Quran burning plans in Florida

This is something troubling that I learned four days ago, when I was reading NPR’s website.  This article caught my attention because it seemed odd that people in Indonesia would protest the actions of a church in Florida…


source: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129651635

Troubled by this report, I wanted to learn all sorts of things.  For starters, how big is this church?  I found that out by looking it up on Google Earth — it’s pretty small.  It has something like 30 people at an average service. 

But it’s near the University of Florida, and there will be thousands of people in town on 9/11 for the University of Florida’s football game against the University of South Florida.

When I showed this article to my wife, she astutely asked: “how is this different from flag burning?”  That’s a good comparison to make — a flag is the symbol of the United States, and the US Supreme Court has ruled (in a highly controversial 5-4 decision) that flag burning is a protected form of free speech.

Here’s the blurb from Wikipedia about flag desecration:

Today, defacing a flag is an act of protected speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, as established in Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), and reaffirmed in U.S. v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990).

After these decisions, several “flag burning” amendments to the Constitution have been proposed. On June 22, 2005, a flag burning amendment was passed by the House with the needed two-thirds majority. On June 27, 2006, the most recent attempt to pass a ban on flag burning was rejected by the Senate in a close vote of 66 in favor, 34 opposed, one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to send the amendment to be voted on by the states

So it’s controversial to burn a flag, because to many of the 310 million Americans in the world, the flag is a crucial symbol of America.  So imagine what burning a stack of holy Qurans means to the 1.5 billion Muslims on the planet.  It’s amazing that one person can make such a commotion, but the reverend of the church in Florida, Terry Jones, is now in the headlines because of his plan.  Here’s a compelling picture from the LA Times:


source: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-koran-burning-20100908,0,230085.story

I wonder whether the reverend actually read the Quran…

As someone who tries to empathize with a situation, I wondered what it would feel like to be a Muslim living in Gainesville, Florida.  Surely there are many Muslim students at the University of Florida.

But what is the population of Muslims in Gainesville?  In Florida?  I poked around online and I found that back in 1990, the Muslim population in Florida was .1% ( 12,000/12,000,000=0.001) — see http://www.jannah.org/popstatistics/usamuslims.html

There is no accurate count of the number of Muslims in the U.S. because the Census Bureau does not collect data on religious identification, but here are some interesting statistics I found:

We’ll see what happens on Saturday.  The story is now front-page news for many news organizations, so it won’t be hard to follow.  Here’s one last take on it from a report in Slate.com:

It’s amazing to me how we live in such an inter-connected world that the actions of one church in Florida can inspire protests in Indonesia and stir up discussion and concern in Afghanistan (and I presume in Iraq as well).

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About Steve Goldberg

I teach U.S. History at Research Triangle High School, a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning.
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