Last year the mad preacher of Gainesville The Reverend Terry Jones created a furore in the Muslim world by his threats and call for a global burning of the Islamic holy book, the Quran. Thankfully, that was averted after some pressure from the Oval Office. Yet, last week some rogue US soldiers have taken this call one step further and burnt copies of the Quran, in all places, Afghanistan. It’s a death wish.
The US Army denied that this was deliberate and just a mistake, but do they really think that we are that stupid? Burning any book is really not kosher but burning one’s holy book when you are in one’s country as an invading force is a big slap in the face. The reality is that they got caught and now they are trying to backtrack.
Burning a Muslim’s most revered book, the word of God, is not a good idea, especially if you don’t want a major headache. There are a whole number of possile backlashes; fire-bombing embassies, retaliatory attacks on Westerners, burning flags and as we saw yesterday on Youtube, Libyan militia desecrating the gravestones of fallen soldiers of war.
These actions were gravely misjudged and the burning of Qurans by US soldiers did warrant the destruction of the grave sites. The two do not have had any connection whatsoever, the war cemetry was mainly for British and some allied soldiers anyway. Two wrongs don’t make a right. It was quite despicable to watch.
But this is deeper than just burning the Quran. A look at the last few months you would have noticed an increasing number of anti-Islamic incidents. There have been several laws passed in the US banning Sharia law. There was a massive campaign to stop the Islamic centre being built near Ground Zero. Then there was Anders Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who killed 77 people in July 2011 and posted a "manifesto" on the internet, about the role played by websites as a forum for spreading hatred of Muslims in Europe.
Yesterday a report, which polled 2,152 far-right supporters in the UK, raises concerns that the English Defence League (EDL), followed by Breivik, is increasingly promoting violence and in a planned international meeting in Denmark on 31 March members from defence leagues in Italy, Poland, the United States, Finland, Sweden and Norway, along with the anti-Muslim group, Stop Islamisation of Europe will discuss the formation of an European Defence League and ways to “counter jihad”.
Here in Australia, we have already seen the first phase of a quasi-banning of the Burqa through a law passed by the NSW parliament last year, forcing Muslim women to reveal their face if requested by a police officer or a JP if signing a statutory declaration or an affidavit.
Earlier in January this year there was a brazen attack on Wallsend Mosque which was caught on a security camera. The Australian Protectionist Party spokesman Darrin Hodges said he believed many people were "concerned about what goes on inside" mosques, but he believed that the attack was not motivated by religious hatred. Just a random attack, I guess… on a religious place of worship, which just happened to be… a mosque.
The party's Sydney-based organiser, Nick Folkes, said debate about a mosque in Elermore Vale had created interest in the party. "We definitely had a lot of people wanting to know what we were about," he said. There are now some concerns that the Australian Protectionist Party, is increasingly becoming close to the EDL.
In Brisbane, late last year, a flyer being letterboxed by a group called the QSociety states that it is concerned with the "erosion of Western values and the Islamisation of Australia". The flyers say "it's time to say no" to the Halal food industry, "whitewashed Islamic content" in state schools, Sharia finance and "segregation and apartheid" such as prayer rooms.
The burning of the Quran is only the early stages of a more sinister global campaign to denigrate and vilifiy Muslims, particularly, those living in Western countries. It is also a dangerous course which could result in a tit for tat pattern of violence based on religious hatred and ignorance. The irony is that, on both sides, a small band of extremists are pushing this agenda.
It may be that governments might need to intervene in either proscribing groups like the EDL and the APP before we see it get out of control.
One must remember that both Muslims and Christians are only different branches of the same Abrahamic tree, both share common values of love and compassion and ideally both want to live in a world free of violence and free of oppression. The whole world is being held to ransom by a few nutters, and as we speak, probably sitting in an English pub in Liverpool, downing a luke warm ale, contemplating his next move.