The notorious Florida pastor Terry Jones has at last fulfilled his long-cherished dream and participated in a public burning of the sacred Muslim scripture, the Quran.
The auto da fe took place on Sunday in one of Florida’s churches, and the executor was Pastor Jones’ colleague and disciple Pastor Wayne Sapp. The improvised trial took about eight minutes, after which the “jurors” issued a “guilty” verdict. The Quran was declared guilty of numerous crimes and sentenced to public burning. The book itself had already been prepared, having been soaked in kerosene for several hours. Pastor Sapp lit it with a barbecue lighter and after ten minutes the show was over.
It is worth remembering that Pastor Terry Jones who supervised the whole event, first put forward the idea of burning the sacred Muslim book in summer 2010. His intention was to burn as many copies of the Quran on September 11, when the US commemorated the 9/11-2001 anniversary. At that time it went so far that President Barack Obama had to intervene and use all his influence in order to prevent the public execution of the book. Pastor Terry Jones stepped back, called off the burning and even vowed he will never again intend to do it.
But his initiative was not lost in vain. Some other radical protestant pastors did fulfill his intention and organized a public burning of the Quran on September 11, 2010.
Pastor Jones’ name became well-known by the public far beyond the US boundaries. He became an icon for some and a culprit in the eyes of others. When British ultra-nationalist and xenophobic English Defence League invited him to Great Britain early this year to participate in one of its sessions, the British Home Office denied him the right to enter the country.
Despite the promise he gave six months ago, this time Terry Jones decided to revive his long-cherished dream. He even issued a notice to Muslims saying that he is granting them the right to defend their holy book. When no one answered, he went on with the “trial”.
Although the whole incident did not attract much public attention – media largely ignored it, and the “trial” itself was attended by no more than 30 people, those who attended it were rather aggressive.
“These people [Muslims], for me, are like monsters,” said Jadwiga Schatz who expressed her ardent support for Terry Jones. “I hate these people.”
What is also worth mentioning is the fact that Pastor Jones could hardly choose a worse time for burning the Quran. It happened exactly on the day when the western coalition started its operation against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The operation itself does not enjoy unanimous support even in the US with memories of the failures in Afghanistan and Iraq being too fresh. More so, Colonel Gaddafi used it as a pretext to present the military action against his regime as a clash of civilizations, calling it a “new crusade”. Definitely, there is no reason to equate the military action (supported, among others, by several Muslim states) against a regime following the policies of genocide against its own people with the clashes between Christian and Muslim civilizations in the Middle Ages.
But cases like the Sunday burning of the Quran can have an extremely negative impact on public opinion in the Muslim world making too many people believe that Muammar Gaddafi may be right. Even if the number of Pastor Terry Jones’ followers might be minimal, the publicity attracted to such cases will definitely picture the US as a “new crusader”. And this is very much unlikely to serve for the success of the work the West is trying to do in Libya.
Barack Obama tried hard to avoid being pictured in the same tones as his predecessor who started two wars against Muslim countries. When eventually he was forced to do it, he still tried to keep as low a profile as possible, letting France and other European countries to play the first fiddle.
And if he is remembered as a person who followed the usual track of US coercive policies, Pastor Jones will be among those Obama should thank for tarnishing his image.