Usually I fall for whatever the one talking is saying. I've been told that if I were a woman, I'd be pregnant all the time. So, how did I happen to cover myself with honor this time and shout "No way!" at the TV set as the Rev. Terry Jones was telling us, "I have a deal. I have agreed not to burn the Quran next Saturday, and they have agreed to move the mosque away from Ground Zero"?
As he was talking, I had a vision. It was 1956 and the biggest argument in my home town of Greensboro, N.C., was whether or not they should fluoridate our drinking water. And as Rev. Jones was announcing his "deal," I sort of envisioned the mayor of Greensboro in 1956 facing cameras and microphones and saying, "I have a deal. I have agreed to drop the effort to fluoridate our water, and the Soviet Union has agreed to remove all ground troops from Poland, Hungary, Romania and Czechoslovakia!"
The arguments against burning the Quran so far have ranged from the valid warning that American lives would be directly endangered, clear down to manners and the need to respect all religions. Would you like a conclusive, stomp-down, argument-ending reason why burning the Quran is a terrible idea?
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Shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, there was vigorous national debate over whether or not we should chop down the cherry trees along the Potomac River, which the Japanese had sent us as a gift in happier times. We decided not to. But if we had, it would have had no effect on how many people were on whose side after the chop-down. More important: Col. Jimmy Doolittle's raiders, who led our first strike-back against Japan in April 1942, were under strictest orders not to drop bombs anywhere near the Japanese Emperor's Imperial Palace. If they had, no additional forces would have lined up on Japan's side. But we were smart enough to realize the Japanese fighting us would have done so with even more fury. Bombing the Imperial Palace in Tokyo is a handy working equivalent to burning Qurans. Both would maximize the rage against the perpetrators.
An Islamic leader declared he would rather be burned himself than see his beloved Quran burn. Forget the likelihood of his changing his mind once they opened the kerosene; just take it as a hint of the visceral power at play here. Once upon a time we thought the whole German nation was against us. It was. We thought the whole Japanese nation was against us. It was. The casual American can be excused for supposing the whole Islamic world is a gaggle of haters trying to kill us; even the casual scholar cannot.
About one out of four people on earth is a Muslim. We know about the many hundreds of millions of Muslims in Indonesia (the world's most populous Muslim nation), Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Turkey, Iran, Egypt and Nigeria. Many Americans are surprised to learn there are more Muslims in Germany than in Lebanon, more in China than in Syria. Are you ready for a quarter of a million Muslims in Belgium? Do you know there are 50 countries that have Muslim majorities? This feels like bully-teasing because I could keep this up for many pages. There are more than 9 million Muslims in Burkina Faso; more than a million and a half in Gambia (a strangely shaped West African nation that's 350 miles long and about six blocks wide); 53,000 in Fiji.
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Four times since 1991, Americans fought and died to save Muslim lives (Kuwait, Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo). It's true that almost all our active enemies are Muslim. But far from all Muslims are our enemy – yet! We know how effectively al-Qaida and the Taliban can alienate their support from local Muslim populations. Bad news is big news. We know all about the enemy attempts to radicalize Muslim youth and spawn home-grown terrorists in America and the UK. Less well-known are the hundreds of millions of Muslims who like us, ignore us or don't hate us – yet!
If you want millions of new Muslim enemies, you might try going on Craigslist, buy time on Al Jazeera, let your local mosque's imam know you want to fight – or, you could do it all effectively and at no cost by burning a Quran while the incontinent American media breathlessly emblazons your endeavor world-wide over and over and over.
Early in the Cold War, one of Josef Stalin's advisers warned him that the pope would not approve of many of Stalin's tactics in eastern Europe. "The pope!" sneered Stalin. "How many divisions has the pope?" When the pope heard of this he remarked, "My son Josef will meet my divisions in heaven."
Wouldn't you rather see jihad's divisions tired and battered, than refreshed by hordes of new America-haters with blood on their breath and Quran smoke lingering in their souls?