Sunday, October 28, 2012

Terry Jones: the Boy who Kicked Hornets

There was a time when the name Terry Jones brought to the mind’s eye a goofy grin from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Sadly, these are unfunny (though no less absurd) times we live in, and the name now conjures up images of a hideous moustache  entangled in bigotry the way most moustaches are entangled in breadcrumbs.

Terry Jones: book burner

            Jones, the pastor of the World Dove Outreach Centre (have these people no sense of irony?) has earned himself a dubious celebrity through such publicity stunts as burning the Qur’an (for which he was fined $271 for violating fire regulations), hanging an effigy of Barak Obama  and endorsing The Innocence of Muslims, a real matinee treat of a film that pokes fun at Mohamed (sorry, no Youtube links here!). These stunts caused widespread rioting in many Muslim countries, resulting in the death of the US Ambassador to Libya.

            Discussion of these incidents usually devolves into a kind of “choose your side” showdown between freedom of expression and religious tolerance. If we must choose sides, I have to say my sympathy is not with the killers: murder and insult are not equivalent crimes. The “don’t poke a rabid dog” analogy doesn’t work here because the men (and we can be reasonably sure they were men) who stormed the embassy and murdered Christopher Stephens were not dogs, but human beings who could have chosen not to kill.

            Still, it’s all very fine and good for Jones to make these grand pronouncements on freedom of speech, knowing full well that only other people will have deal with the consequences. Terry Jones and his flock, safe in Gainesville Florida will never have to face the howling mobs and screaming Jihadists. This pleasure will fall to NATO troops in Afghanistan, Embassy staff in places like Libya, and, most of all, to Christian minorities, secularists and Muslim moderates who are trying to live in these countries. Terry Jones can kick over as many hornets’ nests as he wants because he knows only other people will get stung.
            This takes a special kind of cowardice.
            Not to mention, what sort of champion of free speech burns books?

I like this Terry Jones better. . .

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