I've been reading a little about the upcoming 'International Burn the Koran Day' being planned by the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville Florida...
Every year around this time it seems we are inundated with crackpots and nutters leveraging off the deaths of thousands of innocent people on that day to attempt to advance their own bigoted agenda.
Let's remember that nearly 3000 people died this week, 9 years ago because of the acts of a very small group of extremists.
To suggest that these extremists represent the whole of Islam is naive and ignorant.
Much of the vitriol spouted around this time is by extremist Christian groups.
Perhaps they are the bearers of the torch (so to speak) of extremist Christians of yesteryear?
Perhaps they are merely carrying on what they see as the good Christian duties of book burning a la the Inquisition? (Which incidentally executed around the same amount of people as were killed in the 9/11 bombing.)
Of course they are not alone in promoting hatred and violence, there are militant Zionists and Islamists each with their own misguided agendas, battling tooth and nail to be 'right'.
Proponents of the Koran Burning Day defend it, not only on religious grounds but by using the Constitution of the United States to defend their right to 'free speech'. With this I agree...but I wonder if they would be so willing to defend the free speech rights of extremists of other religions burning the Bible?
Pastor Terry Jones says that they are 'sending a clear message' to extremist Muslims and terrorists that they live in the United States, and that they have free speech.
Well he is also sending a clear message to liberal and moderate Muslims that he and his church goers do not hold the fundamental concepts of respect and decency to be true. Destroying something that many peaceful, law abiding and loving people hold dear is after all a disrespectful and spiteful action.
I was raised by a devout Christian mother and an agnostic father with a penchant for poetry, yoga, fighting, hunting and fishing....so I have a unique perspective on religion and spirituality!
We had many an interesting discussion about religion and spirituality and my parents each had their own views, but they never....never derided the view point of the other, and they both believed that love was the most important aspect of their relationship, and of the world in general...and that it could conquer all.
My Mum - in spite of being a Christian of enormous faith, simply would not accept that non-Christians would go to hell by default!
She just could not fathom how someone who lived a good life, did good deeds and that lived with honesty, humility and love could be rejected from God's arms.
And that is why she gave me the freedom to explore religion and spirituality (and in fact encouraged it by introducing me to Buddhism, Hinduism and yes - the Bible) and let me make my own decisions...in the full realisation that by providing me with a base of love and support that I would be in the best position to make decisions that would benefit myself and those around me, and would go on to live a life of good deeds and right action.
I have had the pleasure and the honour of praying with, meditating with and having spiritual discourse with my Islamic friends - all of whom are caring, loving, peaceful, spiritual souls - I guess actually getting out and meeting, knowing and accepting our fellow man helps to break down the barriers of ignorance...
To those planning on burning the Koran on 9/11 I would strongly urge you to remember the teachings of Jesus. Is this not a chance to 'turn the other cheek' and show that in spite of your feelings of being wronged and your desire for some type of retribution and vengeance that you can instead forgive and love in spite of their wrong doings? (as Jesus did)
Is this not a chance to 'love thy neighbour' in spite of whether or not you think that he is wrong?
Because whether or not you agree with someone is inconsequential. If you are only to love those that agree with you, then that by nature precludes the whole Christian notion of loving thy neighbour...
Some years ago around this time I received an email deriding Islam and highlighting some of the atrocities committed by militant, extremist groups in the name of Islam against the United States.
The email's writer went on to spew forth one of the most hate filled diatribes I have ever read.
Now - two wrongs certainly do not make a right, but it is important for us not to suffer from proximity bias and think that just because we are from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or the UK that our nations are blameless in the committing of atrocities.
We can easily look back at our very recent history with rose tinted spectacles and ignore the fact that there have been many innocent lives taken by our governments and militaries in many conflicts.
Take for example the fire bombing of Tokyo in the Second World War - a campaign designed to maximise civilian casualties and maximise terror in the Japanese population, and which resulted in over 100,000 deaths.
Whether you consider this 'collateral and necessary' damage in order to reduce the Japanese industrial capability or not, the fact remains that hundreds of thousands of civilians (innocents) died as a result of US government policy.
And should we forget that the US is the only nation to have used nuclear weapons in war (and against civilians)?
Do the atrocities committed by the Japanese military in the Second World War, or the Nazi regime excuse atrocities committed by the Allies?
In my opinion No.
An atrocity is an atrocity...period...
Should we not be striving to do that which is right?
Should we not be striving to break the ingrained cycles of hatred and violence that have penetrated human society?
Is this not the chance to begin to change, and to have our actions be the instigator of that change, so that we can live in a world that more and more is one of peace, harmony and love?
To say that this is a pipe dream is simply a matter of resignation. To stick with the status quo is weak.
Nothing great was ever achieved without struggle, and the greatest struggles are against our own biases and conditioning.
We can create change, and we can create a better world.
The time to start is now.
Let's make 9/11 that time. A time to forgive, a time to love, a time to try and better understand our fellow man and to realise that religion and spiritual traditions, if you cut away all the ritual, dogma and rigmarole are all concerned with the same end goal.
Let's cast our eyes to the moon and not get hung up on arguing about which is the 'right' finger to guide our gaze there!
[Note: Cliff will be hosting weekly spiritual meeting groups starting 22nd September 2010 ~ Click on EVENTS to find out more]
Pastor Terry Jones on CNN