It was intended to be an event that would split the world. In a time when there was raging debate about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and when the controversy over the building of an Islamic mosque in New York city was boiling over, the sensitive decision of Terry Jones and his congregation to hold an ‘International Burn a Koran Day’ on the 11th of September was thought to be an event that would only add fuel to the fire. But as it turned out, the international community; Christians and Muslims, Jewish and Buddhist, Rich and Poor, in the West and in the East, from common folks to leaders of nations; banded together to make a clear statement : This is not the right thing to do.
It would be difficult to imagine that such an event would unite individuals from all across the political spectrum. But as the event gained more and more publicity, the more united society stood together. There were those who say they did so for practical reasons, John McCain and Gen. David Petreaus talked of the danger it might pose to troops in Afghanistan by creating anti-american sediment while Obama echoed this message by talking about how it would be a “recruitment bonanza for Al Qaeda.” Others talk of the ‘moral’ questions behind such an act; Sarah Palin said in a public facebook note “Book burning is antithetical to American ideals” and that “doing so is insensitive and an unnecessary provocation”. Even Tony Blair waded in with his statement “I deplore the act of burning the Koran. It is disrespectful, wrong and will be widely condemned by people of all faiths and none.” It’s not just politicians, even actress Angelina Jolie joined in saying “I have hardly the words that somebody would do that to somebody’s religious book.” Even the biggest right-wing speaker, Glenn Beck said “Should they? No. And not because of the potential backlash or violence. Simply because it is wrong.”
It is rare that any international or national issues garner such broad consensus. I am surprised and glad that despite their stated political differences, people from all over the political spectrum have been able to put aside their differences and have been able to show a little unity. This is the kind of unified response that we will need to see more of if we are to solve any of the pressing problems we face. They are problems that, respectfully, are much bigger than that of a pastor threatening to burn the Koran. And they are problems that require international co-operation.
Though unwanted and heartbreaking, the occurrence of this event has shown us how unity can be a powerful force.