Sept. 11, 2001: a day that forever altered the perception of Muslims in America. Nine years later there is undoubtedly still feelings of anger, hurt, and fear in the minds of many Americans.
When Florida Pastor Terry Jones announced that his small, 50-member, congregation would be participating in an "International Quran Burning Day" on the anniversary of Sept.11, he single handedly sparked a controversy that would shake the foundations of "peace" we had been so focused on achieving with the Middle East.
In a statement Jones made on NBC's Today show, he said that he will not now, or ever, burn the Islamic holy book. "We have decided to cancel the burning. We feel that whenever we started this out, one of our reasons was to show, to expose that there is an element of Islam that is very dangerous and very radical," said Jones. "I believe we have very definitely accomplished that mission, even though we have not burned one Quran."
But the damage was done. Outcry in the Middle East was swift. Protests were immediately organized in Afghanistan condemning the burning of the Quran. A report by Afghan officials stated that most of the protests were peaceful, however two turned violent resulting in the death of one individual, and injury to twelve others.
The question is did Jones go too far, or was he simply exercising his right to free speech? In the case of Texas v. Johnson, in 1989, the burning of the American flag was declared a protected form of free speech in the First Amendment. So why not burn something else to make a point? Seems harmless enough right?
Well, here a deep and convoluted controversy that has fueled an overwhelming amount of confusion and hate can be found. It must be understood that not all Muslims are responsible for the terrorist acts of 9/11. Those individuals should not be punished. In his defense, Jones has a right to speak freely according to the First Amendment, but just cause you can do something doesn't mean you should. By planning to burn the holy book of more than a billion innocent Muslims, Jones and members of his non-consequential congregation crossed a very thin line.
Under no circumstance would U.S. citizens tolerate the burning of the Bible in the Middle East, therefore we should understand why so many Muslims were offended at the idea of their holy book being burned at the expense of a man who knows nothing of their religion. Muslims should not have to tolerate religious persecution based upon the radical actions of a few individuals.
Although some may argue in favor of Jones, they cannot dispute that free speech was created to give a voice to the common man, and not to be abused by an ignorant, mustachioed, publicity-whore intent on causing suffering to others. The right to free speech is something of great power; it is an element of our constitutional rights, which we should respect and cherish. Let's keep it that way.