Thursday, September 09, 2010

Commemorating 9/11/01

Nine years ago, the world changed and became intensely less safe because of the religious zeal of a few people. It is, I am sure I can assert, without much argument, one of the saddest days in history when four passenger planes were hijacked and two flew into the World Trade Centre towers in New York City, One crashed into the Pentagon building in Washington D.C. and one did not reach its intended target, but crashed into a field. It ranks easily Pearl Harbour, the starts of World War I and II, The Blitz (The 70th anniversary has just passed), The Holocaust, The massacre at Beslan, and the 7/7 bombings on London Tube trains and buses to name just a few.

Each of these occasions has been commemorated in some symbolic way, usually by a religious ceremony or by some monument being built to honour those that had died as result. If I were to ask older folk, who were alive at that time, I am sure they can recall vividly the declaration of war with Germany made in 1939 by the Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain that was broadcast. However, with the news coverage of the events on September 11th 2001, many more people can recall note only listening to, but watching live as it happened, the place crashing in the WTC, and the towers collapse, one after the other, and the resulting chaos, and the tremendous rescue effort that followed. Because we not only heard about it, but watched it happening, the event impacted itself into our memories. 

How does one commemorate an event like 9/11? Lay a wreath at a memorial? Hold a moment's (traditionally a minute) silence at the moment it happened. Sad events such as those listed above usually evoke intense feelings of sadness but often, associated with that sadness are feelings of anger directed at those who we believe are responsible for causing the event. Anger in itself, is not wrong, especially when it is directed against injustices such as those perpetrated against the victims on 9/11.  However we are told that in our anger, we should not sin. (Eph 4:26) Sadly, when people get angry, the 'red mist' descends and they (we) lose perspective. Justice, in ancient times was often administered by a king or a head of state. Often, when this king was personally affected by the alleged crime, his ability to make fair judgement was impaired. In principle then, in our modern times there is a distinction drawn between the three 'arms' of government, executive (head of state), legislative (parliament, Congress) and judicial (law courts).  Further, it is expected that in jury trials, a judge or a juror who personally knows any of the people involved in a case, or who has somehow been affected by the case under review should not have anything to do with that case. 

However it is not only in the context of court and trials that judgements are made. Every day, people form their own opinions about what is happening in the news - we all cant help it - we hear something on the news and we, without necessarily knowing all the facts, draw our own conclusions about the rightness or wrongness of an action, and who is responsible. It is as it were a mental reflex action! We hear of a road accident, and we immediately are interested in who is responsible. I am as responsible for being judgmental as much as the next person. I have no doubt that everyone has an opinion about who is responsible for 9/11. Although it is common knowledge now that Al Quaeda led by Osama bin Laden were responsible for devising, and sponsoring the attacks, some people feel the need to cast the net of suspicion wider or come up with some convoluted conspiracy theory that implicates the GW Bush administration in the attacks themselves. Then there are those who feel that ALL Muslims are or THE RELIGION ITSELF is responsible for the attacks...

Such is the case of one Reverend Dr. Terry Jones who has written a book "Islam is of the Devil" and who has declared September 11th World Burn a Koran day. He is the pastor of a church called Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL. As might be expected, he has received death threats and now goes about armed with a pistol. The idea of burning Qurans has been condemned by people from every quarter and the inadvisability of going ahead with the idea has been spelt out by everyone. I still can't quite get over how the church is called "Dove" - when doves are supposed to be symbols of peace. He is trying to make out that this is only about the Quran but then wonders why he has deliberately decided to do this dastardly despicable deed on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks - clearly drawing a link to those events. Also, if the Quran, in his opinion, is of the devil, why not also burn the holy books of other religions too - hinduism, buddhism, etc. Clearly, this act is not primarily about destroying a "corrupting text" but specifically aimed at hurting and inflaming those he blames for the 9 11 attacks - Muslims. 

What is to be done about this state of affairs? We only need to cast our minds back to Salman Rushdie and the infamous book "Satanic Verses" and the reaction to this formerly Muslim writer to the publication of his book, and then there were the cartoons of Mohammed that caused an uproar and demonstrations all over the world. In his wisdom, the crazy clergyman has provided advance warning and has made his intentions very clear. Since he really refuses to see sense, what needs to happen now? Should he be allowed to proceed with the crazy idea? 

I don't think so - I think that images of Qurans being thrown into a fire would have such a backlash, and has already been indicated, it could endanger the lives of American (and possibly other troops). Based on that fact, I think that the Federal Government of the USA would be justified in taking whatever steps necessary to prevent the quran burning - including sending in the National Guard.