Dove World Outreach Center, a New Testament Christian Church located in Gainesville, boasts only 50 members. However, its plan to burn Qurans on the nine-year anniversary of the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks has ignited controversy across the U.S. and the world.
The State Department has called the act “un-American,” clearly overlooking the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the church’s freedom to exercise its religion, peacefully assemble, express its opinions and petition the government for change. Change, after all, is what President Barack Obama promised when he took office.
It is for the defense of these very principles that American troops are currently risking their lives in Afghanistan, where protesters, reacting to the church’s plan, called for the death of the president and burned American flags and a cardboard effigy of the church’s pastor Terry Jones on Monday.
Gen. David Petraeus, head of Multinational Forces in Afghanistan, said in a Wall Street Journal article that the display could inflame Taliban members in the area and “could endanger troops and … endanger the overall effort.”
However, remaining silent will only place a larger target on the backs of Americans. If citizens refuse to stand up for their beliefs for fear of upsetting the very terrorists the country is fighting against, it will be viewed as a sitting duck in a pool of sharks.
At the first hint of an anti-Islamic display, people halfway around the world began searching for their picket signs. Protests of a similar vein, featuring the burning of the American flag, generally do not ignite the ire of the average American. Protests against the nation’s fighting men and women and speeches delivered in the halls of Congress denigrating their heroics will only garner a reaction from the most patriotic among us.
Perhaps Americans should take a cue from foreign protesters and bring their concerns to the world stage instead of bickering at home. Although Jones is not delivering his message in the most eloquent manner, at least he is unafraid of exercising his rights and letting others know that he is still angry about the events of Sept. 11, despite receiving death threats from his own countrymen.
The founding fathers had a similar view when drafting the Constitution. They understood the power of speech and the need to bring unspoken sentiments to the surface. Robbing citizens of the right to expression, especially when they promote an unpopular message, may prove more dangerous then the threats made against the pastor’s crusade.
The protest is scheduled to begin Saturday at 6 p.m. at 5805 NW 37th St., a couple hours after USF faces the University of Florida on the gridiron. If students feel the need to join or oppose the Dove World Outreach Center, they should make a stand in person. Perhaps the only true threat the church offers is one to American-bred complacency and the fear that this country is no longer the toughest kid on the playground.
Anastasia Dawson is a sophomore majoring in mass communications and international relations.