On burning the Koran

Last Saturday marked the 9th anniversary of the attacks on 9/11. As many Americans relived events of that terrible day and remembered those who perished at those four locations there was another climate that permeated this solemn day: resentment and rage

America’s obsession with religious intolerance

By Mike Matteo

Last Saturday marked the 9th anniversary of the attacks on 9/11. As many Americans relived events of that terrible day and remembered those who perished at those four locations there was another climate that permeated this solemn day: resentment and rage.  I read about one man burning pages of the Koran as others cheered and it made me very sad.  How does disrespecting something that a group of people hold with great esteem ease the pain of what transpired on 9/11/2001?

Would this man like it if someone burned his Bible?  And if a Muslim were to burn his Bible, can anyone ever argue that two wrongs do make something right?  A pastor in Florida (a virtual unknown individual vying for his 15 minutes of fame) created a great media furor by announcing weeks earlier that he would be burning Koran’s on 9/11 but later decided to cancel that plan.

Seeing the national attention the pastor received led other extremist pastors in other states to announce similar plans. Political opportunists have attempted to manipulate the mood of Americans to further polarize them against Muslims in America and attempted to make it appear that all Muslims are terrorists.  We all know that creating scapegoats is an effective tool used by dictators throughout history to do unconscionable things to individuals who were innocent of any crimes and guilty only through their association with a particular group.

Human history is filled with events of atrocities, violence and massacres against one group at the hands of another group.  Quite frequently these massacres have been centered on religious differences that were turned into political causes by leaders with agendas.  How many people were murdered during the Crusades (the holy wars that began in the 11th century and lasted for several hundred years)?  Most religions are centered on a divine Creator who wants peace and harmony for people on earth.  Whether a person believes in Jesus, Mohammed, Siddhartha or Confucius, isn’t the idea of going to war and murdering other people the antithesis of what these men stood for and the religions that they founded?

I have a finite mind and do not profess to understand infinite wisdom, nor am I a religious scholar.  However, I do know what I observe and what I observe is peace cannot exist between people when hatred and anger replace reason and tolerance.  People with different beliefs, whether religious, social or political, do not have to feel contempt for others who do not foster the same beliefs.  Religion is supposed to give people peace of mind, not create warring camps that lead to fanaticism.  It is this fanaticism that led to nineteen hijackers to do what they did nine years ago.  It is this fanaticism that caused the Holocaust and countless incidents of genocide throughout history because people were viewed as “the enemy” instead of just people with different beliefs.  It is this fanaticism that will lead the country on a path to more pain, destruction and loss of life.

America is at a crossroads on so many issues that threaten to cause the country to implode.  I believe the majority of people are good, hard working and respectful people.  We all want the basic things in life: the safety of our loved ones, a place to work so we can pay our bills, the right to worship without being chastised for our beliefs and the freedoms guaranteed to us by the Bill of Rights and Constitution.

Do Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Taoists, Buddhists, Wiccans, Atheists etc. have differences?  They most definitely do.  Should these differences be a source of hatred and intolerance? That’s up to every individual to decide.  Personally, as long as someone’s exercise of their religious freedom does not infringe upon me, I believe that they are entitled to their beliefs as much as I am entitled to mine.

I would like to think that we would make a lot more progress by embracing things that we all want and desire instead of focusing on the things that build contempt for others who possess different belief systems.  Perhaps a starting point should be the idea that peace is far more conducive to happiness than war.  Focusing on the idea that we all want the safety of our families and that education and understanding is the keys to eliminating bigotry and intolerance.

There are too many snake oil salesmen who earn a living by fanning the flames of hatred.  It’s time to tune them out and treat people the way we want to be treated.  We cannot undo the long history of wrongs committed in the name of religion or politics.  However, by starting today with the idea that if we all strive for peace to be our common ground we may be able to avert any more Ground Zeroes and honor the tenets of whatever belief system that we follow.

Mike Matteo is a resident of Tampa, Florida where he was a public and private high school teacher who taught classes in economics, history, psychology and philosophy. Mike has written screenplays, stage plays and works with students to improve their SAT, ACT and FCAT scores. He has also written or co-authored three books, including one on education. E-mail him at: writer161@aol.com.

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12 thoughts on “On burning the Koran”

  1. Wow!! That was real fuzzy and warm Mr. Matteo. Your comment “as long as someone’s exercise of their religious freedom doesn’t infringe upon me, I believe that they are entitled to their beliefs as much as I am entitled to mine” was so profound…and self serving.

    I will never forget what a religious ideology did on that dreadful day. My heart is still broken….is yours?

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  2. I guess what strikes me in this debate is that I don’t ever recall a Christian threatening death to anyone who burns a Bible or the American threatening destruction to any country who burns our flag. The nature of our enemy here is very foreign and difficult, nay impossible, to understand. Our extremists burn books. Their extremists kill. I don’t condone burning the Koran, but I also don’t think we should cower in fear to their threats. This debate is definitely spiraling in the wrong direction, but we’re going to need something more than tolerance to turn it around.

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  3. Who is John Galt? Thank you John. I think what we need is the Golden Rule, But I just don’t think it is going to happen. It all makes me so sad.

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  4. John, you say you have never seen a Christian threatening death to anyone who burns a Bible. I submit to your consideration the Inquisition, where non-Christians were burned for far less. You mention America not killing those who burn our flag, but America marches to war against a country who had nothing to do with 9/11 in order to get free access to their natural resources. It doesn’t sound to me like Christians, or Americans, are totally blameless.

    However, the point isn’t to assign blame. Why do we have to be violent and antagonistic to anyone who believes differently than we do? I think that is Matteo’s point. No, it may not happen, but maybe if people like Matteo can spread the idea enough, it may take root. A waste of space, ac? Only if you are completely close-minded and threatened by any ideas different than your own.

    Let the flames fly.

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  5. So you dont like the idea of us saying “hey…..we are tired of this one sided argument? So if we behead a missionary and hold up the head then that’s ok? LOL You liberals amaze me…we are in a war with these animals….didn’t 9/11 show you anything? Go ahead and shove your puckered up lips up every muslems ass and give it ANOTHER big kiss! LMAO at you!

    Jim

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  6. Dear Chantel,
    We did not go to war to access their resources. What a ridiculous comment. We freed a people from a ruthless dictator
    who enjoyed killing and torturing his own people. Where is your sympathy for those poor souls?
    America has been defending humanity all over this globe since
    our birth. You should be thankful and proud to live in such a great nation. You do have other options you know.

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  7. The actions of the terrorists on 9/11 along with the horrible acts of Catholics during the Spanish Inquisition have nothing to do with religion. People want to feel important. And due to a number of factors, screwed up family, poverty, discrimination, or bad genes, some folks will engage in violent acts to feel powerful. And when I say folks I mean men because women don’t start wars. In the case of the Catholics, society gave them a lot of power, and thus they abused it. Take a look at the Rev. Jim Jones. He gained the trust of mostly poor and emotionally needy people, and made them take their own lives. Plus, humans are going organize violent campaigns whenever there is a shortage of resources. Religion is just used to mobilize people to get what the leaders of a group want.

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  8. This is the debate I had hoped my post would inspire. Believe me when I say that I despise double standards for any aspect of life. Do I feel frustrated when I hear of some fanatic killing someone and using religion as an excuse for murder? You bet I do. I’m from Brooklyn, NY and have friends who lost family members and friends on 911 so, Eagle, yes, I do feel that pain. My article was not to say that good people need to lie down and allow bad people to do things to them. One thing for certain is that if anyone believes that burning a Koran will solve this problem then they are delusional. Throwing a punch at someone doesn’t create peace. I’m not naive, I know that those who benefit from evil will continue to fan the flames on both sides. It’s up to the right thinking good people to condemn the bad actions of those who commit them. Do those of you who disagree with my article believe all Muslims are terrorists? Do those of you who are Christians believe that Jesus would condone burning the Koran? My article was intended to appeal to those of us who want peace or, at the very least, tolerance because it was this state of war that led to the deaths of all those good people on 9/11/2001 and the bottom line here is that intolerance and rage will never lead to peace.

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  9. WOW Look at all the anger and hate showing through on these emails. I think this is just what Mike was talking about. This internal anger in our country is going to only continue to cause division and I think that is exactly what they want because division breaks us down as a nation.

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  10. Eagle, I am thankful to live in America. That doesn’t mean I agree with her foreign policy. So, we went to war to “free people from an evil dictator.” Who gave us the right to become the policeman of the world? I feel sympathy for those poor souls, yes. Especially the ones who our soldiers kill. I have yet to see the video footage of Iraqi’s begging us to come into their country and save them. Besides, we were “looking for weapons of mass destruction”, right? That didn’t exist? But we stayed for how many years? It makes no sense.

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