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Make Peace, Not Fire

In a peaceful response to Rev. Terry Jones’ threats to burn copies of the Quran on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Rollins’ Muslim Students Association (MSA) handed out Qurans on campus on Wednesday, Sept. 8. During common hour at the Campus Center, MSA gave out over 100 free Qurans, as well as “Discover Islam” brochures and handmade bookmarks, each with a verse from the Holy Quran on it. The student-run organization also provided a donation box for victims of the recent flood in Pakistan. The Qurans were donated by the United Muslim Foundation.

MSA President Fatema Kermalli ‘11 was very pleased with the event. “The people who I saw or have talked to since were definitely interested in seeing the Quran for themselves.”

“They seemed to like us giving them out as a response to the Quran burning event that had been planned, as they were not in agreement with the event at all and expressed their shock about it,” Kermalli said.

MSA’s response was one of many peace rallies that took place last week. In Gainesville alone, at least two dozen Christian churches, Jewish temples and Muslim organizations in the city held events, including Quran readings, as a counterpoint to Jones’ protest.

Jones is the pastor of Gainesville’s Dove Outreach Center, which has about 50 members and is independent of any denomination. On Friday, Sept. 10, following a week of threats to burn copies of the sacred Islamic text, Jones promised to call off the protest after scheduling a meeting with Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, and the planners of the New York City mosque.

It is not clear whether the postponement is indefinite or merely temporary.

Originally, however, Jones had not invoked the mosque controversy as a reason for his planned protest. Instead, he cited his belief that the Quran is evil because it espouses something other than biblical truth and incites radical, violent behavior among Muslims.

Jones’ protests reverberated throughout religious communities around the world. Cleric Rusli Hasbi told 1,000 worshippers attending Friday morning prayers in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, that Jones had already “hurt the heart of the Muslim world” whether or not he burns the Quran.

“If he’d gone through with it, it would have been tantamount to war,” the cleric said. “A war that would have rallied Muslims all over the world.”

President Barack Obama urged Jones to listen to “those better angels,” saying that besides endangering lives, it would give Islamic terrorists a recruiting tool.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates even called Jones personally. Gates expressed “his grave concern that going forward with this Quran burning would put the lives of our forces at risk, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Opponents of the New York City mosque argue it is insensitive to families and memories of Sept. 11 victims to build a mosque so close to where Islamic extremists flew planes into the World Trade Center and nearly killed 2,800 people. Proponents say the project reflects religious freedom and diversity.

MSA is a one of the many student-run organizations under the umbrella of the Rollins College Cultural Actions Committee, which is overseen by the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA).

For more information about MSA, the Cultural Action Committee or OMA, please visit airs/index.html.

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