Fringe crazies with matches are dangerous

In a globalized world the nutters can't be left unchecked if they intend literally inflaming a major portion of humanity by burning their holy book, the Qur'an. The U.S. hierarchy had no choice but to play in Pastor Terry Jones' pyromania pit. 

When a tin-pot, fringe crazy in small town Gainesville, Florida, can command world attention there is something rather amiss in this globalized world of ours.

Cult pastor to between 12 and 30 followers, Terry Jones, tried to take on the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims by threatening to burn their holy book, the Qur’an.

He deliberately chose the 9th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States by radical fundamentalist Muslims as the date for his bonfire…and boy did he get the attention he so clearly craved.

Realizing he was way out of his imbecilic depth, Jones called off the burning, but not before he had managed to do truckloads of damage in many quarters.

That he is, to put it mildly, a tad unstable is without doubt. Dodgy too, if reports of his hasty exit from his German version of tax dodging Christianity are anything to go by. And let’s not forget this is a guy who believes Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Jews are all “of the devil”, leaving just his band of whackos on God’s side. Where are those lightening bolts when you need them?

And yes this would be really funny were it not so serious, particularly in the climate within the United States and the impact anything like insulting a large and devout sector of humanity has on US foreign policy.

First of all Jones has managed to tap in to a growing tide of bigotry within America. With the help of the Sarah Palins of this world, he managed to tie his pyromaniacal urges to the furor over the proposed Islamic Cultural Centre a couple of blocks from Ground Zero in New York. Till Palin waded in there had been no link, but these stories go viral very quickly. At least Jones’ (incorrect) delusions that he could convince the Imam at the centre of the New York debacle to move the proposed centre gave him the excuse he desperately needed to call off his blaze. But it was all too late and what he had contributed was gasoline to the flames already being tended by those who ignorantly conflate terrorists who happen to be Muslim, with all who follow the Islamic faith.

Remember this is a country in which one quarter believes President Obama is a secret Muslim, with a recent ABC-Washington Post poll in the States showing that 49% of Americans have an unfavourable view of Islam. The tragedy about that is that Obama feels it necessary to continuously espouse his Christianity in a way that makes you squirm. Why the hell should he have to go on about his personal faith to anyone?

But back to Jonesy.

Should he have been given the attention he received?

In the quaint old world before life as we know it became instantly available via the internet, only the few sad followers of this equally sad but possibly dangerous old guy would have known about the Qur’an burning, and Islamic nations around the world and Muslims throughout America would plausibly have been none the wiser.

But that’s not life now, and Jones could not have been allowed to go unchecked.

Sure there was nothing more the President, the Pope, Secretary Gates or even Angelina Jolie could legally do to stop Jones. It is a fair bet however that a visit from the F.B.I. late last week put the screamers up him. However other than deny Jones a permit for an open fire, which the Gainesville Fire Dpt. did, he was entitled to his free speech under the almighty US Constitution.

What the Whitehouse knew was one little video of Jones burning the Qur’an would have whipped through the Islamic world faster than a Danish cartoon, and that would have endangered American troops who are still stationed in Muslim countries, where they are largely despised.

So, casing his appeal in the fatigues of young American men and women, Obama cautioned the pastor against his “stunt”. Obama knew this guy was getting more attention than he deserved in a lifetime, but that was no longer the issue. The lifetimes of American soldiers were the concern of their Commander-in-Chief. Already there had been reaction in the Muslim world – although to date it appears their bonfires have been of tyres and effigies of Jones, not of bibles or torah.

The media has been blamed for providing 24/7 oxygen to the one-man-Jones-show, but that became obsolete criticism once Obama, Gates, Clinton & Co. became involved. When the likes of Interpol and the F.B.I. raise the threat alert, it is a legitimate story.

Clearly one of the downers of the globalized world is any nutter with a grievance – or a match – can command a disproportionate share of attention. To a serious degree the media itself is being had in all of this. Yet it has been strangely compelling watching the major networks scramble to ensure live coverage of Jones’ little press conferencettes. It was a prime-time train wreck.

Now Jones says God has spoken to him and told him to never burn a Qur’an, and let’s be thankful that Jones believes that ‘voice’. Perhaps God also told him to crawl back in to his garage/church and polish his empty pews, but that might be a little too hopeful.

In the tinderbox climate that is America – land of the first of the religious fundamentalists – the Muslim genie is now well out of the bottle.

Credit should be given to the families of the at least 60 Muslims who died in the 9/11 attacks.  In the face of all this crap, they continue to maintain their dignity while the likes of Jones, who haven’t even read the book they condemn as evil, get to rant on national telly and cause mayhem.

It must however, be very tempting to take a page out of the Republican playbook in terms of guilt by association, and make a much bigger deal of the fact that Republican guru Rush Limbaugh was a classmate of none other than pastor Terry Jones. Perhaps that’s why the usually outspoken Rush has been so silent on the matter.

Oh, and where’s George W. Bush in all of this? After all he was the President who cried loud and long that America is not at war with Islam, and Jones told the networks he really admires ‘W’. Could silence from Republican ‘leaders’ be an indication that politics is at play? Now there’s a thought.