In the days following large protests in Afghanistan over the publicized burning of a Quran on March 20 at a Florida Evangelical Church, protests erupted across many parts of the world. At DePaul University, many members of the community felt burning may put troops in harms way by injuring the nation’s image abroad.
Last year, Pastor Jones garnered international media attention when he threatened to burn the Muslim holy book on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. He backed down after several government leaders asked him not to warning that it could endanger troops’ lives.
This time around major newspapers in the U.S. did not cover the staged trial and burning of the Quran at the small Dove World Outreach Centre (DWOC) in Gainesville, Fla.
According to the Pew Research Center, from March 28 to April 3, 1 percent of the media coverage was devoted to the Quran burning.
Even without mainstream coverage, Pastor Terry Jones, an Evangelical Christian leader, and his supporters managed to send shock waves around the world with the help of social media and the Internet, streaming a video of a fellow Pastor lighting a kerosene soaked Quran on fire via YouTube and Facebook.
“It’s sad that it’s always the fundamentalist crazies that get all the media attention,” said Jordan Kelley, 20, an economics and religious studies major at DePaul University. Kelley is also liaison to the university for Intervaristy, a interdenominational Christian club.
“I can understand why they would get really upset,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s sad that they had to take what a small group did and put it on a bigger scale.”
In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai announced the story publicly, calling for the U.S. government to condemn Pastor Jones for his offenses to Islam and the Muslim community. This was the first time news of the burning had been released in the country.
Protesting of the video-taped burning of the Quran began on Friday, April 1, in Mazar-i-Sharif, one of the least troubled areas of the country with little known pro-Taliban or anti-American sentiment. There were no Americans stationed in Mazar-i-Sharif at the time of the protests.
Demonstrations spread to other cities in the country and lasted four days, resulting in multiple deaths and one of the worst attacks on the UN. In Mazar-i-Sharif, thousands of people took to the streets, some peacefully. However, others sought out foreign targets, mobbed a UN compound and killed seven UN workers and five Afghanis, BBC News reported.
“The average Afghani gets their news from people around them. It’s very traditional that way,” said Khalil Marrar, a political science professor at DePaul University. “They’re not really going to understand that Pastor Jones is a minority in America and that everyone is not happy with it.”
Images of an American igniting Islam’s sacred scripture can fuel the frustrations felt by Afghanis towards the U.S.’s presence in Afghanistan as a whole.
Khaled Keshk, an associate professor of religious studies at DePaul said the pastor’s problem is that he sees the actions of the of the 10 people on Sept. 11 as a representation of Islam as a whole.
“We do the same thing. So for the Afghanis to do the same mistake shows they are as civilized as we are.”