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Spare the Quran and Save the Woman

A Commentary by Debra J. Saunders

Thursday, September 09, 2010

A Florida pastor's plan to burn the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11 is a breathtakingly dumb idea. It's bad for the country. As Gen. David Petraeus warned, this illiterate's stunt could incite violence against U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Pastor Terry Jones has argued that he enjoys a First Amendment right to burn the books. I'll buy that. Likewise, an imam has the right to build a mosque where he will, but he ought not claim that putting an Islamic center near ground zero would help build bridges across religious lines.

Jones explained his commitment to the pyrotechnics to ABC News. "If we don't do it, when do we stop backing down?" 

He even has a point when he argues that any violence that follows his stunt would be on the hands of Islamic extremists. Although a better man would fear the consequences of enraging violent extremists and douse the flame.

It may well be that I'm giving Jones too much credit, but I think he and others have been driven mad by a media-elite double standard that requires the Christian religious right to be sensitive, but not Muslims.

When the controversy involves the ground zero mosque, the elites cite the First Amendment; when the controversy draws on the free-speech rights of the devout, editorial page editors switch to the issue of tolerance.

Social conservatives will never forget 1989, when taxpayer dollars bankrolled a National Endowment for the Arts grant for an exhibition that featured a photograph of a crucifix in the artist's urine. Elites pounced on the censoriousness of social conservatives. But when it comes to defiling a Muslim holy book, the same people who warned against censorship rediscover discretion and "tolerance."

There is no sense of proportion. The left portrays the religious right as extremists, if they oppose, say, abortion or same-sex marriage, while it ignores Islamic cultures' unequal and at times violent treatment of women and gays.

Witness Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the 43-year-old Iranian widow who was sentenced by the Iranian government to be stoned to death for adultery. Authorities later changed her sentence to death by hanging and now claim that Ashtiani is guilty of assisting in the murder of her husband. (Her supporters argue that a videotaped confession may have been coerced and doctored.) This mother of two could be hanged any day.

There are other victims as well. A young Afghan couple was stoned to death in August because they tried to elope. Recently, Time magazine told the story of a Bibi Aisha, an 18-year-old Afghan woman whose husband cut off her nose and ears, under orders from the Taliban, after she tried to escape mistreatment by her in-laws. Her real crime: refusing to be chattel.

Jones says that he has been praying as to whether to go ahead with his plans to burn Qurans on Saturday. May I suggest that instead of burning books, his congregation pray for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani?

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