Thursday, September 9, 2010

We Didn't Start the Fire

by William Saletan

September 8, 2010

Two days ago, hundreds of Afghans gathered in Kabul to denounce the United States for burning the Quran. They torched American flags, chanted "Death to America," and carried signs calling for the death of President Obama. Some of them hurled rocks at U.S. troops. A student in the crowd said of the planned Quran burning: "We know this is not just the decision of a church. It is the decision of the president and the entire United States."

He's wrong, of course. The Quran burning is the brainchild of a Florida minister and his tiny fundamentalist church. It has been condemned by the White House, the State Department, the commanding U.S. general in Afghanistan, Christian organizations, and countless Americans. But when clerics in Egypt denounce the incendiary plan, we feel the heat. When thousands of Muslims rally against it in Indonesia, they do so outside our embassy. When an imam in Kabul threatens retaliation, he casts a shadow on all of us: "If they decide to burn the holy Quran, I will announce jihad against these Christians and infidels."

This is how it feels to be judged by the sins of others who destroy in the name of your faith. You're no more responsible for 30 Christian extremists in Florida than Muslims are for the 9/11 hijackers. Yet most of us, when polled, say that no Muslim house of worship should be built near the site of the 9/11 attacks. In saying this, we implicitly hold all Muslims accountable for the crime of the 9/11 hijackers.

Now you know how it feels to be judged that way. It's inaccurate, and it's wrong.