Peaceful response to Quran burning to carry on locally
East Lansing church offering readings in Arabic and English
KATHLEEN LAVEY • KLAVEY@LSJ.COM • SEPTEMBER 11, 2010
Whether or not a Florida minister lights a bonfire fueled with Qurans tonight, a peaceful response – two hours of reading from Islam’s holy book – will go on at All Saints Episcopal Church in East Lansing.
So will commemorations of the Sept. 11 attacks, the national day of service, the Jewish high holy days and the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
All of them seem more immediate and important in mid-Michigan than radical pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fla., and his personal version of “Fahrenheit 451.” A Kansas church has announced it will do the same – and burn a U.S. flag, too.
“It’s amazing to me how this guy has been able to capture attention,” said Karen Keyworth, a member of the Greater Lansing Islamic Society who took a break from celebrating Eid on Friday afternoon to address the issue.
A convert to Islam, she was born and raised in the United States and grants Jones his First Amendment right to free speech. But she’s afraid that Muslims in other countries don’t understand that.
“If I see somebody burning a Quran, I feel sorry for that person’s ignorance, but I support that person’s right to do that. It’s a very important American freedom,” she said.
But during Eid prayers Friday, she said her own silent prayer: “That nobody is going to die as a result of this ridiculous, irresponsible behavior.”
It’s ignorance that the event at All Saints is designed to counteract, said the Rev. Kit Carlson, rector of the church. Reading the book aloud allows people to find out exactly what’s in it.
East Lansing is a community where residents come from a wide variety of faiths and from all over the world.
“What I want to accomplish is to give the community a chance to say, ‘Yes, we want to be peaceful with our neighbors,’ ” Carlson said.
The Greater Lansing Islamic Society will send a representative to All Saints to read the Quran in Arabic, but it also will be read in English, Carlson said.
Discussions Of Value
She said there may be some value in the discussions that have raged all week.
“It finally has pushed reasonable, thinking people to the point where they say, ‘Excuse me, that’s not what I’m about,’ ” she said. “It has given people a voice for beliefs that they hold and haven’t gotten a chance to talk about in public.”
Rabbi Amy Bigman of Congregation Shaarey Zedek in East Lansing said she supports the effort at All Saints.
“It’s very important that we stand up for other folks and, at the same time, to learn about different faith traditions,” she said.
“Only by that can we learn and recognize other people as human beings who may have other beliefs, who may have different ways of worshipping.”
Dawud Walid, leader of the Michigan chapter of the Council for American-Islamic Relations, said this week’s controversy is part of a rising tide of Islamophobia in the United States, whipped up in part by the Tea Party movement and rhetoric from conservative politicians.
“What we’re doing now is reaching out to different interfaith leaders around the state to generate conversations about what is really going on right now in our country,” he said.
‘Lone Wolf Fringe’
The Council for American-Islamic Relations also is encouraging people to learn more about Islam so they can understand that terrorists are on the faith’s fringes – just as Jones’ beliefs lie on the fringes of Christianity.
“He’s on a lone wolf fringe that has been rejected by our top political and religious leaders but unfortunately, because of the media attention he has received nationally, his stunt has sparked protest all around the world,” Walid said.
“It’s bad for our image. It’s not good for our country.”