Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida is planning “Burn a Quran” day to honor the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. There is a concern this will spark more than a little outrage from the Muslim community both here and abroad.
Recently I wrote about there seeming to be a general consensus that building the so-called ground zero mosque was legal, but many felt that even so, it was still insensitive of the Muslim community to not take into account the feelings of the 9/11 survivors. Further, I asserted that the only way for the proposed mosque to be an insult was if someone was prejudiced against all Muslims and holding them accountable for the WTC attacks—a point reinforced by the planned book burning which clearly is blaming all of Islam for 9/11. Further, are all Christians prepared to take responsibility for the Quran burnings? If not, then why are all Muslims responsible for 9/11? Still, several people wrote in response to that article that even if the emotional reaction to the planned construction was irrationally prejudiced, it was still appropriate to consider people’s feelings.
There are a couple of problems with that line of reasoning. First and foremost is that if hurting the feelings of groups of Americans really mattered, then events like “Burn a Quran Day” would be generating outrage at the level similar to the Manhattan mosque. But there is barely a peep in the media. Is this simply too small an event to get noticed? Gen. David Petraeus doesn’t think so, and has expressed concern that should this go forward it will place his troops in the Middle East at significant risk of reprisal. Further, can you imagine the outrage from politicians and the media if an imam were planning a “Burn the Bible Day” in Kuwait?
Clearly the issue here is not about respecting the feelings of others in general. But perhaps it’s not everyone’s feelings who count. Perhaps the issue is that 9/11 was such a significant physical, emotional, and psychological scar that we owe special deference to the site and to the families and friends of those who died or were injured there. How then do you reconcile that House Republicans overwhelmingly drove the defeat of the 9/11 health bill. This fully paid for bill provided medical assistance to 9/11 survivors and their families now suffering aftereffects from the disaster. Yet the same group that killed this bill is now crowing the loudest about the proposed Muslim Park51 Community Center.
It seems 9/11 is only sacred when it’s politically opportune. And that perhaps is the key lesson in all this. “9/11” is politically powerful. George Bush was reelected on it in 2004. Rudy Giuliani’s entire 2008 Presidential bid was based on it. It has been used as a basis for justifying the Patriot Act, rendition, torture, and other policies and programs that should make freedom loving Americans cringe.
9/11 was the most significant American tragedy of our time. We should never forget that. We should honor it, and the men and women who suffered because of it, and continue to suffer. But there is no honor in using it as a political lever as is being done with the mosque controversy. And there is no honor in Terry Jones’ plans to burn Qurans. We’re better than that—at least we profess to be. It’s time to start acting that way.