I don’t know about you, but I’m afraid. Could it really be that the foolish, pathetic ramblings of some religious zealot will be the start of World War III? No, I am not taking about Osama Bin Laden. I am talking about Florida-based evangelical Christian pastor, Terry Jones.
He has claimed connection to the film, Innocence of Muslims, that is purported to have incited protests at American Embassies in Egypt and now Yemen. It remains unclear if the assassinations of Ambassodor J. Christopher Stevens and other members of the Libyan embassy were connected to these protests or were part of a separate, well-timed terrorist attack. But while we scramble to dissect the details, the effect on Muslims worldwide of Jones’s racist film is incontrovertible; they are pissed. And he has no regrets.
An unrepentant Jones boasted in an interview with a Florida news station, “I realize that our actions and what we said and the things that we said could be insulting. That is what freedom of speech sometimes does.”
Sadly, he is right. Our Constitution gives crazies like him the right to insult anyone. But, as Jones hides behind his claim to the First Amendment right of freedom of speech, let’s not ignore the real issue: religions intolerance.
I admit to visiting YouTube to view the infamous movie trailer that has sparked the violent uproar in the middle east.
The “movie” is laughable. The acting is horrible, the set tawdry, and the script is so obviously intended to bait the ire of Muslims as to be astonishing. Jones had a goal and he has achieved it.
I do no condone the actions of the Muslim protestors. I agree with Hilary Clinton who said, “America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation, but let me be clear: there is no justification for this. None. Violence like this is no way to honor religion or faith.”
What deeply worries me is not only the response by ill-informed Muslims who, apparently, can not see the idiocy of Jones’s film, but also the response of the Americans who, in the comment threads and on the air waves, are so shockingly intolerant and racist.
These are the seeds of war. Why? Because with an election just weeks away, our leaders might just give more credence to the zealots than they otherwise would.
Take for example Mitt Romney’s unsettling response to the attack. He accused the Obama administration of actually sympathizing with the protesters and of apologizing to them. “The Embassy of the United States issued what appeared to be an apology for American principles,” Romney asserted at a press conference, (interestingly, in Florida of all places),“It’s a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values.”
What values is he exactly responding to? Sure, we deeply care about freedom of speech. But, we also are a country founded on religious freedom. In fact, so much so that the word “God” does not appear in the Constitution, nor its amendments. Is the intolerance of Jones and so many others like him an example of what Evangelical Christians believe and are these the values Romney is referring to? I hope not.
I wonder how Romney would respond to the attacks if he was Commander-In-Chief today? In his effort to pander to the Tea Party and Christian Right would he insist our way of life had been insulted and use this as an excuse for war? There certainly has been much saber-rattling about Libya from these groups with repeated calls for American intervention Thankfully, Romney isn’t in office today.
So far restraint seems to be response by the current administration. I am hoping President Obama will listen to the words of Norwegian Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, who, after the attack by Anders Behring Breivik, said,
“We are still horrified over what happened. But we will never give up our values. Our answer is more democracy, more openness, and more humanity.”
We can only hope.