Quran Burning, Sikh History and the US Constitution
April 30, 2012: On Saturday, April 28 Terry Jones received a $271 fine from the Gainesville Fire Department for burning a copy of the Quran and an image of the Prophet Mohammed. Jones did so in protest of the Iranian detention of Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been sentenced to death for his conversion from Islam to Christianity. Jones' church, which is paradoxically named the Dove World Outreach Center, has just over twenty members and is once again receiving undeserved attention. Yet, it may be time for the Justice Department to get involved.
While the Gainesville government appears to have done what it could to voice its disagreement, Jones cites his defense of the United States Constitution as a justification for the burning. Ironically, it is the government's adherence to the Constitution that allows Jones to carry out what will likely result in the retaliatory loss of American life overseas. It also stands an excellent chance of hardening Iran's position on Nadarkhani. Jones will bear responsibility for both.
Iran's position is despicable and rife with parallels from Mogul rule in Sikh history. If Guru Gobind Singh had burned scripture, however, rather than reminding Emperor Aurangzeb via the Zafarnama to protect the weak and hold his oath on the Quran sacred, there may have never been reconciliation. I admire and am indeed proud of Nadarkhani just as I am proud of every individual who sacrifices or has sacrificed so heavily to take a stand for human liberty. To me, he is a hero. Jones' ignorance on the other hand accomplishes the opposite and increases the likelihood for Nadarkhani's death sentence to be carried out.
For a Quran burning to enjoy Constitutional protection while it incites bloodshed is an unfortunate but necessary cost of liberty. When Jones states, however, that he is done listening to the government and that it is time for an organized revolution, I hope that the Justice Department will exercise whatever options it has to keep our service members out of harm's way and ensure that the United States Constitutions, which guarantees the liberty of every future Jones, is protected. Gainesville Fire has already shown them how.
Simran Singh Stuelpnagel is a native of Hamburg, Germany. He currently resides in Washington, DC, where he works for the Akal Group. He is a Member of the Board of Directors for both Miri Piri Academy and The Institute on Religion and Public Policy and an Ambassador for Sikh Dharma. He can be reached at [email protected].