Thursday, September 9, 2010
TALE OF TWO HOSTAGE TAKERS
We’ve always been intrigued how a single act by one man can wreak on the world around him.
The Rev. Terry Jones, leader of a fringe Christian church in Florida, planned to burn the Quran to mark the 9th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.
Today, he announced that he won’t be pushing through with the Quran burning because the New York imam who wanted to build a mosque near Ground Zero had ostensibly agreed to either move it farther away or scrap the plan altogether.
But Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who has served as an US emissary of moderation in the Muslim world, was surprised by Jones’ assertion.
He praised Rev. Jones’ decision not to burn the Muslim Holy Book but explained deferring the construction of the mosque would send the wrong message to the Islamic world.
“We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands to build peace and harmony,” Rauf declared.
A loud chorus of government and religious leaders from around the world have urged Jones not to push through with the Quran burning.
The number of people who’ve denounced Jones’ plan to burn the Quran have exceeded his church’s 30 members several hundred times over.
President Obama described Jones’ plan a “recruitment bonanza for al-Qaeda”.
Interpol today issued a global alert involving 188 countries, including the Philippines, about a “strong likelihood” of violent attacks if Jones burns the Quran.
US embassies in Algeria, Indonesia, Jordan and Syria have issued “warden messages”.
“All our embassies worldwide have convened emergency action committee meetings to assess the possible threat,” said deputy State Department spokesman Mark Toner.
All these precautions because of one man’s convoluted vision to espouse the supremacy of his religious beliefs.
Rev. Jones, officials here stressed, is not reflective of America or Americans.
This reminds us of another man whose acts led to the shaming of a nation.
We doubt whether former police Capt. Rolando Mendoza realized where his decision to hostage a bus-load of Hongkong tourists would lead to.
He probably woke up, donned his fatigues and motored to Fort Santiago bent on forcing the government to reinstate him to the police force. He seemed lucid enough during the early hours of the hostage crisis to presume he didn’t plan to die that day.
But it is unnerving how easily such desperate measures unravel and spin out of control at the smallest miscalculation.
Rev. Jones demonstrates the same measure of desperation in his desire to burn the Quran to "remember" the Sept. 11 attacks.
He is also a hostage taker. His victim is America and his weapon is the very constitutional protections that ensure the freedom to worship all Faiths.
Pundits say this is America’s “silly season”. Midterm elections are barely two months away and some people or groups are eager to tap into the anger and insecurities borne by a stubborn recession and widespread joblessness.
In this atmosphere of fear-mongering, some have found a convenient target in one of America’s minority religions.
This goes beyond religious differences. This shows it's not really a good time to be a minority in America today.
State Secretary Hillary Clinton has urged the media to ignore Rev. Jones.
To a large extent, publicity is the fuel that stokes desperate acts. In the same measure, public opinion can extinguish them.
Perhaps it's apt in this instance to use counsel from the Quran, “Show forgiveness, speak for justice and avoid the ignorant.” But it's really hard if the ignorant will not leave us be.