Many moons ago, when I was in secondary school back in Nigeria, I was sitting on the top of a bunk bed having a chat with a friend. I moved over to sit on a locker which was next to the bed, and the owner of the locker sprang up from his bed, and asked me very politely to get off his locker. He was a junior boy, so I wasn't going to step away without a good reason. "My Quran is in my locker" he said. My friend, who was also a Muslim immediately stepped in, and asked me to move. He later explained that I could not sit on the Quran, on a locker with a Quran, in fact, I have to treat the Quran as 'the word of God', with respect.
I may have been just a teenager, but I had been brought up to respect other people, and other religions. It was a life lesson that has stayed with me till today, you do not mess with the Quran, full stop.
So imagine my horror when I heard on the TV that Pastor Terry Jones had decided to hold an "International" Quran burning day to commemorate the terror attacks on the 11th of September 2001. The whole world raised their hands in uproar. Did this man not realise what he was doing? All of a sudden, a pastor of a church of 50 suddenly hit the front pages of newspapers all over the world.
At first I thought this man was a naive man of God, with genuiely misguided intentions. Then I thought he was a little bit of an idiot. But yesterday, we saw him for who he really is. A self seeking, attention grabbing, short-sighted, idiotic, deluded, narcissist who was looking for his fifteen minutes of fame.
The day before he actually blurted out the words "If President Obama speaks to me personally, I will not go ahead with the event". Seriously? You want to most powerful man in the world to 'beg' you?
Then all of a sudden, he said he wasn't going ahead with it, because the iman at New York had agreed with him to move the 'Ground Zero mosque'. He was trying to cast himself as a hero, in what has become the biggest debate in America for the last few weeks, at least before Jones showed up. Then it turned out no one had spoken to him, and no one had agreed to move the mosque. Then he said he was going to New York to speak to the imam. Then he said God told him not to burn the Qurans. The BBC said it best "The man himself was big of voice and moustache, but strikingly short on clarity of message...."
So let's look as Pastor Jones a little closer. This man has hit the headlines, and he had every intention of doing just that. In the 80's he set up a church in Germany, and had about 1000 members. His sermons began to take on an increasingly belligerent anti Islamic slant. Members, including teenagers, were forced to work long hours for little pay. Eventually, the senior members of the congregation, alarmed at his outbursts, and worried about inconsistencies in the church's finances, rebelled and threw him out along with his wife and a senior preacher. Andrew Schäfer,a Protestant Church official responsible for monitoring sects in the Cologne region, is quoted as saying "Terry Jones appears to have a delusional personality". A leader of the Cologne church said “He (Jones) didn't project the biblical values and Christianity, but always made himself the center of everything.". German press agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported that church members said Jones ran the Cologne church like a sect leader and used psychological pressure on members, “subordinating all activities to his will.”
(Source 1, Source 2)
Even in the recent events, the man is clearly enjoying the limelight. Again from the BBC :
"His increasingly frequent news conferences took place against various hues of shirt and tie. On Thursday, Pastor Jones appeared to have completely changed clothes between two press conferences, barely an hour apart."
If he had pulled this stunt in the UK, he would have arrested for inciting religious hatred, which is illegal on these islands. And in the multicultural society I am glad we have this law.
So let's please all ignore this attention seeking, media whore and focus on the real issue(s) at hand:
Should the Ground Zero Mosque be built?
I have watched in horror as people have come out and given all sorts of reasons why the 'Ground Zero Mosque' should not be built. I have seen politicians like Sarah Palin come out and declare that this mosque should not be built. For the record, Sarah Palin and her cohorts should hang their heads in shame. New York Mayor Bloomberg has come out in defence of the mosque, and gives me hope that there are leaders in America who have their heads screwed on properly.
First of all, the mosque is not at Ground Zero. It is close to the site, but it DEFINATELY not at Ground Zero, and those who are saying it is are dishonest, devious and unscrupulous. Those using the argument that this is 'hallowed ground' must be joking, I understand that among other 'not so holy' esthablishments, there is a gentleman's club in the area. Those who say that muslims are building this mosque as a triumph after 9-11 are also just pulling arguments from the air.
While there is a lot of emotion on both sides of the argument, the truth is that Americans have freedom of religion. Muslims can worship where they please, and they have a right to build a mosque wherever they want to. And if you say that Muslims were behind 9-11 and therefore, cannot build a mosque near the site, then you are basically saying that all Muslims are terrorists. This is as daft as saying that all Americans are as insensitive, as stupid and as deluded as Pastor Terry Jones.
The 11th of September 2001 shows us that when we are divided, the worst happens. We need to work towards dialouge between religions, between races, between cultures, the more we understand and tolerate each other, the likelyhood of another 9-11 becomes less.
The protests against the New York Mosque, and Pastor Terry Jones' moronic behaviour makes recruitment for Osama Bin Laden and his henchmen a whole lot easier. As we remember the innocent people who lost their lives 10 years ago, I hope that Americans listen to the very wise words of their president.
"It was not a religion that attacked us that September day. It was al-Qaeda. We will not sacrifice the liberties we cherish or hunker down behind walls of suspicion and mistrust."