Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Burning the Koran: Bad Idea

This weekend, Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida plans to burn several copies of the Koran, the holy book of Islam, on 9/11.  Although he has been denied a burn permit, he announced he will go ahead with it anyway.

I have heard some defenders of this cite Acts 19:19-20, whose text I will quote below:

"Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together and burned them before all men and they counted the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed."

These people burned their own books to show how strongly they rejected their prior involvement in the occult (I guess fortune-telling, "sorcery," and the like).

Obviously you could say this church is showing how strongly they reject Islam, but I strongly suspect they aren't former Muslims who are breaking with their Islamic past in the same way the people from the above episode were breaking with their occultic past.  Jones is doing this to show his general-purpose disdain for the Islamic religion.

That is problematic for reasons I will explain below:

Here is a link to a letter from Will Patin, a Christian missionary active in Pakistan, about how the Koran burning will put Christians there in jeopardy--even more so than they are already--and interfere with the spreading of the Gospel, which is already pretty dangerous in Pakistan.

Here is the text of the letter itself, bolded:

As a Christian minister with a very large Christian ministry presence in Pakistan – A ministry with 5 city churches, a ministerial fellowship of over 1,800 pastors and church leaders located throughout every province of Pakistan and a wide following within the nation through Christian pastor and leadership seminars which I conduct regularly; let me unequivocally state -

The burning of Qurans by Pastor Terry Jones and Dove World Outreach, is not only one of most asinine and non-productive, un-Christian-like stunts by any church that claims to be a follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ, but his wrong-headed beliefs are dangerous to all of us on the front lines of Christian outreach to the Muslim World.

We attempt to build trust within the Muslim community and attempt to foster a ‘debate’ of ideas and beliefs; and you may find this surprising, we are successful with such a strategy as Muslims come and attend our open meetings, finding solace in the ‘Good News’ message.

But now, as Pastor Jones and his congregation of Dove World Outreach Church sing “Hallelujah!” while burning Qurans, my staff of 30 Christian Pakistani workers spread across the nation, as well as every Christian in Pakistan are put at greater risk and danger through the proposed actions of Pastor Jones and his church. Instead of building bridges to reach Muslims with the Gospel message, we will now have to travel with armed security and be burdened by heightened threats because of his “carnal actions”.

I will not be grateful to Pastor Jones and his theologically deranged church, as I make a trip to the city of Quetta on the Afghanistan border in October to hold a regional pastor seminar; instead I will be watching my back by the heightened risk posed by this so-called “Defender of the Faith”!

Kind regards,

Will Pantin

Dr. Will Pantin


Great Joy in the City Ministries

Bangalore, India
Also, there are two different verses in the Bible that state Christians should, when possible, live at peace with all men, Romans 12:18 and Hebrews 12:14.  Although the Bible commands us to stand up for the Gospel, what is right, etc. even if it costs us our lives, this act is deliberately obnoxious and unnecessary.  In addition to the jeopardy it puts Christians in the Islamic world, that is another reason to call it sinful.
Not only is this act not Biblical and also puts Christians in the Islamic world at risk, it jeopardizes American soldiers fighting Islamist terrorists and provides a major recruiting tool for al Qaeda.
General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, stated that this act will encourage anti-American sentiment abroad and endanger U.S. troops.
Already there have been massive protests in Indonesia, one of the more moderate Islamic nations (they brew their own brand of beer, after all), over the matter.  There have also been protests in Afghanistan, which prove General Petraeus's point.  Osama bin Laden and company think the US is this evil empire that hates Islam and this kind of thing plays directly into his hands.
In my earlier post critical of efforts to stop the Islamic community center--the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque," even though it's more akin to a YMCA--I pointed out how this behavior could alienate American Muslims.  American Muslims have, in the past, been very helpful in dealing with the Islamist elements in their midst, especially the attempts to recruit young men of Somali extraction to fight in the Islamist jihad there.  If they conclude that American society is hostile to them, regardless of their efforts to be good Americans, that cooperation could dry up.
(And then I imagine certain people will claim the resulting decline in cooperation by American Muslims showed they were right about Islam being evil and un-American.  To make a Harry Potter analogy, it would be equivalent of the teen James Potter and his friends bullying the teen Severus Snape.  Then, when he joins the Death Eaters, they say this proved they were right about him being evil all along and their treatment of him was justified.  Terrorist groups like to recruit insecure young men and make them feel powerful and bullying someone is likely to make them even more insecure.)
In the same vein as the opposition to the "ground zero mosque," this behavior is counterproductive.

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