In answering Afghan rioting over the burning of a Qur'an in Florida, America's leadership has shown itself inept, foolish, and ambivalent towards the Constitution its officers are supposedly sworn to uphold.
President Karzai of Afghanistan has loudly demanded an official apology for Pastor Terry Jones' burning of the Qur'an, and apparently welcomes the rioting of his people in Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sherif. He also seems to think that the killing of UN personnel in the latter place is somehow excusable. Our own executive branch officers from President Obama to Secretary of State Clinton to General Petraeus all believe that Mr. Jones' action is somehow responsible for the reactions in Afghanistan. Even honorable members of the House of Representatives aand Senate have jumped on the "get Jones" bandwagon.
Uncle Cephas is too much a child of Milton's _Aereopagitica_ to condone the burning of any book, even Hitler's _Mein Kampf_ and _Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong_. But, for once, ire directed at the hitherto obscure Terry Jones, the revered leader of a group of perhaps fifty or sixty people in an obscure corner of Florida, should be directed elsewhere. Further, the US government needs to seize an important "teaching moment".
All officers of the US government are required to swear an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, including the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech, the press, and the free exercise of religion. It should be more than clear that Mr. Jones in no way represents the position of the US Government, for churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples are independent entities under US law.
Further, the same Free Speech rights which Mr. Jones exercised in burning the Qur'an also protect Muslim imams who call the Jews relatives of apes and pigs; Roger Baldwin when he hoped for the day when the last senator would be strangled with the guts of the last preacher; Mr. Obama's beloved Saul Alinsky when he encouraged the poor of the land to put intolerable demands on "the system"; Mr. Obama's friend Bill Ayres; and his Troofer friend Van Jones who propagates the lie that former President Bush's own administration was behind the fall of the Twin Towers and Pentagon attack. It permits calls for the abolition of the establishment clause of the same Amendment when Muslims in the USA call for the adoption of Sharia. The Obama administration needs to remind the world and itself that an obscure Pentecostal preacher is protected by the First Amendment no less than the American Nazis marching in Skokie, Malcolm X, the Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, and all other "discrete and insular minorities".
The US Government might also do well to remind Muslim mobs worldwide that the backlash represented by Mr. Jones would never have happened had noteworthy imams and 'Ulema condended the 9/11 attacks as mass-murder and found themselves mightily echoed by their followers in the streets rather than crowing about American comeuppance on 9/11. dancing in the streets, and passing out candy--only to turn around and whimper how it was all the fault of the JOOOOOOZ as soon as its "strong horse" Osama Bin Laden had to start ducking cutter bombs. Indeed, had the Islamic world shown an inkling of responsible thought and behavior, Mr. Jones' actions against Islam probably would not have gone beyond the usual verbal polemics.
Further, the Islamic world is in absolutely no position to lecture the USA about how to treat a minority religion. In Pakistan, Christian girls are regularly abducted, raped, forcibly converted to Islam, and married to their assailants. The Copts of Egypt and Assyirans of Iraq, the true indigenous populations of those lands, are being squeezed out of their homelands. Within living memory Iraq--the burial place of several biblical prophets, the land of the Babylonian Talmud, and Judaism's second homeland, where prayers in Hebrew were heard a full millennium before the Arabic azzan was heard anywhere--has been rendered jundenrein. Turkey rid itself of indigenous Christian minorities in the 1920's, has all but rid itself of its last Jews, and dares to be dismayed when a small Evangelical Christian population of former Muslims appears in its midst. In Indonesia, Christian schoolgirls have been beheaded in Sulawesi, while areas of Sumatra attempt to make all public expression of Christianity illegal. Syria teeters on the brink of civil war between Sunni and Alawi; has rid itself of an ancient Jewish community, and continues to squeeze its shrinking Christian population. In Karzai's own Afghanistan, apostasy from Islam is still a capital crime.
Worse, the major US media, beneficiaries of the First Amendment, condemn Jones' action without a single thought for the disproportionate rage of the Muslim street. Could it be because Mr. Jones is probably of the wrong political persuasion, or, more likely, our media moghuls really play it safe in choosing their targets? All around, official reaction to Jones' action had been utterly disgraceful.
Call Mr. Jones a yokel. Call him a crackpot. Call him deluded. But don't blame him for the disproportionate reactions of foreign Muslim streets to his actions. The responsibility for such extremism lies completely in the hands of the people of those streets and their own leaders.