, of all people. The pastor of the church, Rev. Terry Jones, has claimed that he's taken the concerns into consideration, but all indications are that the church still intends to move along with their plans. I'm stunned (although sadly, not at all surprised) that people continue to spout such hate, regardless of the consequences.

General David Petraeus has since e-mailed a statement to the Associated Press, noting that such acts are already seeing some impact overseas, and has warned that the consequences will be immediately used by extremist factions as propaganda against the U.S. cause overseas. Acts against Muslim icons, such as Mohammad or the Koran have been seen to ignite public opinion against the west, with the Danish cartoon controversy a couple of years ago, as well as the news that a Koran might have been flushed down a toilet during the course of an interrogation at Guantanamo Bay.

While this is an act that is certainly a small one, the consequences of such actions are deliberatively provocative, and miss some of the major, underlying points when it comes to the motivations behind the war. The pastor, Jones, belongs to a group that believes that the return of Christ will happen in the modern day, and that they have a mission to combat evil: something that they see the Koran as falling under. When it comes to current events, it is a short leap to what it seems is a more common belief amongst Americans: the Islamic community of the world is fundamentalist and violent, because of their religion, which is a ridiculous argument.

The ongoing conflict in the Middle East is not strictly a religious confrontation, but a politically motivated battle that utilizes religion as a tool to organize its followers. Looking at the violence across Palestine, Iraq, Turkey, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, it helps to look at the incidents and attacks. Suicide bombers and other fanatics tend to be those who follow their leaders, carrying out orders, not the leaders of such movements themselves. The violence is also not religiously motivated: these are people who are not trying to convert followers by destroying them. Rather, the attacks are against those perceived as aggressors that are encroaching on one’s territory, and in a large way, on an established order that is highly resistant to change.

The strict, fundamentalist views of Islam are not things to be defended: they represent amongst some of the more horrifying elements of any organized religion, and like any larger religion, it is not a view that is shared by all. Fanning the flames (quite literally, in this instance) will do little but turn more people against the interests of peace in the world. In this instance, burning these books will undoubtedly turn people against U.S. interests in the Middle East, and will lead to soldier’s deaths that need not happen.

On the military side of the house, counter insurgency forces are seeking to remove insurgents from the general population by using the best means possible – in some cases through combat, in other cases, through patrols and creating an otherwise inhospitable environment for them, cutting off support or removing key people from influence. This job will ultimately be harder when more of the general population (who is already at or beyond the tipping point) has another reason to distrust U.S. troops. The interests of the United States overseas are not to push any sort of religious agenda: it is to secure U.S. interest overseas by eliminating the possibility of insurgent terrorism from happening again.

On the public relations side, this paints the country in an exceedingly poor light, because insurgency forces can point to instances such as this and use it as a sort of proof that the U.S. is intolerant and seeks to rid the world of people. That’s not the case, but hard facts don’t matter in these instances: the thought and idea does, just as any conspiracy theorist believes wholeheartedly in whatever they believe in, no matter what proof is presented. The country has its share of issues, but comparatively, the country hasn’t resorted to bombings or widespread attacks on its citizens at the bequest of the government that rules it.

In any case, what this church is doing is downright sad, and goes against everything that I know the bible to teach (granted, that is a bit limited) , and it is those lessons that look far more to peace and order that I would rather teach and leave an impression with.