EDITORIAL: The Koran and other burning issues

Ground Zero Mosque escalates the clash of civilizations

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Those who are upset over the plan by the Dove World Outreach Center to burn copies of the Koran on Sept. 11 now know how the opponents of the Ground Zero Mosque feel. Having the right to do something doesn’t make it the right thing to do, whether it’s destroying books or profaning the sacred space of Ground Zero with a mega-mosque.

The same Constitution that the Supreme Court determined enshrines flag burning as a right surely permits destroying Korans. Exercising a right, however, can put one in the wrong. Proponents of both Koran burning and mosque building have adopted a “public be damned” attitude and are moving ahead regardless of how much trouble their plans might cause. One important difference is that the Koran burning is a one-time event while the Ground Zero Mosque will be a persistent blot on the landscape.

The planned Koran burning has illuminated liberal hypocrisy. Many of the same voices tut-tutting about the Koran flambe regard a crucifix dipped in urine as an expression of high art and would greet the destruction of Bibles with chants of “burn, baby, burn!”

As for fanning the flames, it was highly inappropriate and unwise for Afghanistan forces commander Gen. David Petraeus to comment on this controversy since he drew more attention to it in the Middle East than it would have garnered otherwise. His comments came after a small group of protesters turned up in Kabul chanting “Long Live Islam” and carrying banners reading “Death to Obama.” While it’s possible the Koran-burning event could make the fight more difficult in Afghanistan, as the general claimed, it’s not the place for members of the military to use their positions of responsibility to intervene in American domestic political issues. The International Security Assistance Force commander would do better to focus his efforts on trying to promote tolerance in a part of the world where destroying Bibles is considered an obligatory aspect of Islamic social hygiene.

Book burning is an ineffective way to fight the ideas that offending books contain. Pastor Terry Jones, the motive force behind International Burn a Koran Day, has demonstrated that holding a book barbecue is a very good way to focus attention. He said he wants to send a “clear, radical message,” a mission he has already accomplished. In a similar way, the Ground Zero Mosque is a clear act of provocation. The Muslim presence in Lower Manhattan is not large enough to justify a structure that size, and the project will not be financed by the community it allegedly will be serving.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf - the mastermind of the Ground Zero Mosque - is extending his State Department-subsidized tour of the Gulf region in a “private capacity,” no doubt to raise funds from well-heeled Middle Eastern sources. His foreign-financed mosque project is as much a thumb in America’s eye as a flaming Koran is for the Muslim world. These two wrongs will not make a right.

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