Muslims have protested in countries such as Afghanistan and Indonesia in response to a Florida church’s planned burning of the Koran on Sept. 11, 2010. The New York Daily News reports that Afghans in the streets of Kabul turned out by the hundreds and chanted “death to America” while burning an effigy of Terry Jones, the head of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville.
The Wall Street Journal also reports that General David Petraeus, the top military commander in Afghanistan, has spoken out against the Koran burning because he fears it will endanger the lives of the men and women in uniform serving in Afghanistan.
“It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort,” Petraeus said.
In response, Terry Jones said “We understand the General’s concerns.” Jones continued, “We must send a clear message to the radical element of Islam.”
The Dove World Outreach Center appears to be moving forward with its plans.
A Mosque Near Ground Zero
Another recent controversy on American soil regarding Muslims has been equally as inflammatory, although no violence has been reported. A planned Islamic center two blocks away from Ground Zero in Manhattan has sparked a debate in the United States about religious freedom and sacred space.
On the one side of the argument, you have those who believe the mosque should be moved farther away from the site. Proponents of the Islamic center say that Americans should be allowed to display their First Amendment rights to freedom of religion, according to the Associated Press.
Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan are the leaders of the Islamic community who are backing the $100 million project. Included in the space would be a 500-seat auditorium and a Sept. 11 memorial space. Overall, it is a 13-story building that is planned on being a gathering place for people of all faiths, as Rauf and Khan lead an interfaith center.
The Islamic center is just a building, as Rauf pointed out. It happens to be two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center where many Americans lost their lives. Muslims died on that day as well. Even at the Pentagon, there is a place in the building where Muslims who serve in the military can freely practice their religion. Yet the Pentagon also had lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
The debate about a mosque and burning the Koran seems to be different points of the same argument. Both involve religious freedom versus religious tolerance. In America we have a First Amendment right to practice whatever religion we wish and protest whatever we wish, all in the same sentence, as long as it is peaceful. The rest of the world perhaps doesn’t understand that fact, which is where our problem of perception comes into play.
What many articles have pointed out in relation to the Koran burning is that many countries do not understand that America has religious freedom and a right to protest. Therein lies problem with the perception of the United States and the actions of its citizenry. Even though in a Muslim country the burning of a Koran could lead to jail time or other punishment, in the United States each and every citizen has a right to protest how they choose. Unfortunately for Afghanistan, this perception could indeed hurt our troops.
My sources for this article include the New York Daily News, the Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press, and CNN.