The latest crank religionist to exercise his rights with great fanfare and little reflection is Terry Jones, the pastor of a church called the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla. On March 20th Mr. Jones and his disciples held a mock trial of the Koran, the Islamic holy book. As absurd as it sounds, witnesses gave testimony and a “jury” of church members sat in judgment. The book was found “guilty” of “crimes against humanity,” including “promotion of terror,” and “acts of torture and rape.” As a penalty, the book was soaked in kerosene and burned.
As the case of Mr. Jones reminds us, the world of religion is well stocked with maniacs and crackpots—and almost all of them are quick to take offense at slights to their beliefs. Many are also expert at inciting their followers. So it’s not surprising that of the millions of Muslims who were hurt or angered or disgusted by the burning of their holy book, some would seek violent revenge.
Friday, three Mullahs in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan aroused a crowd of followers by telling them about what Mr. Jones and his congregation had done. The infuriated crowd descended on a United Nations compound and killed 12 UN workers and members of their support staff. The crowd was apparently looking for Americans but couldn’t find any so they struck at the nearest group of foreigners.
Mr. Jones had been warned that his pointless incendiary act would lead to violence. But after the killings he refused any share of responsibility. Instead, according to the New York Times, he demanded that the United States and the United Nations take action against Muslim nations to revenge the killings. “The time has come to hold Islam accountable,” he said.