By Madison Reed
As sickening as I find the plan to set fire hundreds of copies of the Holy Qur'an, by a Gainesville, Florida pastor Terry Jones and members of his church, the Dove World Outreach Center, I want to go on record as supporting his right and his church's right to burn as many Qur'ans as they would like. I don't believe it's wise for him to do this, considering the hypersensitivity of countless millions of Muslims who will be offended by their actions. But remember, they (Muslims) have also burned Bibles, U.S. flags, and done far worse. To possess a Holy Bible or to teach Christianity is enough to get you imprisoned or even executed in some Muslim countries. But, as I will remind you later, this is exactly what kind of society we Americans also need to avoid, and why we must understand the value of freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion.
I am a homosexual man, and a member of the *Baha'i Faith (both groups have histories of experiencing terrible persecution) - an Iranian origin independent world religion that was born in the mid-19th Century from the bosom of Islam, from a mystical branch of Iranian Twelver Shi'ism. Raised under Missionary Baptist Christian teachings while I was a boy growing up in rural West Virginia, after learning about the life and teachings of Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Baha'i Faith, I embraced this beautiful Iranian religion when I was 19 years old. You shouldn't find Baha'is anywhere on the planet ever burning Bibles, Qur'ans, Books of Mormon, Bhagavad Gitas, Zend Avestas, or the books sacred to any of the world's religions, because we respect all faith traditions and believe that the inspiration contained in all "Holy Books" originates from the same source of oneness. To some, like myself, this Source IS the realm that comes very close to the Creator. To others, it's Jesus, or it's Krishna, or Allah, or the First Cause. Different names that come from different ways, that we all struggle to perceive the same essence. Some of us perceive the Infinite Source through our lower emotional egos. Others perceive the Infinite through the eye of Oneness, Beauty and Justice, and have no problem with varieties of expression and differences, because we see them as completely normal and necessary.
Hatred and division stem from ignorance, which is a product of the lower emotional ego, caused by separating ourselves from our true reality.
The United States of America isn't a Baha'i, Christian or Muslim theocracy. It is a secular, yet spiritually rooted melting pot society made up of many different beliefs, races, and ethnicities, engaged in a grand experiment to see if it is possible for so many different kinds of people to find their common thread of unity and build a greater union - "E Pluribus Unum" (From Many, One) - by deriving strength and richness from their unique diversity, without having a central government to impose any form of religion or ideology upon them. It's too bad that every society has its primitive religious groups like this one in Florida. But this is a fact of life for humanity's 21st Century global Earth civilization.
Apparently, Hillary Clinton, the President, Angelina Jolie, the World Council of Churches, and a chorus of other people who have condemned the church's planned book burning, and may be frightening them into silence, are forgetting that the United States is a secular nation with a remarkable Constitution that demands that our servant government protect the Peoples' rights and freedoms. These Rights are not just just cherished principles. They are the supreme law of the United States of America that all good citizens should uphold and defend.
Christian fundamentalists, Muslims of every stripe, atheists, drag queens, hated greedy capitalist fat cats, politicians, and the rest of our diverse humanity, all must have the right to assemble and speak freely without fear of persecution or government reprisal in the United States of America. If this were not the case the United States would quickly lapse into a very divided and angry country forced into a false order and unity by some emerging political or religious dictatorship that would rise up from the ranks of mob that happens to be in power - a problem that plagues countries such as Iran, Belarus, Saudi Arabia and North Korea still today.
The First Amendment Right to free speech is like a pressure release valve. If people can't express themselves, a society becomes like a pressure cooker and eventually explodes and self destructs.
It will be a grave mistake for the government of the United States, or any other group to persecute these people for doing what they believe, or to interfere with their free speech . It will add explosive fuel to the fire of radical religious movements who act from emotions and blind belief rather than from the intellect, if we were to do so.
I hope that the pastor is influenced by his higher angels, as President Obama suggested this morning, and he calls off their Qur'an-burning for good reasons, rather than because he and his congregation feel threatened. If they carry through with their threats, I hope Christians and Muslims, and all people throughout the world, are able to see a clearer image of what our dark side looks like - this time coming from traditional American Christians instead of Muslims - and that we ask ourselves if such behavior really reflects the image of God?
Americans should not force the members of the Dove World Outreach Center to shut their mouths out of fear of what might happen if Muslims are offended.
We need to go back and relearn American history, and go get copies of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, and read them line by line, and think about why so many Americans from every religion, race, nationality and sexual orientation, have sacrificed and died for the principles finally enshrined in those two documents!
The victory over ignorance, and oppression by cruel, arrogant and ignorant scum monarchs and religious leaders, is the gift that the real America has given to the world, although in an imperfect way. It was won through hundreds of years of individual sacrifices and bloodshed. Americans and our fellow citizens all over the world, must resist the temptation to accommodate ourselves to either bully religious fanatics or tyrannical governments, who each believe they should tell us, We the People, how we should believe, communicate and live. If we do this, we will only feed and revive a monster that is finally dying out. Let us all join together and guard precious freedom. Let us all get to know each other and discover that we are all One.
Qur'an Burning Canceled After Pentagon Calls Pastor (miamiherald.com)
Don't Burn the Qur'an, READ it! (seektress.com)
Angelina Jolie Speaks Out Against Planned Qur'an Burning by Florida Pastor (lezgetreal.com)
Angelina Jolie and Hillary Clinton Condemn Koran-burning, But Mayor Bloomberg Supports Congregation's Rights (blogs.miaminewtimes.com)
Qur'an Burning in Florida. Angelina Jolie Speaks Out (blog.wsj.com)
Hillary Clinton: Koran Burning is 'Outrageous' and 'Aberrational' (huffingtonpost.com)
U.S. Religious Freedom Owes Debt to Colonists' Radical Movement
Origins of Shi'ism: A Western Consensus (bahai-library.com) (america.gov)
*The Baha'i Faith is not a monolithic religion as the majority group of Baha'is would like the world to believe. In fact, it is this author's conviction that the largest group of Baha'is, governed by the Universal House of Justice headquartered in Haifa, Israel, is not the best example of the beautiful, healing spirit of Baha'u'llah's teachings.
In the early 1990s, after publishing evidence to the American Baha'i Community that the "Hands of the Cause of God" - the appointed ministers to Shoghi Effendi, the first Guardian of the Baha'i Faith - had made a serious error in judgment after his sudden and unexpected death, that caused the mutilation of the Baha'i Faith, the Universal House of Justice, in consultation with the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States, without any due process whatsoever, declared me an enemy of God, and excommunicated me from their ranks. They printed news of my excommunication in the news of Baha'i communities all over the world, telling them that I was an enemy of God and a violator of Baha'u'llah's Covenant. They officially ordered Baha'is, including some of my own family members, to sever all contacts with me, and treat me as though I were dead. My life was threatened and I was slandered for years after that.
Today, still a Baha'i, my allegiance is to Jacques Soghomonian, whom I believe to be the true successor to Baha'u'llah, and IV Guardian of the Baha'i Faith. I am still shunned by my only sibling and brother, who still belongs to the Baha'is loyal to the Universal House of Justice.