CNN’s Fareed Zakaria has by far the most intelligent take that I’ve seen on the Quran burning by pastor Terry Jones of Florida:
Let’s talk for a moment about the Quran burning in Florida and it’s consequences. Most Americans are repulsed by the offensive actions of Pastor Terry Jones, a publicity-seeking extremist. But they must wonder how an isolated act like that could produce so much violence halfway across the world in Afghanistan.
So let’s trace the event.
The Quran burning took place two weeks ago – to not much publicity. It was not highlighted by the international media and was not a big story in Afghanistan. There had been a few small, peaceful protests last Wednesday.
Then, Afghan President Hamid Karzai decided to try to capitalize on the issue and score some political points.
Last Thursday he made a speech loudly condemning the burning and calling for the arrest of Pastor Jones. But having lived in America, Karzai understands well that people cannot be arrested here for engaging in free speech, which includes burning flags or books.
Karzai’s speech opened the door for Imams across the country to use their pulpits on Friday to call for protests and more.
That is when all hell broke loose.
But even then, the killings appear to have been the handiwork of Taliban agitators who were using the occasion to score points against the United States, the Karzai government, and to generally cause chaos in the streets.
The senior UN official in Afghanistan said that there was abundant evidence that the killings were not the result of out-of-control mobs but rather deliberate acts of murder by Taliban militia.
Keep in mind that these protests have been extremely small by Afghan standards – not a single one had more than 100 people at it, according to the U.S. army spokesman.
So it’s politics as much as religion at work here.
And yet there is something depressing about the fact that when something like this happens, there is an imbalance in the reaction.
Many Muslim leaders – from the Afghan government to the Pakistani government to local activists – condemn the burning of the Quran. That’s appropriate. Burning the Holy Book of any religion is offensive.
But so is killing people in reaction to that burning. And this is where there is still far too much silence in the Muslim world.
President Karzai has condemned the killing, presumably realizing that his political ploy backfired, but what about the others? And what about Muslim religious leaders in particular? Why are they silent about the murder of innocents in the name of religion?
This is a perfect moment for them to stand for a modern, moderate Islam that condemns the burning of the book but also the killing of humans.
We will keep watch for those statements.
That’s exactly right.