Commentary

Quran controversy revisited

POSTED AT 05:26 PM ON Sep. 15, 2010 

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Over the past week, I’ve heard a lot of opinions about the Quran burning controversy, but somehow I don’t think I’ve heard much of what seems to me to be the most obvious reaction: people are actually killing over this?  

That’s a sad statement about people.

I’ve heard condemnations of every angle: Damn that pastor guy Mr. Jones for his public desecration of a sacred object, damn the news media for making such a hullabaloo, damn international leaders for not acting sooner or stronger, even damn the Internet for being so gullible to hot news.  
Now, regardless of the truth or idiocy of some of these perspectives, there seems to be one missing. What ever happened to the condemnation of irrational, reactionary violence?

Protests and attacks in Afghanistan and (primarily) other countries in the Greater Middle East have led to the death and injury of dozens, if not more.

Now, burning the Quran is not exactly a laudable action, but it is (at least) within the legal rights of the man who does it.

Killing another human being is not a legal right.

So, why on earth do international news sources not seem to find it necessary to comment on the absolutely repulsive nature of the acts that have followed this controversy?  

Perhaps they do so in the manner of pointing out the international implications — which is, quite simply, more of a way to condemn Mr. Jones (or to say nothing at all) than it is to condemn the perpetrators of violence.

In my mind, there are three possible reasons for this.

The first is mere familiarity. Violence in the Middle East, and particularly violence aimed at Westerners, is nothing new. International papers are riddled weekly with accounts of similar protests with similar death tolls. But, I wonder, when does violence ever become too common to deserve comment?

The second reason is akin to the idea of “walking on eggshells.”  

Perhaps it is simply that the situation in the Middle East is so fragile that no news source wants to risk the responsibility of inciting violence by condemnation of that same violence.

And yet, it seems to me that there may be inherent logical flaws to this. Again, I have to wonder, since when is it okay to bow down before violence and stifle rightful criticism?

The third reason is perhaps the most interesting and common. It is the simple, but often damaging, desire to avoid looking prejudiced.

Americans (and even news outlets) seem to live in fear of somehow accidentally insulting the Muslim faith. And, certainly, there are those who level such insults intentionally.

But others simply look at situations such as the recent violence in Afghanistan and feel compelled to keep silent in deference to the slight possibility that such acts are spiritually warranted, or that to say they are not is to deny a religion its tenets.

But violent acts committed in the name of a particular god do not necessarily reflect on the religion itself or the more peaceful practitioners of it.
The sooner we are able to see that distinction, the sooner the rhetoric of violence will shed its daintiness and be able to condemn that which needs to be condemned.

Violence should never beget violence, but it should also never beget silence.

E-mail: cmcglass@indiana.edu

 

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