Zealotry Is as Zealotry Does

Zealotry Is as Zealotry Does

Apr 4th 2011, 21:56 by W.W. | IOWA CITY

TERRY JONES, a religious zealot in Florida, burned a Koran. Word got out and a mob of religious zealots in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan stormed a United Nations' building, murdering seven people from around the world who had nothing at all to do with the zealot in Florida. Afghan zealots have continued to rampage in Kandahar, bringing the death toll to 24, according to the New York Times.

General David Petraeus and Mark Sedwill, NATO's senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, issued a joint statement condemning the Florida zealot's zealotry and offering "condolences to the families of all those injured and killed in violence which occurred in the wake of the burning of the Holy Qur'an", omitting to note the agency and responsibility of the zealots actually responsible for the deadly mob violence, almost as if zealots in Florida are expected to control themselves while zealots in Afghanistan are not. 

It is easy to pity Mr Petraeus' difficulties, and thus to understand his rhetorical choices. He's having a tough time in Afghanistan and new anti-American mobs sure don't make his job easier. It's true, as he says in military bureaucratese, that this fresh batch of mob violence amounts to "an additional serious security challenge in a country that faces considerable security challenges." He's doing the best he can to keep this particular "security challenge" from growing more challenging.

But the military occupation of Afghanistan, which is (let's face it) the basis of most anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan, is not Terry Jones' responsibility any more than it is mine, and neither is the behaviour of zealots enraged by his idiotic pyrotechnics. The mob can't pass the buck to Terry Jones any more than Terry Jones can pass the buck to Khalid Sheik Mohammed. The buck stops in each zealous breast. It's imprudent to issue official statements that suggest otherwise"”that suggest responsibility rests with those who try to incite and not with those who choose to be incited. 

 The Wall Street Journal concludes its piece on Mr Petraeus' unwelcome new travails with a quotation from a rioting zealot in Kandahar:  

"We cannot see the difference between that man in Florida and the American soldiers here," said Karimullah, a 25-year-old religious student who, like many Afghans, goes by one name and took part in Sunday's Kandahar protests. "They are killing our people here while in the U.S. they burn the Holy Quran. America just wants to humiliate the Muslim world."

Like Terry Jones, Mr Karimullah is just full of it. He can see the difference between the American soldiers in Afghanistan and Terry Jones, if he tries. For example, Terry Jones is not part of the military occupation of Mr Karimullah's country. And the innocent civilians Afghan rioters have wantonly killed aren't American soldiers or Terry Jones. 

Meanwhile, Lindsey Graham is inciting this zealous civil libertarian to throw a shoe at his head, but I'll lash myself to a flag-pole if it comes to that.

(Photo credit: AFP)

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The problem with these kinds of discussions is that too often people waste energy arguing over which side is ultimately to blame for the violence: the provocateur or the provoked. So how about we save ourselves some trouble and agree up front that *both* sides were being assholes in this situation? Terry Jones is a hatemonger who gratuitous engages in provocative actions in order to intentionally provoke the violent psychopaths in a religion in order to make the entire religion look bad no matter how many innocents suffer in the process, and the Muslims in Afganistan are big crybabies who go on psychopathic rampages killing innocent people because they don't have the mental courage to suck up an insult like real men.

While not factually incorrect, WW's post oversimplifies. There is a real and significant difference between our culture which is defined by individualism and rule of law, and Afghan culture which is defined by tribe and tradition. To Karimullah, you, Terry Jones, Lindsey Graham, and the average GI are part of a single tribe. A tribe which is deliberately burning his tribe's most revered symbol while it deliberately occupies his homeland. Assuming he is Pashtu, his tribe's value system puts great stock in solidarity and retribution against such insults, which is why we are all embroiled in such a great, costly, and tragic misunderstanding. Such, alas, is typical of the human condition.

So your post isn't simply snide. It judges the situation from purely your own perspective, which usually deepens misunderstandings still further. Please try harder.

Here is a moral precept to which Rothbard, Hayek, Sartre and any other fancy-pants genius must either subscribe or be dismissed: If you go out of your way to be a spectacular jackass, you will get blamed for more than your share of evil.

Very well put, W.W.

One thing I hate about the reporting on this issue is that they make it seem like the rioters in Afghanistan are ONLY upset about the Koran burning. If that were the case, then Terry Jones would be to blame.

Let's be clear: These rioters weren't sitting in their homes, drinking coffee, and watching American television programming that has been dubbed in their language as their children applied for Visas to go to college in America, when all of a sudden they heard about what Terry Jones was doing and dramatically changed their view of America.

These rioters blame America for the Palestinians' plight. They blame America for the continued violence in their own country. They blame America for the many civilian deaths in Iraq, even those at the hands of insurgents. These people have been very upset with America for a long time and were looking for a reason to riot. After they got a very weak reason, they proceeded to kill innocent people.

By that Afghan's own standard of, "We consider Terry Jones and the American soldiers to be the same," they still f*cked up by killing UN civilian employees, not American soldiers.

Unreasonable people do unreasonable things. Terry Jones is an idiot for burning Korans, the national news media is full of idiots for giving this fundamentally dumb and unimportant man international attention for an idiotic stunt that frankly didn't deserve any attention at all, and the Afghan rioters are murderers who killed innocent civilians that had nothing to do with the Koran burning.

In some situations involving conflict, there's a temptation to look to see which side is "good" and which side is "bad." Sometimes, it's as simple as everybody involved being disgraces to the human race.

the equivalence gets even flimsier, the "zealot" in florida killed no one. muslim zealots go on continuous violent rampages.

this gets even more ironic since of course burning absolutely everything one dislikes is practically a national pasttime in islamic countries. hell burning the flag is one of the great freedoms the left claims in america, yet they do not consider themselves zealots for it. it doesn't even stop there, if you're a "bigoted zealot" for offending a religious group then where was the outcry over piss christ?

let's face it, the only reason terry jones is anything but a guy with a strong opinion is because other people who aren't terry jones murdered yet other people over their perception of what terry jones did.

equivalence is easy and lazy.

I'm angry because immediately after this incident, reporters went to interview Jones, who called for American retribution.

Why go to the man for his comment, honestly? There are tens of millions of American citizens who like me don't burn religious books of any kind and who have friends of all religious faiths.

Why does Terry Jones get more media exposure as a possible representative of America than everybody else? He burned some Korans, and all of a sudden he's rewarded with a microphone. Do I need to start burning copies of the King James Bible in order to get a rebuttal in?

Also, let's go ahead and nip one standard reaction to these kinds of things in the bud: the problem is *not* Islam itself but rather the cultural and historical factors that influenced the part of the world where Islam predominated (such as Western imperialism). There are lots of peaceful Muslims in the world, which demonstrates that it is possible to interpret the religion in a way that is intrinsically peaceful --- just it is possible to interpret Christianity in ways that lead to violence. It is the interpretation that people *choose* to make of their religion that matters, not whether some theoretical "objective" reading of the religion (as if there really were such a thing, which is incredibly doubtful) is intrinsically peaceful or violence. Christians who say otherwise are being hypocritical since they themselves selectively omit parts of their own Old Testament.

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