On this sombre day for the western world, but for Americans in particular, I was pleased to read that the now infamous Reverend Terry Jones has stated that he will not, now or ever, burn a copy of the Koran.
The way that this back-water Pastor from Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida has managed to grab the headlines is incredible but it sadly demonstrates how ill at ease America is with itself. The furore around the proposed site of an Islamic Cultural Centre on Manhattan Island near the site of Ground Zero has heightened tensions at a particularly sensitive time.
This threat of an actual burning of the Koran however just belied incredulity. What did Terry Jones think would be the result of such an act? Is he stupid? Did he honestly think that everyone would thank him for this right and reasonable act? As President Obama put it, there are troops in Afghanistan fighting at this moment. How would such an act go down in the Islamic world? They're not exactly going to greet it with joy now are they. As Obama said "This is a way of endangering our troops, our sons and daughters... you don't play games with that". There are extremists who would jump on such a foolish act and feed the anti-western sentiments that many already hold. American lives would've been put at even greater risk than they already are at present.
Americans such as Terry Jones can not have their cake and eat it. America was born with the inalienable right of religious freedoms indelibly marked in the founding paperwork of the late 18th century.
You can not preach to be American and then publish a book named Islam is of the Devil. Tolerance is the absolutely essential ingrediant to a future where we live with each other. Without understanding, without consideration of others and without respect for the views and beliefs of neighbours, no-one, let alone Americans, will ever be able to live in peace from terrorism.
The very notion of burning the Koran, particularly when US Army personnel are on the front line in Afghanistan is the most unpatriotic of un-American acts conceivable. Terry Jones has done himself and his country no favours at all during this past week.
He has at least backed down and stated that the burning will not go ahead. In a Python-esque kind of way, you could almost laugh at this ridiculous, very sad episode. Except you can't. It would've been much better for the man himself, for America and for relations with the Islamic world, if he never opened his mouth in the first place.