When Nidal Hasan went on a rampage at Fort Hood, I for one wanted Anwar al-Awlaki, the cleric from Yemen who advised Nidal and other terrorists, to be prosecuted for inciting the violence. When someone knowingly engages in rhetoric that will incite others to violence, they must be prosecuted accordingly.
Florida Pastor Terry Jones was warned in no uncertain terms last September by no less an authority than General David Petraeus that the pastor’s plans to burn the Koran would incite violence in Muslim countries and put innocent lives at risk. After enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame, he backed down. We all thought that was the end of it. When he went ahead with the Koran burning on March 20 (after putting the holy book “on trial”) it hardly made a mark on American television. Perhaps American journalists thought if they ignored it, no one would notice? They were wrong.
Both Asif Zardari and Hamid Karzai, Presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan respectively, condemned the Koran burning which was prominently featured on news venues in those countries. Unfortunately some clerics in Afghanistan went one step further urging protests in the streets, protests that resulted in a United Nations compound being stormed and at least twelve people being killed.
There is never any excuse for murder of this kind. Those Afghans responsible for these murders must be brought to justice. However, the last person on this planet to sit in judgment on them should be Terry Jones. In response to the riot, Jones said:
We must hold these countries and people accountable for what they have done as well as for any excuses they may use to promote their terrorist activities … Islam is not a religion of peace. It is time that we call these people to accountability.
The problem here is that Jones knowingly provided them with their excuse to kill. Let’s simplify the scenario:
Terry, Bob, Andy and Hamid are standing in a room. Bob is an expert on violent lunatics. Hamid is a violent lunatic. Andy is an everyday American Joe. Bob tells Terry that Hamid is crazy as a loon and he doesn’t respond well to teasing and provocation. Terry responds to this by teasing and provoking Hamid. Hamid shoots and kills Andy. Terry was warned that his actions, with high probability, would have consequences but he ignored the warning. Can anyone look at Terry in this simplified scenario and say he is without guilt?
Terry Jones did not draw a cartoon like the Danish cartoonist who was targeted years ago for depicting Mohammed. Terry Jones did not write a book deemed disrespectful like the author Salman Rushdie. Terry Jones did not risk offending Islam in the name of art or expression. He simply exercised his bigotry by desecrating a holy book, a metaphorical destruction of the very religion itself. He did so, fully knowing the likely consequences of his act. His act had no redeeming value that could possibly justify the response that followed.
Terry Jones sits safely in his church in Gainesville, Florida while at least twelve innocent people will never see the light of day again.
The Afghan murderers, not much better than savages, should be prosecuted and so should the man who inspired them.