Before we chuck Terry Jones onto the dustbin of history, once last word: he’s either a liar, or delusional. And now that the Imam behind the Park 51 project has made clear that he never talked to the man, let alone agreed to bargain away his organization’s right to build whatever they damned well please at the site of the old Burlington Coat Factory, and after Jones called a local imam — whose name he can’t recall even though they spoke for hours — a liar … it looks like the Saturday bonfire might be back on. Plus, why I think the media was right to cover this crazy episode, and why President Obama, his administration, and his top general in Iraq were right to weigh in. First, though, the Terry Jones take-back:
Pastor Terry Jones earlier Thursday had backed off his threat to burn the Quran after he said he was promised that a planned Islamic center and mosque would be moved away from New York’s ground zero. Muslim leaders denied there was such a deal.
Later outside his church he said that the imam he thought he made the deal with “clearly, clearly lied to us” about moving the mosque.
Jones and Imam Muhammad Musri stood side by side in a news conference in which the pastor said he would cancel Saturday’s event.
Musri later told The Associated Press there was only an agreement for him and Jones to travel to New York and meet Saturday with the imam overseeing plans to build a mosque near ground zero.
Jones is continuing to insist that he had a deal, which at this point no one believes. Watch Keith Olbermann’s segment on the back and forth from Thursday’s “Countdown”, in which we learn that Jones and his followers now consider the Park 51 project to be their hostage:
The kook and his 50 followers (assuming there are that many people left with no sense of embarrassment) will face a media blackout if he goes through with the Quran burning, but like any radical terror cell, the “Dove World Outreach Center” clearly understands that you don’t need the news networks to cover your bonfire in order for it to be seen by the world. There are no gatekeepers, which is why radical cells, whether Islamist or Christian extremist, can wreak havoc without generating anywhere near the publicity that Jones’ little stunt has.
Personally, I think the media was right to cover this event, and the administration was right to put on a full court press. The Muslim world has now seen the full gamut of the American government and military leaders standing foursquare against anti-Muslim extremism. (Sadly, they’ve also seen our Republican party shrink from an honorable, simple condemnation of Jones, opting instead for a muddled formulation of Quran burning equals “Ground Zero mosque” — one Jones himself wound up adopting. But for the vast majority of Muslims around the world, today was a day that removed all doubt where the Obama administration, and the people prosecuting the war in Afghanistan, stand when it comes to the dignity of Muslim people. To me, that’s worth a little bit of media self-shaming. Extremists were robbed of the chance to accuse America of standing by while the holy book of Islam is desecrated by a supposed man of God. And while we were at it, a clear distinction was drawn between the simple, straightforward position of the Obama administration, and the muddled, Islamophobe-friendly parsing of the right. Also good to know. Much the same sentiment to mine is expressed quite well here. A clip:
This isn’t a tough one, but since the Republicans are paralyzed by a fear of their own base, the best they can offer is a wishy-washy half answer, lest they alienate all of those white Americans who they are attempting to terrify into voting Republican this November with nightmares of Muslim bogeymen and “Ground Zero Mosques.” Republicans have been boxed in by their own fear mongering, which means that in strictly political terms, one crazy publicity seeking right wing nut job in Florida, has managed to give Obama a platform to offer something that Republicans can’t muster, sane, common sense, leadership.
The language of the Right’s “Ground Zero Mosque” debate is what emboldened Terry Jones to up the ante of Muslim fear and hate. In this context, burning the Quran is the logical outcome of the “Ground Zero Mosque” terror and intolerance campaign. While Right Wing rhetoric gives birth to Quran burning, President Obama is able occupy the political territory that the Republicans feel entitlement and ownership of. President Obama is advocating for, supporting, and protecting the troops.
For those reasons, I think this episode was a net plus.