Thursday, March 01, 2012

Matt 24 watch, 151d: Some balancing thoughts on the Afghanistan burned Quran riots and murders

When I was growing up, I remember learning of how a respectful way to dispose of a flag that had seen better days or had been defaced was to respectfully cremate it, even as of course cremation is often seen as one form of decent burial.

So, you can imagine the double-shock of seeing that flag burning was also used as a means of degradation and dishonouring. And of course, books that have been defaced, damaged or worn out are often disposed of by burning, but in Nazi Germany, disrespectful and censoring book-burnings were the precursors to far more momentous fires at places like Auschwitz.

In short, context is all in something like this: the self-same physical act of destruction by fire can be a mark of respect OR of utter disrespect, depending on intent.

As a result, it is all too easy for malicious propagandists to snip out of context something like burning defaced Qurans from prison libraries -- yes, they were used to send contraband messages scribbled in them --  and maliciously twist an act of reasonable and even respectful disposal into perceived acts of degradation. And, then, to stir up the hostile into foaming rage and hate. In the case in Afghanistan, such fomenting of hate has issued in multiple murders of people who had little or nothing to do with what happened.  

Worse, we now hear of reports that soldiers acting under orders to destroy defaced books from prison libraries used to send such contraband messages (itself a serious mark of disrespect that tells us a lot about the real attitudes of the IslamIST extremists . . . .) -- soldiers who in all probability did not know what books they were burning (they were in unfamiliar scripts) -- may potentially be subjected to military or civilian tribunals for following orders they had no reason to question. 

That pattern of hostile, hateful words, behaviour and murder is very wrong, and a much worse wrong than even an intentional and disrespectful burning of Qurans -- which we have no reason to believe happened -- would have been .

So, let us immediately put a bit of balance on the table, from a responsible Muslim Cleric, from the same WND news article that informs us of the possible trials:
In a PBS interview, Imam Jihad Turk, director of religious affairs at the Islamic Center of Southern California, said it was acceptable to burn the Quran if it was in a state of “disrepair.”
“When Muslims want to respectfully dispose of a text of the Quran that is no longer usable, we will burn it. So if someone, for example, in their own private collection or library had a text of the Quran that was damaged or that was in disrepair, so the binding was ruined, etc., or it got torn, they might bring it by to the Islamic Center and ask that someone here dispose of it properly if they were unsure how to do that,” Turk said. “And what I’ll do is I’ll take it to my fireplace at home and burn it there in the fireplace. So I sort of take the pages out and then burn it to make sure that it gets thoroughly charred and is no longer recognizable as script.”
Spencer added, “You are supposed to burn a Quran that is worn out and you are not to write in it. Do they have a problem with the burning of the Quran? No, they do it all the time.”
In short, burning in a respectful fashion is an appropriate way to dispose of a Quran that has fallen out of use, one that is routinely used by Muslims. (I need not elaborate in details on situations in Pakistan, where Qurans have been disposed of routinely by dumping in filth, and where pages have been used ignobly, in all probability by people who know no better. [And yes, the linked source is over the top, but she documents what no-one else seems to be willing to, and which we need to hear.])

 What is far more important here, is that we must stop the hoggish-spirited madness that would lead to using situations like this to stir up rage, hate and murder.

Hardly less important, the way this has been reported in major media without balancing context speaks strongly to irresponsibility and agendas on their part too. Let us take this as an opportunity to learn how to be critically aware when we are exposed to news, views and so-called entertainment in today's world of spin-based media manipulation.

Let's refresh our memory from this KF reference page:

>>(I) The "Straight or Spin?" News, Education & Views Evaluation Grid:
I believe the following analytical "straight or spin" grid will be helpful in assessing the quality of news, commentary and education we are exposed to in our region:

(a) Headline & Lead
(b) Story &/or Views presented
(c) Characterisation of People &/or Institutions
(d) Context: underlying Issues, Alternatives and Historical Setting
(1) Factually Accurate?
(2) Fair, or Just?
(3) Kind or Gracious?
(4) Balanced, or provides a Counter - balance?

Fig. 1: News, Education and Views: "Straight or Spin?" [Key: Y, "yes" = 1; N, "no" = 0]

(II) Using the "Straight or Spin?" Grid:

As can be seen, the straight or spin grid gives four main facets of a typical item of news or commentary, or a lesson/lecture (or even a textbook chapter): (a) the head and lead, (b) the story proper, (c) characterisation, and (d) context. It then asks a basic question:
Is the presented information: (1) accurate, (2) fair, (3) kind and (4) balanced?
It is a reasonable expectation that, consistently, the answer should be YES, for all components of a news, educational or commentary item, or a presentation or even a sermon. However, to err is human, so there might be an occasional slip that requires minor correction. So, we can now grade the quality of our news, education and commentary services:
      • B to A: Consistent Score 13 - 16: a reasonably good to excellent service, but if errors keep on cropping up in any one square (e.g. cells 1a, 2c, 3b or 4d), there is a systematic problem (e.g.; 1a: inaccurate headings and leads, 2c: unfair or unjust characterisations of people or institutions, 3b: unkind (say, through sensationalism that exploits people's pain) presentation of stories, 4d: biased context), and corrective action is obviously needed. [The examples make the "structured common-sense" approach plain: do you wish to consume information from sources that are consistently inaccurate in how they headline and lead stories on issues and news? Or, from one that often slanders people or institutions it does not like? Or, tries to make money off sensationalising the suffering of others? Or, tells only half the story through suppressing materially relevant context? Etc.?]

      • D to C: Consistent Score 8 - 12: This source has a major, systematic problem with at least one of the four requirements of sound, straight information, and is probably pushing an agenda counter to the interests of the people of God and the wider community. The source and the editorial policy require major reformation.

      • F: Consistent Score 7 or less: Do not trust this source, period. Warn others about the evident distortion, bias, deception and agenda. If the source has significant institutional power and is unwilling to be corrected, make the creation of an alternative that will consistently correct and expose the errors and agenda a top priority.
Unfortunately, for far too many local, regional and international sources of news, entertainment, commentary and even education available in or to the Caribbean, the proper assessment in this post-modern relativistic age is: F.>>

We would do well to heed this sort of warning.

(An aside to the operator of a hate-site: do you not see that I have a perfect right to object to abuses, including by the Mullahs of Iran etc, and that I have a proved, decades long track record of standing up for the abused, including those abused by churches? And, do you not see that your hostility-driven wish to push me and other Bible-believing educated Christians into the same boat with IslamIST terrorists is slander? For shame!)

Well did the Apostle James warn us:
James 3:5 . . . the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,[a] and set on fire by hell.[b] For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison . . . .

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

4:1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions[a] are at war within you?[b] You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions . . . 
 Let us heed such counsels and turn away from the path of slander, hate and where it leads. And I say that, knowing full well that those who hate and imagine themselves clever will try to twist this about, projecting the wrong unto me as a way to evade responsibility for their wrongs.

I say to such: I have and have had may own daily moral struggles, as are faced by those who will walk in the way of penitence and trust in the Cross and the Resurrection of Messiah.  It is on the strength of knowing the struggles I face and have seen others face, and have had to help others recover from, that I speak in warning. I have seen too many lives shipwrecked, and I would not wish that on a single further person. So, let us instead walk in the better path.

That is why Jesus warned, in the Sermon on the Mount:
Matt 7: . . .  3Why do you [a]stare from without at the [b]very small particle that is in your brother's eye but do not become aware of and consider the beam [c]of timber that is in your own eye?
    4Or how can you say to your brother, Let me get the tiny particle out of your eye, when there is the beam [d]of timber in your own eye?
    5You hypocrite, first get the beam of timber out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the tiny particle out of your brother's eye.
    6Do not give that which is holy (the sacred thing) to the dogs, and do not throw your pearls before hogs, lest they trample upon them with their feet and turn and tear you in pieces. [AMP]
Notice, how Jesus gives a double warning here: (a) against hypocritical judgement (and with this he gives the counsel, do your own repenting first . . . ), AND (b) against the folly of throwing precious pearls to pigs who cannot appreciate, will resent and will attack in a vicious way that tells whose spirit animates them,

It is time to stop the hoggish-spirited madness.  END