Holy smoke

His congregation numbers 50. His ‘church’, such as it appears to be one, is called the “Dove World Outreach Centre”. That sounds more furry than fury to these ears at least. He is Terry Jones, a Pastor and current international media focus for his wheeze – “International Burn a Koran Day”.

It should not be right that searching for the word “Qur’an” – I prefer that spelling – returns dozens of results for Pastor Jones and his unbelievably successful promotional drive for the most leaden-footed act of symbolism since the 1990 Eurovision Song Contest. Seriously, give that a YouTube drive, every arms-around-the-new-Europe anthem will have you craving the return of communism before the voting starts.

Pastor Jones is not standing down from his plan to mark the 11th September anniversary with a Qur’an Bonfire, with bouncy castles, clowns and Pin A Beard on the Infadel competitions to boot. It is certainly clever marketing – only by creating another Waco would this religious fringe loon have gathered further attention. Probably more support too: when Sarah Palin advises you to think twice about an idea, that idea is doomed.

Frankly, I have little time for most religious books and teachings. I have been led to understand that the word of whichever deity is being followed lives in the heart and mind; the idea of collating the teachings in book form occurred for less benign reasons than ease of reference. Thousands of students from times past and present will tear up the more tedious bits from Kings or Acts for joint material without FOX News knocking their schedules into an outraged hat. There may be somebody right now – right at the moment your eyes fall upon these words – using a torn page from Little Book Of Zen to snort whichever hybrid legal-high/washing powder has arrived in the post.

I almost wish Jones well. His publicity trick has worked. People feel aggrieved and irate, as though the books prepared for turning into ash are the only symbols of the Islamic faith. This entire event is fed by ignorance, on both sides of the argument. Islamic extremists use their cherry-picked cuckoo-bananas version of their faith to justify mass murder, while right-wing nutjobs who only just qualify as “Christians” blather from their pretend churches on the purity of their own specific thought processes. To have garnered so much attention for what, basically, cheapens all sides of the argument is one pretty impressive feat.

It was always going to take something to beat the hysteria around the “Ground Zero Mosque) – which is neither a mosque, nor at Ground Zero. Well, smack my mouth and call me kafir, here’s one just round the corner. If the word and teachings of a particular faith really do exist in more forms than just the written word, then both Jones and the crowds against him are partaking in utter wastes of effort. Symbolism is not a one-way argument.