Tonight, the Pastor Terry Jones has decided that he will cancel the Koran burning. This comes after pleading from the President and other leaders who claim that burning the Koran will incite violence in the Middle East and put the U.S. troops in jeopardy. The New York Times Reported:
The pastor planning a burning of the Koran on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks said Thursday he would not go forward with the event, adding he would meet with the imam planning to build an Islamic center near ground zero.
But a deal that the pastor, Terry Jones, said that he had reached to move the Islamic center far from ground zero seems to be more vision than reality. The imam planning the center, Feisal Abdul Rauf, said in a statement that he had not spoken to Mr. Jones or Muhammad Musri, the Orlando Imam who has been acting as a mediator between New York and Gainesville.
I find the mediation of this issue between two controversial sides has made for very interesting conversation regarding religious tolerance. Earlier, I said that it was not a question of religious tolerance, but the media’s sensationalist attitude towards the story, and the Ground zero mosque story for that matter, which forms the narrative of “Islamophobia” used on both sides.
On a separate note, I usually look to Christopher Hitchens for original analysis on topics, with the most polemical tone possible. In his column this week, Hitch tackles the very notion of religious tolerance. Of Islam Hitchens says:
Now to Islam. It is, first, a religion that makes very large claims for itself, purporting to be the last and final word of God and expressing an ambition to become the world’s only religion. Some of its adherents follow or advocate the practice of plural marriage, forced marriage, female circumcision, compulsory veiling of women, and censorship of non-Muslim magazines and media. Islam’s teachings generally exhibit suspicion of the very idea of church-state separation. Other teachings, depending on context, can be held to exhibit a very strong dislike of other religions, as well as of heretical forms of Islam. Muslims in America, including members of the armed forces, have already been found willing to respond to orders issued by foreign terrorist organizations. Most disturbingly, no authority within the faith appears to have the power to rule decisively that such practices, or such teachings, or such actions, are definitely and utterly in conflict with the precepts of the religion itself.
Reactions from even “moderate” Muslims to criticism are not uniformly reassuring. “Some of what people are saying in this mosque controversy is very similar to what German media was saying about Jews in the 1920s and 1930s,” Imam Abdullah Antepli, Muslim chaplain at Duke University, told the New York Times. Yes, we all recall the Jewish suicide bombers of that period, as we recall the Jewish yells for holy war, the Jewish demands for the veiling of women and the stoning of homosexuals, and the Jewish burning of newspapers that published cartoons they did not like. What is needed from the supporters of this very confident faith is more self-criticism and less self-pity and self-righteousness.
Those who wish that there would be no mosques in America have already lost the argument: Globalization, no less than the promise of American liberty, mandates that the United States will have a Muslim population of some size. The only question, then, is what kind, or rather kinds, of Islam it will follow. There’s an excellent chance of a healthy pluralist outcome, but it’s very unlikely that this can happen unless, as with their predecessors on these shores, Muslims are compelled to abandon certain presumptions that are exclusive to themselves. The taming and domestication of religion is one of the unceasing chores of civilization. Those who pretend that we can skip this stage in the present case are deluding themselves and asking for trouble not just in the future but in the immediate present.
I encourage you to read the whole column, but his point is that “tolerance” can only stretch so far. Does it mean defending a religion with sometimes disturbing practices and in some places the moral degredation of women? I will not rule on this issue, but it should be pondered.