The Albany HeraldBurning books historically has had one and only one effect, and that is to promote ignorance.Terry Jones, a preacher in Gainesville, Fla., plans to do that on Saturday ‘” the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks ‘” with copies of the Quran, the Islamic holy book.Jones’ church, Dove World Outreach Center, is planning to publicly set fire to copies of the Quran, saying it’s the exercise of his constitutional right to free speech.And it is. The freedom to speak your mind without fear of government retaliation is one of the greatest rights that we have as Americans. Jones has every right to burn the Quran. Or the Bible for that matter. Or the American flag. Or copies of ‘Tom Sawyer.’But in doing so, what is he saying? What’s the real message that’s coming out of this?It’s the two-edged sword that freedom embodies. We show freedom by allowing the speech of those who would curtail the very freedoms we hold dear. In this case, a religious leader will be allowed to publicly ridicule and incite another religion.America ‘” and the world in general ‘” would be a better place if people would just think and feel empathy before they push through ideas that range from inconsiderate to divisive.The flap over the construction of a mosque near the site of the 9/11 terrorist destruction at ground zero in New York could be avoided by mosque officials taking into consideration the raw nerve that it touches with the majority of Americans. Voluntary relocation of the facility further away from the site of the destroyed World Trade Center towers would go a long way toward separating mainstream U.S. Muslims from the extremist murderers in the eyes of many. There is, however, a constitutional right for the mosque to be built at the chosen site and it’s a right that it appears will be exercised.Gainesville officials, meanwhile, have denied Jones and his 50 or so followers a burning permit, but if the city tries to enforce that denial, it will likely open itself to a federal lawsuit in which it will end up paying damages for violating Jones’ right to free speech.Meanwhile, his free speech may very well give aid to America’s enemies, if not comfort.Gen. David Petraeus, who is in charge of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, warned Tuesday in an e-mail to The Associated Press that ‘images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan ‘” and around the world ‘” to inflame public opinion and incite violence.’As a result, how many American lives will be lost as a direct result of the Dove Center’s action? How much more American blood will be spilled just so one hardhearted preacher can make his point?There is nothing good that will come from this planned demonstration.Nothing. The only result will be the endorsement of the ignorant concept that brute force ‘” in this case, fire ‘” is the best way to counter ideas you disagree with.Frankly, Jones’ plans counter the Christian teaching of treating others as you want to be treated. Christians don’t want Bibles burned in other countries, and certainly not in ours. The arguments about the merits of Christianity and Islam should be made in debates and in religious houses. It’s not going to be decided at a weekend bonfire.All that demonstration will do is add more fuel to a fire that already is burning far too hot.
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