It’s been an eventful day.
Less than two hours ago, a UK newspaper called The Guardian broke the story that the controversial pastor from Florida decided to cancel his Quran burning event on September 11. This is certainly good news. (Don’t ask me how a UK paper got the memo before the American papers did.)
The pastor cancelled the event because he said an agreement had been reached with Muslim leaders to move the location of the controversial mosque to be built near Ground Zero. This is not the best of motives, but at least the Quran burning has been scrapped. However, the imam in New York behind the planned mosque denied any claims that the mosque would be relocated. I hope the Florida pastor doesn’t decide to reinstate his event when he learns he was wrong about the mosque.
Moreover, the pastor’s church had its website shut down by their Internet service provider, who invoked a violation of the service’s hate-speech provisions in its “acceptable-use policy”.
Meanwhile, business magnate Donald Trump offered a truly American solution to the New York mosque controversy. He offered to buy the site from the main Muslim investor by paying 25% more than what was originally paid. In his letter of offer, Trump wrote: “I am making this offer as a resident of New York and citizen of the United States, not because I think the location is a spectacular one (because it is not), but because it will end a very serious, inflammatory, and highly divisive situation that is destined, in my opinion, to only get worse.” Apparently, the Muslim investor has declined the offer.
As a side note, when I was in New York last week, I visited Ground Zero and said a prayer for the victims who died there. Across the street is a small monument (see photo) made of two beams from the former buildings in the shape of a cross. These beams were found as such in the rubble. (I don’t know the significance of the two baseballs in the centre of the vertical beam.) The crumpled silver tin hanging on the horizontal beam is very reminiscent of the cloth that Catholic churches hang on their crucifix during Easter season, as a sign of the resurrection. The building in the background is St. Peter’s Church, the oldest Catholic parish in New York (1785). Read the parish priest’s moving account of the events of 9/11 here. I also visited the site of the proposed mosque. It’s on Park street, just a couple of blocks away. There was nothing special to see. No signs. No protesters. No nothing. Just a couple of old buildings, one of which, ironically, was damaged by falling debris from the World Trade Center on 9/11. Yes, it’s really that close. The building has been condemned ever since.
We also learned today that the Taliban predictably distributed leaflets in Afghanistan calling on Muslims to avenge the burning of their holy book. A key quote from the leaflet said: “To defend blessed Quran and righteous Islam and your religion, join our track and go for taking revenge of the holy Koran.” (It remains to be seen whether they’ll be distributing retractions tomorrow.)
In other news, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki claimed that Israel was behind the plan to burn the Quran. (I always knew that Israel was going to get the blame for this somehow.)
A lot of stuff happening today!