Commentary: Dove Center's hateful plan spreads anti-Muslim bigotry

As the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks nears, a pastor in north Florida has come up with what may be the worst example yet of anti-Muslim bigotry.

Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, wants to commemorate one of the most painful moments in American history — a monumental crime fed by ignorance and hatred — by sponsoring another event typically associated with ignorance and hatred: a book-burning.

And not just any book, but the Koran, the holy manuscript revered by Muslims.

Regardless of how one feels about plans to build a mosque in lower Manhattan, the two controversies are not comparable. One is about the appropriate place to erect a house of worship and interfaith dialogue. This publicity stunt, on the other hand, has no redeeming virtue at all.

It offends Muslims and attempts to divide Americans along religious lines. It stirs up passions and disparages another culture solely for the sake of inciting controversy. It does not represent what America stands for, but rather the xenophobia and intolerance Americans reject.

As Mr. Jones acknowledged in a published interview, he knows nothing about the Koran. He said he just wants to "send a message" that Americans don't want Sharia, a strict interpretation of Muslim law. It doesn't require a book-burning to make that point, but then this hardly seems designed to make a point but rather to attract attention.

In that, Mr. Jones has had some success. He told an interviewer last month that he had already received some 20 Korans through the mail to add to his bonfire. He's a minor sensation on Facebook, where he has a legion of fans and critics. He claims to have received about $1,000 in donations since his campaign began. A bank, meanwhile, is demanding repayment of the $140,000 balance on the church mortgage and the property insurance was canceled after plans for the book-burning became known.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.miamiherald.com.