While the rest of us spent the week getting extremely angry about a tax break extension for the wealthy that never happened, Pastor Terry Jones was planning to burn a bunch of Korans. This demonstration would A) commemorate the September 11th attacks as tastefully as possible and B) as Ben Fowlkes put it, “make the daring dream of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace and lover of neighbors, finally come to fruition.” Jones shepherds a flock of about 50 in Gainesville, Florida, and achieved peak notoriety prior to this event by sending five children to school in shirt that said “Islam is of the devil.” After Gainesville elected a gay man as mayor, Jones also put up a sign that read “No homo mayor” in front of city hall. Clearly, we are dealing with a sophisticated religious thinker. Despite his obvious limitations, Jones captured the attention of many people who see the relationship among Islam, modernity, Christianity, secular modernism and liberal democracy as slightly more complex than G.I. Joe vs. Cobra, and everybody went crazy. Maybe that’s because it was a slow news week. Regardless, it’s been a slow week around here, so we figured we’d go ahead and dedicate this Friday’s entire link roundup to the fiasco. I call it the Bonfire of the Inanities. Clever, right? I’m still single.
First of all, you should know that he called it off. That still didn’t prevent rioting in Afghanistan, a country which, Terry Jones will be pleased to know, is filled with people similar to him. At least nine people were shot in impromptu raids on NATO bases after a peaceful protest against the proposed Koran-burning. In case you’re wondering whether Afghanistan is a place where there is political power to be gained from doing things like organizing religious protests against proposed religious protests on the other side of the Earth, yes. Yes it is. “Disrespect to this holy book will not harm this book because the Koran is in every Muslim’s heart and mind,” Hamid Karzai said. “I hope these people will stop this disrespect.” It’s clear reasoning like that that makes Karzai our guy.
Of course, Jones only canceled International Burn a Koran Day because he struck a deal with Imam Muhammad Musri to move the Ground Zero Mosque. Of course. Musri is not directly associated with the Park 51 Islamic Center, and he denies ever having made such a deal. Jones says he’s lying, and that he left his meeting with Musri knowing that the agreement to move Park 51 was “a sign from God.” If I may pause briefly for a theo-philosophical inquiry: A SIGN OF FUCKING WHAT, TERRY JONES? That you had reached an agreement? Because that’s not a sign—that’s just a thing that happened. That you were doing the right thing? What were the violent riots in Afghanistan a sign of?
Actually, Jones answered that rhetorical question in an interview with Reuters. ““I think that’s absolutely terrible,” he said. “I haven’t even done anything, and it reveals the violence in Islam.” I believe we’ve quoted Terry Jones enough to establish his character, at this point. You know who turns out to be surprisingly cool, though? The aforementioned Imam Musri, who dropped in on Jones after attending an interfaith service at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. Musri appears to have mastered an obscure subgenre of comedy that I’m going to call Pastor Humor. Here’s how he describes his initial meeting with Jones: “He asked me if I was armed and planned to hurt him and I said no, I come in peace. He is not a charismatic or sophisticated man, but he is very loud.”
You know who is charming and sophisticated, or at least extraordinarily loud? Angelina Jolie. In a press release that appeared on the Daily Beast and other websites as a paid advertisement, the hypersexualized action shape took a stand against International Burn a Koran Day. Lest you accuse her of having ulterior motives—possibly even related to self-promotion—consider the first sentence: “Never one to shy away from supporting human rights, Angelina Jolie has taken a side in what is perhaps one of the most controversial stories in America (and the world over) right now.” If we take “controversial” to mean, “universally agreed upon, from the President of the United States to the mayor of Gainesville to illiterate peasants in Afghanistan,” Angelina Jolie’s press agent is right. I’m sure that once they hear that A) Brad Pitt married what appears to be one of the aliens from Communion with breast implants and B) she’s against this whole Koran burning thing, the Afghani people will stop rioting. If Terry Jones has taught us anything, it’s that one person can make a difference.