Friday, September 10, 2010

From Homophobia to Islamophobia [and back]

It’s been a few days now since Pastor Terry Jones, the pentecostal preacher from Gainseville, Florida has been making the headlines. Author of the book Islam Is of the Devil, Mr. Jones has plans of burning copies of the Qur’an in order to commemorate the 9/11 attacks.

Since making the headlines, Pastor Jones and The Dove World Outreach Centre (that has a congregation of about 50) has been warned of the possible repercussions of such an act. While U.S. President Obama condemned such as act by arguing that “what he [Jones] is proposing to do is completely contrary to our values as Americans”, and warned that the execution of such a plan would simply boost support for terrorism, General David Patreus, the commander of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan has warned that the burning would endanger the lives of US soldiers and the security of US troops.

Already, there have been various protests against the burning in Kabul and Pakistan where effigies of Mr. Jones have been burned alongside the American flag. Mr. Jones’ burning has also been condemned by Foreign Ministries of Indonesia, Bahrain and Pakistan amongst others.

Mr. Jones said on Wednesday that he would not cancel the Qur'an burning, and that his plan to burn the Islamic holy book was intended to draw attention to his belief that “something’s wrong.” What we probably also need to remember at this point is that a few months ago, in March and April 2010, Pastor Jones and The Dove World Outreach Centre had already pointed out to something else that was "wrong."

Indeed, Mr. Jones had also launched the “No Homo Mayor” campaign against the Gainseville mayoral candidate Craig Lowe. The congregation had posted an antigay video on its website urging citizens of Gainseville to take action. The video said: “ Here in Gainseville, they’re getting ready to have a run off election between two candidates, and one of them is openly a homo, gay... uh... a fag, whatever you want to call him. (...) We got one running for mayor of Gainseville, trying to convert Gainseville into Homoville. We can’t have it. (...) We cannot afford a homo mayor.”

Mr. Craig Lowe still got elected and became the first openly gay mayor of North Florida. Gainseville is home to 130,000 people, home to the University of Florida and is proud of its reputation for cultural diversity and tolerance.

According to South Florida Gay News (link here), Mr. Jones was ousted from practising in Germany because he “ran a church in the western German city of Cologne until last year when members of the congregation expelled him,” because “he wanted to help a homosexual member to pray away his sins.” In Germany, where civil unions have been legalized since 2001, where gays are allowed to openly serve in the military and where the Mayor of Berlin is openly gay, Mr. Jones’ behavior was seen as too “radical” and was thought to suffer of “delusional personality.”

[Read more about the Qur'an Burning on BBC here and here, on The Guardian here; and more about Mr. Craig Lowe, the openly gay mayor of Gainseville on the Advocate here and here.]

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