Remember late last year when the media storm over Terry Jones, the mad Florida pastor who wanted to burn the Qur’an to honour those who died in 9/11, happened? The uproar, worldwide, was instantaneous and furious. Everyone who was anyone condemned the actions, from Obama to Ahmadinejad. Even those who defended his right to free speech and expression admitted his idea was tasteless and designed to provoke. Ultimately, as we all remember, Jones was beaten back and on September 11th, 2010, stated that “We will definitely not burn the Qur’an…not today, not ever”.
Fast forward to today. 12 dead, 8 of whom were UN aid workers are dead in Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan. Why? Because on the 21st of March, 2011, a pastor at the very same Dove World Outreach Centre, burnt a copy of the Qur’an was burnt. Reports vary as to who actually burnt it, with CNN reporting it was Jones himself, while other news outlets reporting that it was a pastor by the name of Wayne Sapp who did so under the supervision of Jones. Why did they do this? Well, the reason has to be seen to be believed. On its website, the church proudly proclaims (verbatim): “the Koran will be put on trial, then, if found guilty of causing murder, rape, and terrorism, it will be executed! According to our International Poll, it looks like the choice for this will be BURNING.”
As if this isn’t ridiculous enough, it then updated the site to add, the next day, that “yesterday we put the Koran on trial. The event is over, the Koran was found guilty and a copy was burned inside the building.”
And so here we are. 10 days later and riots are running through Afghanistan and 12 innocent people are dead. Aside from the obvious, I have several problems with this story:
1) I read on average about 6 major news outlets every day. These range from Al Jazeera to Fox News. On not one of them in the last week, have I seen any story about a Qur’an being burnt. On not one of them did I see any build up, any fuss being kicked up, over what was about to happen. After what happened last year, why on earth not? Where was the media when they were actually needed?
2) Now that the media have woken up to cover the story, after these tragic deaths, why are most stories focussing on the Qur’an burning instead of today’s events? Most articles purporting to cover the Afghanistan riots of this afternoon have used the deaths as a headline and then proceeded spend most of the article focussing on what should have been covered last week?
3) Why, 11 long days after the event took place, did some Imam decide it would be a good idea to inform his congregation of what had happened? His irresponsibility contributes just as directly to the deaths of these innocent people as Sapp’s. It just goes to show that there are people are are willing to abuse faith in every religion.
Most of all though, I am frustrated. Frustrated that the media didn’t try to prevent this burning as they did the last one. Frustrated that the reaction of the Afghans has only really allowed those who did the burning to have an ‘I told you so’ moment. Frustrated that two sets of hatred and bitterness (the Jones camp and the Imam’s camp) can wield so much power. Frustrated that these riots will probably spread now that the news is out. Frustrated that the UN will probably downscale its efforts in Mazar-e-Sharif as a result of today, and that the only people who will suffer from this will be the Afghanis themselves. Frustrated that Jones and Sapp will probably never be held properly accountable for the deaths they have caused. And finally, most of all frustrated that those who have suffered the most from this, were, as usual, those who deserved it least. As much as the UN may be criticised, the deceased UN workers were there doing their best to to aid and protect Mazar-e-Sharif as it grows into a stable city. They were there, because even though it was a crazy and tough place to work, it was something they probably cared about greatly. And they certainly had nothing to do with burning any Qur’an anywhere.
VERDICT: The media goes 4th by ignoring a story it shouldn’t have and the religious crazies on both sides of this go 4th for causing the deaths of 12 innocent people.