The world over, particularly Muslims, stood in horror and outrage at the decision by an obscure group of religious fanatics in Florida to burn the Qur’an in the name of Christianity. For the moment, it seems they have decided to defer the terrible act, which allows the rest of us to pause and reflect about how our global society could have devolved to such a low point.
To begin with, untold millions are wondering, Why aren’t the American authorities stopping them?, especially considering the violence and instability that is likely to result from the deplorable act. There are very real and important legal and philosophical issues. In simplest terms, many Americans believe that to stop this group from burning the Qur’an would be to endanger one of the core principles of human rights, namely, the right to express one’s opinions, no matter how strange, controversial, or abhorrent.
To the charge that the United States’ own laws may have made it morally impotent, or worse, complicit in such an affront to humanity, Americans respond that they are reaching for a higher morality, one that encompasses the total civic community and not any one group. The rights of the few must be protected for the sake of all.
That argument is true and must be stated clearly, but I feel that what’s been missing from the discussion, though, has been the deeper spiritual and cultural dimensions. What kind of world are we living in when members of a religious community can so radically misunderstand or grossly misinterpret the principles of their faith and their nation as to attack the entirety of another religious community so symbolically and with such hatred?
Indeed, what kind of world are we living in when members of the recipient religious community themselves think it equally justified to rise up in violence and to exact vicious reprisals upon innocents who are in no way connected to, affiliated with, or approving of the desecration of their holy text?
I’ve been following the tragic events in Southern Kyrgyzstan all weekend and coordinating neweurasia‘s English coverage. It took me a while to re-establish contact with our team in Osh and Jalalabad, at least one of whom appeared to be hiding in his house. The videos have been heartbreaking: entire neighborhoods burned down.
The whole disaster has cast a dim light back onto the society in which I currently find myself, Belgium. This country also has long standing difficulties between its two major constituent ethnicities, and it has has just undergone an election in which apparent separatists emerged triumphant. Many of my friends here are alarmed by the results and fear for the future of their nation.