The Dove and The Quran

September 8, 2010 — Leave a comment

I’ve just looked up ‘dove’ in the Shorter OED – that tome of information that cannot be argued against in any Scrabble game. It says The dove, as the type of gentleness and harmlessness, occupies an important place in Christian symbolism.

That symbolism is apparently not something the pastors of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida believe in. The ministry’s plan is to burn ‘thousands’ of Qurans, gathered from around the country, to commemorate the atrocities of the September 11, 2001 – nine years ago this Saturday.

Permission for a burn permit was denied in August by the Interim Fire Chief of Gainesville Gene Prince, with the threat of a fine if the burning goes ahead. Other more familiar names have joined the condemnation of this proposed event: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; General David Petraeous, the current Commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan; and even Angelina Jolie, actress and activist, busy in Pakistan checking out the flood victims.

Catholics have had word from the Vatican, every religion has the right to expect that its religious books and traditions will be respected. It doesn’t get more unequivocal than that.

The pastor of this very small congregation of about 50, is a man born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri but who spent 30 years in Germany as a missionary. He was released from his previous ministry due to untenable theological statements and craving for recognition. Tax evasion and child labor laws were also mentioned. It would seem that Terry Jones, a hotel employee before he found his calling, has got his fame.

His second wife Sylvia works alongside her husband as co-pastor but to keep funds rolling in also runs a furniture business, until recently mainly on e-Bay, from the 20 acre campus. The employees of TS (Terry & Sylvia) and Company are students from the Dove World Outreach Academy (3 in total) and others, who work long hours for no actual remuneration except food and lodging. All are under the control of the pastors at this non-denominational charismatic church, who believe that God is calling a new generation in this end time – a generation of believers that is yielded to his Word and his will.

While it may well be within the parameters of the First Amendment for Mr. Jones (there is no evidence he has a Phd.) to burn the Quran, it would not seem a peaceful or practical act. Rather it is one that plays into the hands of radicals, of every religion, unable to realise the power dialogue. Jones says, our message is a message of warning to the radical element of Islam.

How I wonder does that make the vast majority of non-radical Muslims feel? That it’s okay to burn their Holy Book because it isn’t meant to insult or provoke them, only the obsessive fringe of their religion.

With so much anguish felt by both proponents and opponents to the proposed Islamic centre near Ground Zero, the rantings of a white haired and mustachioed man in Florida should be shrugged off. But through the power of the internet and his online anti-Islamic message on his Braveheart Show, Jones has caught the attention of the Christian radicals, and now the country through his publicised and planned act of vandalism.

For Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the lower Manhattan endeavour which will house not only a mosque but prayer space for Jews and Christians, and whose life’s work has been focused on building bridges between religious groups… it must be frustrating to see a man, of very little consequence, fuel such antipathy leading up to the anniversary of the day that changed the modern world. A day in which people of all faiths and cultures died.

Nato Chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said the negative impact on the security of its soldiers is a concern. Dave Ingram, one of the followers of the Dove World Outreach Center, has responded with a disclaimer which abrogates all responsibility for any Islamic backlash. In a recent blog he wrote, A small church, in a small town, down a back road, burning copies of its own books, on its own property, is not responsible for the violent actions anyone may take in retaliation to our protest.

Perhaps the Dove World Outreach Center should have been called the Hawk World Outreach Center. My faithful companion the Shorter OED as well as describing the hawk as a bird of prey, and not prayer, also says the word can be applied to people. For example, one who preys on others, a sharper or cheat; one who is keen and grasping.

That’s certainly what Paster Jones’s daughter from his first marriage, Emma, says when she describes her father’s church a cult that she escaped from, and which forced us with oppression to be obedient.

Words that seem at odds with the Dove World Outreach Center website which says we offer free shelter and food for women who want to escape from Islam. But then etymology doesn’t seem to be Pastor Terry Jones’ strong point.

Perhaps he needs a copy of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

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