Don’t Yell “Fire” in a Crowded Movie Theater

I have only one way to some up the events that have transpired in Mazar-i-Sharif on Friday:

TERRORISM.

Not Middle Eastern terrorism, but American terrorism.

A Florida pastor, Terry Jones, has made good on his promise to burn a copy of The Holy Quran in protest, citing that “Islam is the Devil”. Because of his actions, up to 20 United Nations relief workers were killed by the hands of a riot in Mazar-i-Sharif on Friday. Jones states that The Holy Quran is a book that preaches terrorism and hate. He also claims his actions are protected by the First Amendment.

Since this is a statement that has a few layers to it, I feel like I want to pick this guy’s shit apart one layer at a time.

First off, Jones has wanted to do this for a while. He has initially wanted to perform this act on the anniversary of 9/11, but was persuaded not to, instead doing it on April 1st, this past Friday. According to what I read on thesop.com, he held a mock trial on March 20th, condemning The Holy Quran for promoting terrorism, hate, violence, and bigotry against women and minorities. Anyone who has read or even knows a little bit about The Holy Quran understands that it DOES NOT promote those things and is, seriously, another interpretation of the Old Testament of the Holy Bible and the Torah. That’s just it: an interpretation by the Prophet Mohammed.

Secondly, a question raised is if this is protected First Amendment, namely Freedoms of Speech and Freedoms of Protest.

Is this free speech? No, because the actions that are under scrutiny have nothing to do with speech. Sure, he had talked about doing this for quite some time, which is protected. Hell, I could run up and down Pennsylvania Avenue screaming about how much the President sucks, and have nothing happen to me. It’s a matter of “action”, not words that have sparked this debate.

Is this freedom of protest? No. It is protest, I’ll grant you that, but from what I was taught, the First Amendment only extends to “peaceful protest” and there was nothing peaceful about this. Because Jones was so adamant about committing this act, news made it’s way to Afghanistan, and as such, reciprocation was threatened if the event took place, and as such, that news made it’s way to the United States. Everyone knew about this, so there is no way in blue, bloody hell Terry Jones did not know about the potential consequences of his actions.

Did he think it may have been a bluff? Maybe. Did he necessarily care? I doubt it.

America is filled with radical minded officials, essentially terrorists in their own right. Fred Phelps and the congregation of the Westboro Baptist Church are frequently seen on street corners and at funerals protesting that “so-and-so is a fag and is in hell for being a fag”. Their definition of what a “fag” entails is completely wrong and misused, but still, these people complicate the lives of innocent people.

Terry Jones is a recognized pastor, but then again, so was Jim Jones.

Every culture, for the most part, uses religion and opinions to fuel their lives, so is it reasonable to assume that conflict can be derived from religion? Yes, it can. I have frequently debated with everyone from Scientologists to Baptists to Mormons regarding opinions and differences in this little thing we call “faith”. I am stopped in the mall by someone wanting to use an E-Meter on me, or visited by two youths on bikes carrying copies of the Book of Mormon in denim Jansport backpacks. I’m not interested in their methods of thinking. Some respect my opinion, other push.

What happened last Friday in Afghanistan was when pushing went too far.

Religion is, whether one wants to admit it or not, a weapon, granted, if used incorrectly. For Terry Jones to publicly burn a copy of The Holy Quran, despite the warnings that have been issued, is pushing too far. His claims about The Holy Quran’s “sinister qualities” and his randomly publicized comments on the faith itself, is the big fucking pot calling the big fucking kettle black.

The Christian/Catholic God has been used for Milena to justify religious intolerance. The Crusades, for example. 200 years of church-sanctioned military campaigns against other religions for control of the “Holy Land”, which is ironically, smack dab in the middle of the Islamic world. The Crusades also served to eradicate various other religious factions (Pagans, Jews, Cathars, Russian/Greek Orthodox Christians), and enemies of whatever Pope was on the throne.

It’s hypocritical, absolutely, and Protestants aren’t necessarily exempt from blame either. Martin Luther began crafting Protestantism as a means to metaphorically spit in the Pope’s face. That’s no way to start a religion.

Basically, the point I was trying to make before I went on a religious tangent is that the actions of Terry Jones are fueled by hate, which he has been allegedly preaching against. Knowing the consequences of his actions, he burned a holy scripture, and because of this, a group of rioters claimed 20 innocent lives. It’s a domino effect. While Jones didn’t do anything illegal, he did something immoral, and as such, there are twenty more casualties in a decade of conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

As my grandfather said to me when explaining the First Amendment: “You are allowed to say whatever you want, but that doesn’t mean you can yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater”.

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About Robert L. Franklin

Ah, the About Me section - social networking's excuse for you sounding like an elitist prick. Hmm... what to say? What to say?
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