Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen (“Where they have burned books, they will end up burning people”). These words, by German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, have a prophetic air about them. They were recalled in April and May 1933, when the Nazi-backed German Student Organization called for “action against the un-German spirit,” by publicly burning (they called it “purging”) books deemed antithetical to the “new German spirit.” We all know how that ended.
But what many people might fail to realize is that the quote by Heine was not about the burning of Jewish books, but of the burning of a Koran by a Crusader in the play Almansor.
This Saturday, Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, plans to publicly repeat the crime of burning books—of burning the Koran—in front of his church in commemoration of 9/11.
Jones is a fringe figure, and his church, with just fifty members, is hardly part of mainstream Christianity. Thanks to Facebook and the media, however, the event has earned far more attention than it probably deserves. So much so, in fact, that General David Patraeus has appealed to him to reconsider, if only for the safety of our troops in Afghanistan. Jones says he is praying about the book burning, but gives no indication that he plans to relent.
On Friday, there will be a rally and interfaith service in San Jose to protest Jones’s action. The event will take place at 5pm at the James McEntee Plaza, by the County Building, and feature Muslim, Christian, and Jewish leaders. More information about the event will be provided at a press conference today, but one of the organizers, Samina Sudas, has stated: “Whether we are Muslims, black, blue, yellow, we are all Americans and we must stand together against ignorance and hate and division.”
The rally could not come at a more opportune time. For Muslims, Friday is also Eid al-Fitr, the last day of the holy month of Ramadan, and a day devoted to charity and forgiveness. For Jews, who also suffered the consequences of book burning, it is the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year, with the same message of forgiveness and charity. Those are lessons that Pastor Terry Jones and his followers would do well to learn.
Read More at ABC 7.