The event of protest covered in this 25th august 2010 New York Times was the planned burning of copies of the Koran by members of a small Florida based evangelical church led by their pastor, Terry Jones.
They had planned to conduct their protest so it would coincide with the 10th anniversary of September 11th, 2000 terrorist attacks on the United States. Burning of copies of Islam’s holiest book was supposed to be the strongest denunciation of Islamic faith, which Pastor Jones unequivocally condemned as a faith “full of lies” and “a religion of the devil”.
Another equally instrumental factor that contributed to the decision of the church to burn copies of the Koran was the plan by the Islamic Center in New York to build within the vicinity of ground zero an “Islamic cultural center”, which was widely seen as a mosque, as part of commemoration of the 9/11 terrorist attack.
This was completely unacceptable to the pastor and his congregation. The article portrays the planned event of burning copies of the Koran by the pastor as a momentous event which would have produced possibly previously unseen and far reaching consequences.
In regard to the burning of copies of the Koran, Cave in his opening statement poses a critical as well as deeply engaging question to the reader. He challenges his reader to imagine the magnitude of controversy that would ensure from an act burning copies of the Koran. For Cave, such an act would definitely raise a storm that would totally overshadow the controversy surrounding the planned construction of a mosque near ground zero.
The planned act of burning of copies of Koran had caused a huge controversy not only in the U.S but across the world. On one hand, critics of the act ranged from those who mainly viewed it as a culmination of religious intolerance, to Islamic jihadists who read it as pure blasphemy besides being an unacceptable act of scorn towards Islam.
On the other hand were supporters of the act of protest who ranged from those who cited freedom of expression guaranteed in the American constitution as their reason for supporting the act, to those who, like Jones himself, perceived Islam as an evil religion and an enemy that should be destroyed.
Amidst this controversy, Cave – in general- appears to take a soft stance against the planned act, and more so its mastermind.
He tends to paint the pastor as an ordinary but uninhibited American who deeply cherishes the freedom of expression provided for in the constitution. The evangelical pastor is even remotely painted as a victim for “political correctness” by both secular and a group of Christian Americans, as well as of, ironically, religious intolerance from Islamic faithfuls from across the world.
In regard to portrayal of the Jones as a victim, the article clearly points out the fact that the pastor is forced to walk around with a gun at all times. Besides, Jones was ordered to immediately repay an outstanding balance of 140,000 dollars he owed his bank on mortgage of the church.
The article also notes that, consequent to him announcing his planned act of protest, insurance cover for his property was cancelled. Alleged death threats directed towards Jones are clearly brought to the fore too. Cave even goes on to suggest that Jones seemed “largely oblivious of the potential consequences of his plans”.
However, looking at it from another slightly different perspective, the overall picture of the planned controversial burning of Korans presented by the article is that the act of protest was largely unacceptable to the greater contemporary society. Considerable amount of space is dedicated to voices of disapproval, more so from the political class and non-Christian religious groups.
Regarding balance of coverage of opposing perspectives, Cave does a commendable job in the article for he gathers credible and equally weighty sources in writing about the controversy surrounding the planned burning of copies of the Koran. The views of those rejecting the idea of burning the copies of the Koran are cleverly pitted against opinions of individuals supporting the planned event of protest.
One part, however, that the article scantly touches on is the background to the contemporary issue. Cave does appear to have written the article with the assumption that his audience had superior knowledge of the background to the situation at hand. The article would have been more informative had the author provided a broader background to the highly controversial event.
In conclusion, the article clearly portrays the planned burning of copies of the Koran by Jones and his congregation as a momentous event which would have produced far reaching consequences. It concisely highlights the fact that religious intolerance/tolerance is still a huge obstacle to the full exercise by Americans of the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression.
As such, the article indicates that the general agreement in the contemporary society with respect to the controversial burning of copies of the Koran seems to be “let the lying dogs lie”, or what is more commonly termed as “political correctness”.
Cave, Damien. “Far From Ground Zero, Obscure Pastor Is Ignored No Longer.” The New York Times, (New York, NY), August 25, 2010.
Damien Cave, “Far From Ground Zero, Obscure Pastor Is Ignored No Longer,” The New York Times, (New York, NY), August 25, 2010.