April 05, 2011

On March 20, Pastor Terry Jones, who heads a congregation of 30 at his Dove World Outreach Center church in Gainesville, Fla., conducted a mock trial of the Quran “for crimes against humanity.”

Pronouncing Islam’s sacred book guilty, Jones soaked a Quran in kerosene and set it ablaze in a portable fire pit.

Few noticed. But Hamid Karzai did.

On March 24, the president of Afghanistan, our presumed ally in the war with al-Qaida and the Taliban, condemned this “crime against the religion and the entire Muslim nation,” called on the United States to bring Jones to justice and demanded “a satisfactory response to the resentment and anger of over 1.5 billion Muslims around the world.”

Thus the firebrand here is not just Jones, who perpetrated the sacrilege, but Karzai, who made certain his countrymen knew what happened 10,000 miles away and four days before.

Friday, after prayers in Mazer-e-Sharif, a mob, inflamed by imams denouncing Jones, descended on the U.N. compound. When they left, seven U.N. employees lay dead, two reportedly beheaded.

President Obama denounced Jones’ “act of extreme intolerance and bigotry,” and added that “to attack and kill innocent people in response is outrageous and an affront to human dignity and decency.”

Gen. David Petraeus deplored the Quran-burning as “hateful, disrespectful and enormously intolerant.”

“Before America sends more of her sons to die for the freedom of Arabs and Muslims, perhaps we ought to have a better idea of what these folks intend to do with that freedom.”

Still, on Saturday, rioters waving Taliban flags and shouting “Death to America” and “Death to Karzai” went on a rampage in Kandahar that ended with nine Afghans dead and 80 injured when they tried to march on the U.N. compound and security troops fired on them.

Three more were killed Sunday as riots continued in Kandahar and spread to Jalalabad. Forty more suffered gunshot wounds.

Petraeus then met with Karzai, who issued a new statement demanding that “the U.S. government, Senate and Congress clearly condemn (the Rev. Jones’) dire action and avoid such incidents in the future.”

In short, our ally seized this opportunity to rub America’s nose in what the Rev. Jones did, as though the U.S. government, whose highest civilian and military officials had condemned Jones, is morally culpable for not preventing his Quran-burning and not punishing him for it.

Nor is this sufficient. Henceforth, the U.S. government is to police its citizenry to ensure no such anti-Islamic sacrilege takes place again.

Intending no disrespect, who do these people think they are?

Undeniably, it was an incendiary insult to a religion professed by almost a fourth of the world’s people for Jones to do what he did. But what does this murderous reaction to a book-burning tell us about the people for whose right of self-determination Americans are fighting and dying in Afghanistan?


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