Calling it a church slurs the definition of the word. Gainesville’s “Dove World Outreach Center,” which specializes in the manufacturing and spreading of raw hate about Islam and homosexuals right here in our virtual backyard, is a fear-mill that takes pleasure in inciting violence against certain people while casting Florida in the grime of something out of the Inquisition, or 1930s Germany. Oil on beaches isn’t the only thing that damages the state’s image in tourists’ eyes. Crude, bogus preachers do, too.
- Opposition to the Mosque “At” Ground Zero Desecrates American Values
- From Times Square to Jacksonville:
When Terrorism Is a Double-Standard
- Proudest Moment on a Gray Day:
On Becoming an American
- Graduations from God to America
Earlier this month the center held a “No homo mayor” protest in front of Gainesville’s city hall. On Sept. 11, in what surely will be among the slimiest insults to the memory of the victims of that day, Terry Jones, the church’s leader and verbal terrorist, is holding a “burn a Koran day” at the church. “We’re saying stop to Islam, stop to Islamic law, stop to brutality. We have nothing against Islam,” Jones told an interviewer on CNN. This is the same “church” that sent children to school wearing shirts emblazoned with “Islam is of the devil” in red.
The church’s Facebook page has attracted 4,200 fans. People are reportedly mailing Korans to the church for the burning (an odd gesture that implies people’s willingness to buy the book, then to spend more money mailing it, to underscore their stupidity).
Quoting slanders is problematic. It legitimizes them. It can also bleach them of anything like the legitimacy they crave. In his own “braveheart show,” Jones had this to say: “There is no such thing as moderate Islam. There is no such thing as peaceful Islam. There are moderate or peaceful Muslims, but there is no peaceful Islam or moderate Islam, because you cannot separate Islam from Islamic Law, and Islamic law calls for violence, jihad, war, hates Israel, hates Christians.” Amazing how charlatans can speak so authoritatively on Islamic law in language that should alert remedial educators everywhere. And the guy lives in a university town.
His greatest fear? “If we don’t stand up, we’re going to end up like Europe.” Europe, where about 6 percent of the population is Muslim (less than the proportion of Muslims in New York City).
The Live Column
The frequent and enduring complaint after 9/11 is that Muslim clerics didn’t speak up against it. That’s not true. The Arab and Muslim world’s leading clerics did exactly that, as Muslim clerics did in the United States. They would have lost legitimacy had they not. I’ll be curious to know how many local clerics, Christians especially, will use their pulpits and public voices to denounce this fool in Gainesville. Alachua County isn’t a distant land. It’s Flagler’s neighbor. It’s where Flagler’s children by the hundreds are getting their higher education. It’s practically an annex. To let Jones’ idiocy go unanswered is to be complicit with it.
There should be no doubt where this sort of Taliban-like militancy in Christian garb is coming from. Jones is piggy-backing on the national mob opposing the Islamic center near the old World Trade Center site. Idiocy breeds idiocy, sometimes in dangerous ways. Jones would be an excellent instructor in one of those madrassas that churned out Taliban militants in the 1990s, and still do today. He knows the language, knows the methods of adulterating religious messages to incendiary ends. What his falsely-dove-like church in Gainesville suggests is that the Christian equivalent of those madrassas is now among us. (I wouldn’t want to taint the whole notion of madrassas with the same stereotypical brush as it has in the past ten years: the overwhelming majority of madrassas are just that—schools, madrasssa being the Arabic word for school.)
There should be no doubt, either, that opposing Jones has nothing to do with opposing his rights. He does have the right to burn Korans—or bibles, or flags, or the likeness of Jesus or Mohammed if he so chooses—and that right in and of itself ought to be defended, if it’s ever in question. He also has the right to cast every aspersion he pleases on whatever religion he pleases. He is exercising that right, which is absolute and not in question.
But Jones’ motives and his aims are in question, and his acts should be denounced and opposed with more force than he can project them. Unlike goodness, which requires far more active nurturing to spread, hatred combusts and swells and demolishes easily, and takes concerted work not only to oppose but to reverse, let alone obliterate. Jones’ acts in Gainesville are a blight on the city and the state. Left unanswered, they’re a reflection of what’s worst about America today: an enthusiastic embrace of the very hatreds Islamists are blamed for, but in the name of Christianity or “western” values.
There’s an irony in play here, in that this is an appeal to the Christianity and western “values” that, in previous centuries, made Christianity and western civilization, American civilization included so lethal around the world (and on American soil), so destructive and demeaning to people not white, not “Christian,” not western. Terry Jones isn’t something new. He is a recall of the worst that western civilization thinks it has outgrown. With the celebrity and political likes of Newt Gingrich and Sara Palin leading the way to regression (it was Gingrich’s advice to Americans to be less tolerant), western civilization’s foulest days may yet have their renaissance.