"Tomorrow, on the ninth anniversary of Sept. 11, many people will be content with quiet remembrances, moments of silence and perhaps even prayers. For most of us this is enough to grieve for the victims of that day and feel a connection to our collective loss.
"However, others have stronger convictions, and in Florida an obscure pastor, Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center, had planned to take a more active approach, which included burning the Quran.
"This kind of expression saddens us at The Oswegonian and we regret the kind of seething hatred that incited Jones (who has now, thankfully, called off his "International Burn a Quran Day"). After all, the media’s failure to contextualize the war on terror is at least partly responsible for raw feelings toward Islam.
"As that religion’s sacred text, Jones had planned to send a message to Muslims the world over with his burning; he blames them for the attacks of Sept. 11.
"The municipality where Jones was holding his Quran burning had rejected his fire-permit request, but Jones had sworn to carry on regardless. We are breathing a sigh of relief that he has since seen reason, as the media attention surrounding Jones’ fire has had risks. The fact that American troops may have been in peril due to backlash should be enough to cause any rational patriot to demure. We’re glad Jones proved himself to be one. Still one has to question, would planned burning of Torahs or copies of the Tao Te Ching by a renegade holy man be enough to provoke threats of widespread violence?
"We also want it noted that, despite our displeasure, the same First Amendment which shields this article would have protected Jones’ message as well. We believe it is seriously dangerous when a few lines in the Gainsville, Fla. fire code purported to make an end run around the First Amendment.
"It’s happened here before too. In early spring 2008, a Quran was tossed into a lakeside bonfire where many members of Brothers and Sisters in Christ (BASIC) were in attendance. Pictures of the incident appeared online and touched off a campus-wide controversy. But cooler heads prevailed, and a well-timed lecture series entitled "Understanding Islam" helped to calm the campus fever. It was this kind of education bending toward tolerance that led BASIC to partner with Muslim Student Association and expand the forum the next year to include all three Abrahamic religions.
"Inside the issue lies a question: why are we all so hung up on the flammability of paper? The Gideons International do not fly into sanctimonious fury every time a wayward cigarette causes a motel to catch fire. Clearly, it is the intent of the fire that counts.
"Here’s some context for you. Islamic tradition has it that the Quran was revealed orally to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel. Nothing flammable involved. For generations afterward the Quran, still unwritten, was passed by word, memorized by each successive devotee, doubtlessly bringing the seeker closer to the text’s nuances. How many of us can really say we’ve read the entire Bible, Bhagavad-Gita or Origin of Species for that matter (much less memorize them)?
"After all, revelation, if it is to be found, is not in anyone’s library. And if we are the children of God, then surely he is a living God who speaks to us in the wind and the light and in each other’s faces when we smile and conceive of our common divinity. While a religious text may be the seed of spiritual consciousness, it is not its ultimate form. It is our personal understanding of the ordered universe, however that it is brought about, that lives in our hearts and cannot be destroyed by a thousand fires. It is that religion which Jones would never have been able to destroy.