Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Florida Pastor Sparks Fatal Riots in Afghanistan

Florida Pastor Terry Jones burned a copy of the Koran a couple of weeks ago. In response, a group of Afghan protesters stormed a U.N. building and killed 7 U.N. workers. Both actions are reprehensible and show that there are extremists on both sides. Still, I think that Jones should bear the brunt of the responsibility.

22 comments:

Megan said...

Are you serious?

Megan said...

Ian, come on.

Ian Thresher said...

Serious about what?

Megan said...

Burning the Koran vs. Killing seven people?

Megan said...

Your treatment of these as equal offenses is frightening to me.

Megan said...

They also burned an effigy of Obama. Should Obama bear responsibility for this because he is commanding a war in Afghanistan?

Ryan Karerat said...

Direct responsibility for the seven deaths lies with whatever individuals within the mob that killed those people. Flat out. There were plenty of peaceful demonstrations against the Qu'ran burning over the past couple of days and a couple of incidents of heavy violence, and those who turn to violence certainly deserve whatever blame they get.

However, this also begs the question as to what Pastor Jones hoped to accomplish by burning a Qu'ran. It's fairly deliberate in its provocation, so while what he did is far from criminal given his freedom of speech within this country, I would say he bears some form of moral responsibility for this as well. He's an insolent, ignorant prick who represents many of the worst fears Muslims feel about their ability to be accepted in the Western world.

Megan said...

"He's an insolent, ignorant prick who represents many of the worst fears Muslims feel about their ability to be accepted in the Western world."

Totally agree. But you think this guy was hoping to inspire a riot in Afghanistan that resulted in the death of 7 U.N members? This guy probably can't point out Afghanistan on a map.

Julia G said...

I'm sure he did not mean for his actions to result in the death of seven U.N. members. But I think I read recently that government officials tried to stop him by warning him that his action smight incite something like this.
Still, he's the pastor of a 60 person church in Florida, and he burned the Koran in front of his own supporters. The media's focus on this idiot is probably how people all the way in Afghanistan found out about it anyway.

Ian Thresher said...

I, respectfully of course, disagree with all of you. To begin with, I think you misinterpreted what I said. I never said that burning a book was as bad as killing 7 innocent people. Clearly the two are on completely different levels. I am saying that Jones bears the brunt of the responsibility for the deaths. Megan, I do not think I entirely understand your analogy with Obama and burning an effigy. You are also glaringly wrong in your assessment of the Pastors motives (and do you honestly think an American Pastor of such an extreme Christian church does not know where Afghanistan is?). Not only did he burn the Koran, he streamed the event live on the internet and included Arabic subtitles. How could he possibly have provoked Muslims more? When he learned about the deaths in Afghanistan he offered this excuse: “We wanted to raise awareness of this dangerous religion and dangerous element.” I do not think he knew that burning the Koran would lead to the deaths of 7 U.N. workers, but he certainly knew and hoped that his actions would provoke a backlash.


Ryan, yes those people are liable for the deaths. Please do not think that I would like to see them freed or escape the full punishment for what they did. But blame does not rest solely on them. Jones set a Koran on fire without any provocation. I believe that you are grossly simplifying this issue and looking at causes and effects unrealistically. Yes, you are right in the sense that a few people acted irrationally whilst the vast majority protested peacefully. But to those people, Jones committed an egregious and unforgivable act (something Jones knew all too well). They were certainly extremists, which does not excuse their actions, but to them their response was just. You cannot logic to such an utterly alien way of thinking. To us, killing 7 people because someone burned a book is inexcusable, but it is not to certain Muslims (or Christians for that matter). Whether or not that is right is not something I am taking up, I am saying that blame does not rest with the extremists alone. My analogy: you cannot get angry at a snake that bites you. That is what snakes do when you bother them. Did you deserve the bite? Probably not. Did you have a realistic expectation that the snake would bite you? Of course. Jones knowingly started this conflagration and was, ultimately, the catalyst for this violence.


Julia you are correct. He was warned repeatedly in September (the first time he tried to pull this stunt) and in March that his actions would endanger lives overseas. Contrary to your argument that the Media fueled the book burning sensationalism though, virtually no one reported on it back in March. Still, the constant network coverage since the protests has simply added to Jones’ profile.

PBM said...

I agree with Ian. He was warned by top US officials including Secretary of Defense Gates that him going through with this would put US lives abroad at risk.

Julia G said...

Ian, I don't disagree with you on many of your points. Jones was obviously the catalyst for the violence; I don't think anyone would dispute that. But I have a serious problem with your analogy. Snakes bite because they have animal instincts and don't possess the ability to make logical judgments. Killing seven people because some completely unrelated person burned the Koran is not a normal human instinct and shows a complete lack of judgment (which humans have the ability to make). It seems like you're trying to say, "You can't blame the snake (or extremist) because that's just what they do". I don't see the connection at all.

Ian Thresher said...

I was hesitant to include the analogy because of that kind of confusion. I do not think Muslims are snakes (just so everyone knows). My point was more that while the extremists were not right in what they did, such behavior was easily predictable (as a snake's would be in biting you). Put another way, the extremists must be held accountable, but Jones knew that his actions could and would produce that kind of backlash.

Ryan Karerat said...

They were certainly extremists, which does not excuse their actions, but to them their response was just.

And to an extremist like Osama Bin Laden, 9/11 was a just response, too. Being sensitive to cultural differences doesn't extend to justifying murder. I agree that Pastor Jones deserves his share of the blame here, but when it comes down to it we can't discount the fact that a select group of individuals took the lives of others. I'm all for being more sensitive and understanding of the Muslim perspective (and certainly don't need to be lectured on why a Muslim might get angry about the burning of the Qu'ran), but senseless murder is senseless murder. Your snake analogy can only go so far --> Muslims aren't some different sort of species, and understand the value of a human life like any others. The ones that choose to kill are deserving of whatever scorn they get.

I understand exactly why some are driven to violent means to protest a pathetic creature like this Reverend Jones figure. But it doesn't make it even close to okay.

I agree that Reverend Jones knew he was opening up a firestorm by burning the Qu'ran, which is why in my initial response I said that he bears some moral responsibility for this as well. He was a fairly deliberate provocateur and knew that only bad things would result from him burning the Qu'ran. He knew that he was going to rile up violent extremists, and I guess he got his wish. I think we all agree that violence was a predictable result of the Qu'ran burning; it makes the Reverend's actions all the more inexcusable, but it doesn't make those who actually committed murder any more justified.

Ryan Karerat said...

Put another way, the extremists must be held accountable, but Jones knew that his actions could and would produce that kind of backlash.

This, I think, we can all agree on.

Ian Thresher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Megan said...

"But to those people, Jones committed an egregious and unforgivable act (something Jones knew all too well). They were certainly extremists, which does not excuse their actions, but to them their response was just. You cannot logic to such an utterly alien way of thinking. To us, killing 7 people because someone burned a book is inexcusable, but it is not to certain Muslims."

This sounds like cultural relativism, which in my opinion is VERY dangerous.

After looking into it, I realize that Jones is a terrible person, and certainly does have blood on his hands. He was hoping to incite a riot like this, and is totally unapologetic for the effects of his actions. So yes, Jones bears some of the moral responsibility for the murders. But there is nothing anyone can do about people like Jones except ostracize them and urge them to reflect on their actions. The Constitution protects hate speech. If I'm not mistaken Ian, you supported the Westboro Baptist Church Supreme Court Decision that allowed the Church to hatefully protest at Soldiers' funerals. How would you go about punishing Jones for his involvement in this?

That being said, the people who killed are totally and completely responsible for the killings. I will not accept any absurd cultural relativist argument to the contrary. Murder is always wrong, and should always be punished. In my opinion the assertion that Jones bears the brunt of the responsibility for the killings is ridiculous. The murderers bear the entire responsibility for their actions. I think I'm with Ryan and Julia on this one.

Ian Thresher said...

Megan, you are taking my statements out of context. I go on to explain that Jones knew such extremist attitudes existed. As I have said before, I am not attempting to justify what the extremists did; I am simply trying to establish that Jones purposefully antagonized a group that he knew was likely to react in a hostile way. He should, therefore, bear responsibility for the attack (we may all disagree on the amount of responsibility. I, for one, believe he deserves the brunt of it). By the way, I am curious to know what is so dangerous about Cultural Relativism. It is my understanding that most anthropologists and historians operate on this premise.

As for your second paragraph, I never suggested that the Constitution does not protect free speech or that it should not protect Jones in this instance. You are correct; I do support the Supreme Court’s Westboro Baptist Church decision. While I do not think that Jones can legally be punished for his role in the deaths that should not and does not stop me from holding him responsible.

I think you grossly oversimplify issues of causation and responsibility. Muslim extremists killed the 7 U.N. workers (as well as four other people who I think were Afghans, but I am not sure), but they killed those workers because Terry Jones burned a sacred part of their religion without any provocation, recorded it, and translated everything so that Muslims anywhere in the world could understand what was being said. Those extremists would have reacted in this manner regardless of who set fire to the Koran. Their actions are indefensible but they were also predictable. Jones, who was repeatedly warned by the State Department of the risks burning the Koran posed to workers overseas, knew that the extremists could and likely would react in this manner. If you know someone will react in a certain way if you do something and engage in said action to bring the scenario about, you are principally responsible. The Muslims should never have killed the 7 U.N. workers and must be punished accordingly, but it is tremendously foolish to overlook the actions of the man who set about offending Muslims all over the world. Jones knowingly and purposefully antagonized Muslims without any provocation. He is just lucky that he does not have to face the consequences.

Megan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Megan said...

I admitted that he played a part in it and is a despicable human being, but if people are crazy enough to respond to a Koran burning by killing people totally unrelated to the Koran burning then the people with such flawed ways of thinking and justification are the main problem and bear responsibility for their actions.

And Cultural Relativism is dangerous because it would allow for the stoning of gays in the Middle East and the mutilation of young girls' sexual organs in Africa, under the premise that each culture has its own code of morals that is equal to every other set of morals.

Megan said...

I would suggest that the fact that the death of 20 people could be foreseen as the result of Koran burning in Florida (as you suggest it could) is a bigger problem than the presence of idiotic bigots in the U.S.

Ian Thresher said...

Megan, I think you continue to overlook the fact that 1) Jones' Koran burning ignited these protests 2) Jones was not at all provoked to burn the Koran 3) Jones knew that his actions would produce this kind of firestorm. I cannot see how Jones should not, therefore, accept the brunt of the blame for this incident. His ignorant and malicious actions directly led to the deaths of the 7 UN workers.

I can see how Cultural Relativism could be bad, but I feel like you would have to have a pretty extreme viewpoint in order to condone the actions that you describe.