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The Difference Between Opposing Mosques and Burning Korans

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Dove Outreach World Center Pastor Terry Jones' and his followers' decision to burn Korans on September 11th has proven there are those in this country who will stoop to such a level and burn sacred texts to express their beliefs. It also indicates there is a line, for now, that those who subscribe to anti-Islam industry propaganda will not cross. Few who oppose the construction of the Park51 project (the "Ground Zero Mosque," as they affectionately term the proposed center) are flocking to support this crackpot pastor's eagerness to burn Korans.

The Coalition to Honor Ground Zero [and Stop the 9/11 Mosque] put out a statement that the coalition finds the idea to be "irresponsible and wrong." The coalition upholds the "Minister's freedom of speech and assembly" but contend, "with rights come responsibilities" and urge him not to go ahead with the burning. This is the same coalition that endorses and supports a major rally against the Park51 Project that will be held on 9/11.

What is the difference between obstructing and seeking to prevent the construction of a place of worship and the burning of a sacred text that those who are found to be dangerous derive much of their religious beliefs from?

Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin, who opposes the construction of the Park51 Project, said, "We don't burn books. The Left does that." Continuing on without citing examples or even bothering to explain how burning Harry Potter books was the work of leftists in America, he said, "And, we certainly don't do it if it's going to put our armed forces in danger."

Levin asserted, "It is clear that there are individuals all over the world who will use this as an additional excuse to harm people. There is a fundamentalism-Islamic fundamentalism-that is out to destroy parts of the world and which has frankly murdered more of their fellow Muslims than the Western world or other religions could ever even try to destroy. So, why give a propaganda opportunity to people who are looking for all the propaganda opportunities they can get?"

To those who have been following the hullabaloo around the Park51 Project, this argument is one that supporters have used to undercut opposition to the "Ground Zero mosque." Supporters have argued opposition to the project could help write the recruiting script for Islamic extremists and even justify future acts of terror.

Yet, it does not appear that the opposition to the Park51 Project has had that effect. Director of Arab language television station Al-Arabiya Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashid, wrote recently that he does not think opposition has "provoked" Muslims in the way that a "2006 publication of a cartoon 'mocking the Islamic prophet in a Danish newspaper,'" which set off violent protests in the Muslim world, did. He added there have been no "demonstrations related to the mosque in Arab countries, that imams have not addressed the controversy during their sermons and that the issue has not been taken up by Islamic religious and intellectual institutions."

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The director argued this is because the center could be turned into a "symbol of hatred for Muslims." Such a notion speaks to the power opposition has had in influencing conversation on the project in the media. Certainly, it makes sense that Muslims would not want to erect "an arena for the promoters of hatred, and a monument to those who committed the crime," as Al-Rashid contended.

Muqteder Khan, director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware, in a column published by the Washington Post, offers a bit more insight on why desecrating the Koran may provoke more demonstrations and violence in the Muslim World than opposition to the Park51 Project has:

...On September 11, 2010, some misguided Americans plan to burn the Holy Quran, the only book in the entire heritage of humanity that claims to be solely the word of God. This dastardly act is the brainchild of Terry Jones, a Christian Pastor from Florida. This act is not just some symbolic gesture of defiance. It is an act of egregious violence against the beliefs and the sacred symbols of one fourth of humanity. The act will scorch Muslim hearts everywhere. The searing pain will never be forgotten.

Along with the idea of God and prophets, the Quran is the thing that Muslims hold the dearest. My children have been listening to it since even before they were born. I use to recite it to them while they were still in the womb. Their children will be reciting it to them when they will be lowered in to their tomb. Believe me, there is nothing more precious to Muslims than the Quran, and watching people toss it into fire, will be horrifying. I would rather burn in fire myself, than watch a Quran burn""

Let's be clear about Levin's remarks--he did not condemn the content of Jones' opposition to Islam but rather opposed the tactic Jones would be using to voice his discontent. For the purposes of further understanding how conservatives might be grappling with the planned burning of Korans:

"When our government funds so-called art--art that uses urine and feces and this so-called artist stuck a cross into the urine and feces, we were told that this is free speech and any effort to cut the funding for that department or to control what kind of grants are issued is an abomination, would be anti-American.

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So, if we the taxpayers against our will fund the desecration of a cross with Jesus on it, there's something wrong with us. If we object to a provocateur, a radical Imam, trying to locate a mosque at Ground Zero, there's something wrong with us. But, if this Pastor Jones burns some Korans--which again I object and think is dangerous particularly to our soldiers--then what? Do you hear the liberals saying he has a constitutional right to do this? No."

Actually, a man who Levin and his listeners consider to be a "bleeding-heart liberal" has stated Jones has a constitutional right to burn the Korans. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been a stalwart defender of the Park51 Project developers right to build, said yesterday:

"In a strange way, I'm here to defend his right to do that. I happen to think that it is distasteful"The First Amendment protects everybody, and you can't say that we're going to apply the First Amendment to only those cases where we are in agreement"If you want to be able to say what you want to say when the time comes that you want to say it, you have to defend others, no matter how, how much you disagree with them."

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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