Personally, I would love to live in a world where people could say whatever and the consequences would be negligible. However, that is not the world we live in, and we have a responsibility to conduct ourselves in a manner that helps our cause (as disgusting as it may be) while not hurting others.
Terry Jones did not consider the consequences of his actions.
As a Muslim who has heard the slander often, I was not offended by mere idiocy, but as a human that values other humans I saw this as repulsive. There are two issues presented here, one is that of stereotyping those in the Middle East, and the second is the apathy that allows hatred to fester.
For the first point, regardless of how I feel about it, I cannot in good conscience hold Jones accountable for what happened in Afghanistan as a result.
Perhaps I listen to my father too much, but he always said, “If someone tells you to do something bad and you do it, then it’s more your fault because you listened.” We, as humans, have brains; I will not reduce those murderers in Afghanistan to mindless drones who could only respond one way. They are capable-minded murderers until proven otherwise. Those who killed at the U.N. compound in retaliation for Jones’ acts are accountable for the way they responded.
If Jones is tried for treason, or obstructing the U.S. military, then that is up to the law, which I am not as concerned with right this moment.
What I am concerned with is the way this is being discussed. Those people in Afghanistan had a choice; they could have acted any other way, or could have not done anything at all. To blame Jones for their actions gives the sense that Muslims cannot control their emotions, or that they all feel the same way. This adds to the list of stereotypes and enforces or legitimizes the hatred that continues to circulate.
Here in the U.S., when it comes to Jones, if we frame the issue as one of freedom of expression then we should acknowledge that he has the right to be an idiot. However, there is a bigger second issue at stake.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the burning happened after the debacle of the Congressional Hearings on American Muslims. It also shouldn’t surprise people that he had support for what he did, but it goes further than just support from people who think like him.
Now, it’s no secret that Islamophobia has become an accepted backdrop to everyday life, whether it is the media or general talk by average people. This form of xenophobia has become acceptable for politicians, and even gains some reward among groups. Often enough people whom I’ve come to like still spout those same misconceptions as if it were the only truth possible.
When these forms of hatred are allowed to permeate we create people like Pastor Terry Jones.
Everyone seems to think that saying something drastic is the only catalyst to these acts. Perhaps we should also focus on things people say like, “they hate us because they’re against everything we stand for” or, “because we’re successful.” To me this argument sounds like “She only hates me because I’m prettier than her.” Perhaps we should also look at statements like, “sure I think burning anyone’s religious book is bad, but why is it they always get to say, ‘death to Americans’ no matter what we do.” All these implicit forms of hatred add fuel to the fire. They promote stereotypes just as bad as overt references. Saying the R-word is just as bad as saying “drrr” while holding your arm to your chest and making a stupid face. One is taken as insult, the other as a normal thing to do, but both have the same consequence. For some reason one is more acceptable than the other.
In the case of Islamophobia, both aspects of the stereotyping seem to be getting support from the other.
This is freedom of speech, but why do we stand for what is being said? The KKK marches every year and people line up along the sidewalks yelling right back at them. When the media gives Islamophobia attention, where are the voices of everyone else? Or do we passively assume that if we don’t say something someone else will, or has already said what needs to be heard?
How did we allow one man to have so much power? Or perhaps we should ask why.