The real lesson that Prothero misses is that freedom of expression must be protected. To ask people to curtail their activities, however one may dislike them, because of the threat of violence, is only to encourage that violence. “My Take: The Quran burning that wasn’t: 7 lessons learned,” by Boston University religion scholar Stephen Prothero for CNN, September 14:
1. There are extremists in every religion. Islam has them. Christianity has them. We shouldn’t let our perceptions of Christianity be determined by Pastor Terry Jones , or our perceptions of Islam by al Qaeda. […]
So Terry Jones is the Christian equivalent of Al-Qaeda? This sort of equation is common, of course, and is not unique to Stephen Prothero, but that doesn’t make it any more coherent or excusable. What mass murders has Terry Jones committed? What high rise buildings has he taken down with hijacked airplanes? Whom has he blown up? Whom has he beheaded? Anyone who thinks about this for five minutes will realize that this equation shows more of the difference between Christianity and Islam rather than the similarity, but probably Prothero has not taken that much time on the topic.
3. We need stories about interfaith cooperation to balance the stories about religious conflict. Yes, conflict sells newspapers and captures eyeballs. And God knows there is plenty of conflict to cover. But the hard work of religion is being done every day by people like Zeenat Rahman of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core, who challenges her readers in the Chicago Tribune to seek out their Muslim neighbors and ask them what they believe. […]
Does she encourage them to read the Qur’an and investigate the teachings of Muhammad and Islam? Or would she just prefer that they take the answers of their Muslim neighbors at face value? And would Stephen Prothero and Zeenat Rahman regard a healthy skepticism about those answers, and a determination to investigate for oneself, as evidence of “Islamophobia”? Probably — but should they?
Here is a glimpse into Prothero’s willful ignorance and naivete:
6. Religious illiteracy is rampant, not least about Islam. It is easy to wag a finger at Pastor Jones for condemning a book he has by his own admission never read, but Americans as a group admit to being almost ignorant about the world’s second largest religion. According to a poll released last month by the Pew Research Center, 30% of Americans say they know “not very much” about Islam and 25% say they know “nothing at all.” Are we going to continue to get our “information” about Muslims and the Quran from Terry Jones, Franklin Graham and Newt Gingrich? Perhaps it is time we started listening to Muslims themselves–to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Park51 project , Ingrid Mattson of the Islamic Society of North America, and Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison.
So Prothero is recommending that we learn about Islam from an open proponent of Sharia and restrictions on the freedom of speech, a man who refuses to denounce Hamas (Rauf); the leader of a group that admits ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and was an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas funding case (Mattson); and a Congressman who accepted funds from the Muslim Brotherhood for his Hajj (Ellison).
7. We need to have an informed conversation about Islam. After 9/11, that conversation died aborning, collapsing into uninformed platitudes about how Islam was “a religion of peace” or “a religion of war.” We need to get beyond the platitudes by informing ourselves about, among other things, the Quran.
I’m all for that. Ready when you are, Mr. Prothero.