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Elcin Poyrazlar: It Is Not the Quran, Stupid!

14 September 2010 Huffington Post No Comment Email This Post Email This Post

Now that Pastor Terry Jones seems to have given up his crazed plan to burn the Quran, it’s time to ask: what was all the fuss about?

Jones, the pastor of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, could hardly have expected to become a worldwide celebrity. After all he is just a slightly deranged guy who thinks he can fight radical Islamists by burning the Quran. If it really worked, I assure you Pastor Jones, the US army would have tried it a long time ago.

Everybody knows that even if Pastor Jones and his followers had gone ahead and burnt the Quran it wouldn’t have been the end of the world. People with common sense have seen throughout that he is a nitwit who doesn’t represent the US government or the American people. But why then all the uproar?

Was it because the US is struggling to justify its presence in Muslim countries it invaded or did President Barack Obama somehow think that his denunciations could help mend the US’s damaged reputation in the Muslim world?

As some shrewd observers have suggested, the series of condemnations by top US officials — starting with Gen David Petraeus and ending with Obama himself — served to magnify media attention and controversy throughout the world.

Appearing on Good Morning America just before Pastor Jones backtracked on his plans, Obama said: “as a very practical matter, I just want him to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women who are in uniform.” So if there were no American troops in any Muslim countries, and the US was not fighting against Al-Qaeda, would it have been an acceptable form of speech?

The controversy, which attracted steadily increasing international coverage, came at a time when a new wave of Islamophobia has raised its head in the US, greatly complicating the Obama administration’s policies on engagement with the Muslim world.

But you have to be realistic. These kinds of acts will always be there whether you like it or not. And the American government has to understand that it is not because of the likes of Terry Jones and his followers that many Muslims hate the US.

The US has a terrible image in the Muslim world because of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite the popularity of some parts of American culture, Muslims around the world often see America as the invader of their countries or fellow Muslim countries, murderer of their children and cause of their poverty.

Even when the US defends itself by claiming it is simply saving and liberating Muslims from the bad guys, the frequency of killings of innocent Muslims in US attacks — so-called “civilian casualties” — makes things much worse.

As long as the US is seen as the killer of innocent Muslims in the Islam world, it does not matter how many Qurans it saves from Pastor Jones’ bonfire.

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