The announcement of the intent to burn copies of Quran on September 11 by Mr. Terry Jones, a pastor of the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville, Florida, has raised an alarming controversy around the world. As US authorities deliberate whether to allow burning of the Muslim holy book, the blowback is expected to be strong. Most of the media attention is focused on the reaction of the Muslim world; however the aftereffects could come in many shapes and forms. The intent to desecrate Quran in Florida is in a series of events, which point towards a building resentment against Islam in Europe as well as in the United States. In the backdrop of economic recession, religious intolerance is likely to grow.
The road that has led to the possible burning of Muslim holy book has been preceded by some significant events, which include:
- The Danish Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy occurred in 2005, in which portraits of Prophet Muhammad appeared in 12 editorial cartoons and resulted in widespread riots in the Islamic world.
- In 2009 Swiss voters banned construction of minarets usually associated with the architecture of a mosque and warned Muslims to pay closer attention to local sensitivities.
- In July 2010, France’s parliament overwhelming voted in favor of banning the act of public veiling practiced by Muslim women. President Sarkozy also backed the step as it relates to the question of French identity. The bill would make it illegal to wear garments such as the niqab or burka anywhere in public and will impose fines of 150 euros for women who break the law. Moreover, 30,000 euros and a one-year jail term will be imposed on men who force their wives to wear public veiling.
The event is also linked to the politics of the Islamic centre near Ground Zero in New York, questions related to the faith of President Obama and the upcoming midterm election in November. Nonetheless, burning of the Quran will have serious national security implications for the US. Firstly, the event will reinforce the existing perception of the Islamic world that America is at war with Islam. In the aftermath of the devastation in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would be hard for US to reverse the dynamics that will result from the incident. It would tarnish the American image around the globe and would create significant hurdles in the way US foreign policy objectives.
In addition, the negative impact of the occurrence will not just be external but also internal to the US; it would result in the disillusionment of the American Muslims that not only are their views not represented in the US foreign policy but their religious values are not respected either. Thus ethnic tensions are sure to rise further and more cases of Muslim youth traveling abroad to join extremist forces could result.
Moreover, the relations between its Muslim allies and US would be strained and the capacity of the partners to deliver in the war against extremists will be greatly impeded. PoliTact had recently pointed out to the shift in US policy in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan with increasing reliance on its partners. The new emphasis is on boosting the capabilities of allies while US itself moving to the background and using more covert operations and Special Forces. In the aftermath of the possible burning, the image of partners as proxies will be strengthened and message of extremists will appear more convincing to the Muslim masses, with dangerous ramifications for these partners.
Copycat acts would soon follow as well, even if the burning of the Islamic holy book does not take place. Each imitation would be followed by a reaction, and thus creating an irreversible dynamics. As US commemorates 9th anniversary of 9/11, the enemy is not defeated and the global image of US has greatly diminished . Furthermore, the ethnic tension in Europe and US is growing and civilization based polarization of the world has become more pronounced.
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