The poet Kazim Ali posted this to his Facebook page, saying that he thought it “had to be a myth,” and that is what it sounds like at first, but the Dove World Outreach Center is indeed inviting people to burn a Quran on September 11, 2010. It’s easy to dismiss this as quackery, as not worth giving the attention that it got through CNN’s coverage, but the truth is that if we don’t pay attention to it, if we don’t call it out for what it is–and it’s gratifying to see that the Facebook page protesting the event has close to twice as many fans as the Facebook page announcing the event–it will spread. More than that, though, it will become–it already has become, actually, and this is kind of frightening–part of the way perceptions of Islam are framed by our national rhetoric. Here’s the video:
Rick Sanchez, I think, proves himself to be a particularly inept interviewer here–I don’t watch him, so I don’t know if he’s usually better than this–but one of the things that disturbs me about the way he tries to respond to Terry Jones, Dove World Outreach’s pastor, is his but-there-are-moderate-muslims-out-there tone, as if those “moderate Muslims”–and more about that phrase in a moment–are somehow the exception to the rule. Or as if they are, you know, out there, but really well hidden, and so you have to know the secret code or something to get them to reveal themselves. Equally troubling to me, though, is the way the phrase “moderate Muslims” has taken on the same descriptive weight and authority as, say, Orthodox Jew or Evangelical Christian, as if “moderate” were somehow actually a sect of Islam. Well-meaning as it may be, the phrase actually contributes to rather than deconstructs the way in which Islam is being defined as a profoundly hostile theologically-informed, we-want-to-rule-the-world political stance towards the West, broadly speaking, and the United States in particular, rather than as a religion. This is to me–and I’d be interested to hear what other people think of this–very similar to the way in which the antisemitic rhetoric of Europe framed Judaism from the 18th century, and certainly the 19th century on, and it is certainly one of the underlying assumptions–i.e., that the Jews want to rule the world–of the “World Zionist Conspiracy” theories.
It’s also worth noting that Jones and his group also declared August 2 “No Homo Mayor” day, a day to protest Gainesville’s openly gay mayor. Both groups–Muslims and homosexuals–are godless according to Jones, a logic similar to the one that created the association between being Jewish and homosexuality, to mention being communist, Jewish and homosexual, that was an important point of antisemitic rhetoric in this country during 50s, 60s and even 70s.
It’s easy to dismiss Terry Jones and his church as a bunch of nuts, especially when his arguments for why Islam is a devil’s religion, as quoted in the text accompanying the Rick Sanchez video, include doozies like this:
“I mean ask yourself, have you ever really seen a really happy Muslim? As they’re on the way to Mecca? As they gather together in the mosque on the floor? Does it look like a real religion of joy?” Jones asks in one of his YouTube posts.
“No, to me it looks like a religion of the devil.”
The problem is that Jones and company are only giving expression to the logical conclusion of what an awful lot of people in the United State., consciously or not, already believe. The term Islamophobia may be relatively new, but the (often racialized and racializing) hatred of Muslims has a long history in this country–and that is something I will perhaps write about in another post–a history that predates the September 11th attacks not by decades, but by centuries, and its assumptions, its images, its rhetoric is/has been as much a part of our culture as the assumptions, images, rhetoric of, say, racism.
I am not an alarmist, though I do think there is a comparison to be made between the way in which antisemitic rhetoric was deployed so as to make the Nazi’s campaign against the Jews and the way Islamophobic rhetoric has been more and more making its way into our public discourse. Indeed, I think this comparison would probably work with the rhetoric of any genocidal campaign, though I do not think and I am not implying that this is the beginning of some kind of anti-Muslim government action. Rather, I think, plain and simple, that those comparisons should make clear to us how imperative it is not to let the actions and the rhetoric of people like Terry Jones go unanswered.
Cross posted on It’s All Connected.