A minister in Gainesville, Florida, recently caused a major uproar with his plan to burn a Koran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Reverend Terry Jones’ idea was met with wide-reaching condemnation.
Jones certainly does not represent the American nation, nor anyone but himself and his miniscule congregation. Despite this fact, U.S. Military offered that the deed would put American troops in jeopardy. Riots were predicted. Revenge attacks were anticipated. Muslims throughout the world were enraged.
Jones reconsidered and changed his mind. Chaos was averted.
Certainly, the thought of setting fire to holy books is unsettling. As a Jew, I find it especially egregious. Throughout the dark days of the inquisitions, crusades, pogroms and the Shoah, our Torah Scrolls and sacred texts were regularly set ablaze. This type of action is always an outrage.
It is quite ironic, however, that the same Muslim population that is so thin-skinned to any slights to their own feelings, are intransigent when it comes to the sensitivities of other groups. Tourists routinely have bibles confiscated in many Arab countries. One could only surmise what happens to those books.
Muslim clergy on Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount) ban Jews from even carrying a Hebrew prayer book. Jews who dare to move their lips in what is perceived as actual prayer are routinely arrested for “provocation.” When New Yorkers asked that the mosque on Ground Zero be moved two blocks over, the request was labeled an act of Islamophobia. In the atmosphere of this accusation, it is quite interesting to note, that it is forbidden by Islamic law for a non-Muslim to even enter the cities of Mecca and Medina.
The same Muslim sensibilities that decried the infamous Mohammad cartoons are silent while the Arab press routinely run vile anti-Jewish cartoons and caricatures in state-sanctioned newspapers.
This one-sided demand for compliance goes on and on. It is patently absurd for any group to demand world empathy while ignoring the feelings and concerns of all others. Yes, Pirkei Avot advises, “If I am not for myself, who will be?” But it also warns, “If I am only for myself, what am I?” Perhaps it is time for the Muslim world to take notice of this concept.