By S. M. Hali

Reverend Terry Jones, the pastor of Dove World Outreach Centre at Gainesville, Florida, which has a congregation of not more than 30 faithful, whose bid to shoot into fame last year by announcing the burning of copies of the Holy Qur’an, but was deterred by the US government, has finally had his moment of “glory”. He ultimately committed his heinous crime last month and has been condemned by devout Muslims all over the world. After soaking the Qur'an in kerosene, an oven lighter was put to its pages. The book instantly caught fire.

That act – which has provoked anger and revulsion across the world – came at the end of the latest surreal stunt by Jones in his mission to garner headlines and attention for his anti-Islamic beliefs. Even President Obama denounced the deplorable act without naming Reverend Jones, criticized the burning of a Quran as "intolerance and bigotry," reports the BBC.

Reverend Terry Jones is a pastor of the Christian religion, in which the prophet Christ, who is revered by Muslims too, recommends turning the other cheek to anyone who slaps you; yet his abominable act has caused willful hurt to millions of Muslims. What Mr. Jones, in his myopic vision did not realize was that his despicable action has not only caused the wrath of over a billion  Muslims all over the world but has endangered the lives of US combatants in Afghanistan that has already resulted in the deaths of a large number of people.

The protest rallies have been the fiercest in Afghanistan; two policemen were killed and more than 30 people were wounded in Kandahar, where demonstrators marched toward a U.N. office. More than 20 people have died in protests across Afghanistan, including seven U.N. staff members. The fundamentalist pastor has unwittingly,"reintegrated" Taliban — fighters who had formally laid down arms — although the insurgents have denied any role in the attack.Anger unleashed when protesters waved white Taliban flags, shouted "Death to America," burned tires, smashed shops and vandalized a girls' school returned to the city.

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Western political and military leaders, including the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, have condemned the Qur’an burning as well as the violence that followed, but their statements appear to have done little to placate anger across much of Afghan society. There were protest rallies condemning the action of Rev. Jones in Pakistan and other Muslim countries but nowhere did the mob turn violent as it did in Afghanistan. We should definitely revile the desecration of the Holy Qur’an but within limits of civility. Here one is reminded of the event described in the Qur’anic verse (Al-Feel), according to which, in the year of the birth of Holy Prophet (pbuh) Abraha came to attack the Holy Kaaba at Makah. Abraha had built a building for worshipping at Sana in Yemen. He desired that the persons going on pilgrimage to Mecca should stop going there, and instead they should come to Sana for worshipping and thus perform their pilgrimage. Arabs disliked it and revoked his invitation. An enraged Abraha decided to destroy Kaaba and attacked with a large force comprising elephants and all the armaments of war.

Proud of his large army and weapons, Abraha was confident of success and set camp at the outskirts of Makah. His soldiers captured a few camels, grazing nearby. The camels belonged to Abdul Muttalib, the grandfather of Prophet Muhammad. Abdul Muttalib, who was a leader of the Quraish, sought audience with Abraha and was granted the same. When Abdul Muttalib appeared before him, Abraha haughtily inquired if Abdul Muttalib had come to deter Abraha from attacking the Kaaba. Abdul Muttalib’s response was that the Keeper of Kaaba was fully capable of defending His own home; he had come to ask that the camels for which he was responsible, be returned to him.

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History is witness how the mighty army of Abraha was destroyed by Allah, who sent flocks of Ababeel (larks) with pebbles in their beaks, which annihilated the entire attacking army. The lesson learnt is that the Holy Qur’an is Allah’s book, which He has promised to protect. We may censure anyone who is disrespectful towards it but leave the punishment to Allah or the judicial system.

By being aggressive and violent, we are providing an excuse to detractors of Islam like Rev. Terry Jones, who is already unrepentant of his dastardly deed. The notorious preacher who last month oversaw the burning of a copy of the Qur'an in his Florida church after a mock hearing said anyone blaming him for provoking the mob who killed UN workers was "only making a justification" for murder. Pastor Terry Jonesinsists that his actions bore no responsibility for the murders in Mazar-e-Sharif. "We find it very tragic any time that someone is murdered but we do not feel any responsibility for that," he said. "It definitely does indicate that there is a very radical element of Islam. We'd like to see the president of the United States not only condemn these actions but to call on the UN for these people and Muslim-dominated countries to be held accountable." He also said he may put the Prophet Muhammad on trial in his next "day of judgment". He has put up signs in front of his church which say: "Islam is of the Devil".

Islam, which means “peace” is a religion of harmony and preaches moderation. By reacting to cynics, who are critical of Islam, we are providing them an excuse to justify their barbs and denigration. The Holy Prophet (pbuh), who forgave Meccan disbelievers, who had attacked him, some of them hurling abuse and garbage on his person, set the example of love and amity for all. Hate only begets hate and is bound to bring discord in society. Let us resolve to be tolerant even of our critics and set an example by deterring from their revulsion through good conduct and show of empathy rather than odium.

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