Saturday, September 11, 2010

Judge not lest it be Ye

The recent controversy surrounding a Florida pastor's call to burn the Qur'an on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks has caused a media firestorm and world leaders have chosen to speak out against this outrage. While it's a positive thing that world leaders have decided to speak out on this issue, in a call for reason and tolerance, it's surprising that nobody has bothered to point out the obvious hypocrisy that exists between the Christian dominated Western world and the Muslim dominated Eastern world. The pastor has since retracted his call to burn the book and defends his actions by stating that his outrageous call to burn the holy book of millions of people on the planet by stating that he wanted to bring attention to the radical and dangerous aspects of the Muslim religion.

Does nobody else think that this is a classic case of calling the kettle black? What if some imam decided that he wanted to burn the Bible in order to show that there was something radical and dangerous about the Christian religion? Does nobody remember a little incident called the Crusades? The Spanish Inquisition? Thousands of altar boy scandals abused by Catholic priests? The Salem Witch Trials?

It's so typical of one religion to pretend that it's lily white in its purity of heart and to paint other religions with the devil's black brush. One thing that doesn't lie? History. And you can't hide from the fact that every religion has its black mark, a dark period where religious fanaticism has gone too far and killed innocent people in the process. Every religion has it, just as every nation has it.

Religious fundamentals are quick to point out the flaws of other religions, but a little less enthousiastic about pointing out their own. Fair enough, that's human nature and there are always enough critics out there to do it for us. But to do something like this, calling on people to basically commit a hate crime by publicly burning something which is holy to a group of people, is truly despicable.

The Qur'an and the Bible are both based on the same holy book. History traces back the origins of both religions to the same root, as it does with the Torah. They're all loosely based on the same principles of monotheism. They have much more in common than they have differences.

The Qur'an and the Bible are not only holy scriptures which are of spiritual value to millions of people, it is also a historical artifact. On both those levels, it should be highly respected. Even if its contents are deemed silly or unimportant to some people and is interpreted in many strange ways, there is no denying their symbolic importance.

It seems unlikely to me that a pastor would be unaware of these essential facts, as it seems unlikely that he would lack the moral conscience to understand that there is something fundamentally wrong with burning the holy book of another religious group. It seems more likely to me that this man is searching for attention, in the same way that shock jocks do- creating a controversy where there is none by making outrageous public statements on sensitive issues when the nation is most vulnerable.

We should treat these people the same way that we treat crazy bag ladies in the street- we should acknowledge them, but not take them seriously. We are a group of people who are smart enough, educated enough and enlightened enough to know that hate is an unnecessary evil and that we can overcome it with intelligence and understanding. We are a society that can rise above hate. We've done it before and we will do it again.

Don't give people like this a platform on which to spread their poisonous ideas. Educate yourself and others around you. The only way to fight this kind of ignorance is with knowledge and compassion.

Unfortunately, it seems that even with the knowledge that all religions are fundamentally the same, these controversies still occur. It's a shame when spiritual leaders forget the most basic tenet of their faith: judge not lest we be judged. It seems that they would prefer to lash out at others and judge everyone but themselves harshly for the ills in the world.

On this anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I hope that people look at their religion not as an expression of the morally righteous who will fight to be God's people, but that they will acknowledge that the human race is God's people and that we wouldn't want our supreme deity to see us acting like this.

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