After the events of Sept. 11, Americans were united in the single cause of finding and eliminating the culprit of 3,000 deaths. That dedication led the United States into two polarizing wars. Ten years later, the attitudes of Americans toward Muslims remain in near-constant flux.
The recent controversies over the proposed building of an Islamic center near Ground Zero and the scheduled burning of Qurans in Florida have once again highlighted this frequent change in perception, with emphasis on the reaction of Muslims worldwide to events in America. The protests in Afghanistan and other Muslim-majority countries have drawn criticism as the Obama administration intervened in order to prevent pastor Terry Jones from inciting even greater attacks on Americans overseas— curiously, it’s rarely mentioned that Secretary Robert Gates criticized the idea.
Firstly, as a matter of symbolism, these events are portrayed as entirely devoid of religious influence, whereas the radical beliefs of Muslim terrorists are seen as informing their actions and in fact, being responsible for them.
Secondly, it is disingenuous to point at the “track record of the Islamic world” as some kind of equalizing factor to Pastor Jones’ attempt at “retaliation,” especially since that includes the explicit anti-American character of these protests. Muslim-majority countries have deplorable human rights records — not only against Christians but against foreigners in general, ethnic minorities, women and the LGBT community. Every pressure should be exerted on them to change their policies.
This false equivalency also implies that the United States has had absolutely no role in causing the protests — a view that ignores hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani deaths caused by technologically advanced weapons and abuses committed by American soldiers officers.
Jones has every right, under the Constitution of the United States, to light a Quran on fire. He has every right to justify it however he chooses, but the resulting reaction will be on his hands. That’s the problem with misguided retribution: it invites more of the same.
Morales is a member of the class of 2011.