A radical Christian church in Florida has announced that they are having a 'burn-the-Quran-day' on the 9/11 anniversary.
The church's leader, Terry Jones, commented that he hoped all Christians and politicians would join in burning Muslims' holy book. Jones' church is known as the Dove World Outreach Center. Pastor Terry Jones is also the author of the book titled, "Islam is of the Devil."
The following is a transcription of a telephone interview with Mr. Stephen Zunes who is Chairman of Middle East Studies at the University of San Francisco.
Press TV: Please comment on the decision of this Florida church. Why should this be?
Zunes: It's incredibly sensitive and there's been more subtle prejudices for many years. This is the first time I've heard of something to this extreme. Unfortunately, it is an individual church; moreover, it's not a denomination, it's just a handful of extremists. Nonetheless, it's quite disturbing. There are quite a few Christian groups that are condemning this as well. We have seen this kind of extreme rhetoric for some time now. It is affecting this ugly undercurrent of Islamophobia in American society.
Press TV: Sure. Professor, how do you evaluate the US administrations' policies, especially that of President Bush's in spreading hatred towards Islam?
Zunes: Well, the Bush administration in particular took advantage to promote Islamophobia and advance the radical agenda over much of the Middle East. On the one hand, he would make statements that were not against Muslims, as a whole, etc. I don't think they could have gotten away with the invasion of Iraq and the threats against Iran and support for the oppression of Palestinians unless they were taking advantage and exacerbating anti-Islamic sentiments.
Press TV: What would the impact of such acts be regarding how other people perceive America if this is not stopped?
Zunes: I think if you really look at Western history, you can see scapegoat minorities. You have the Jews in Europe and obviously attacks against Muslims and even Christian persecutions. It shows an ugly aspect of Western societies despite claims of religious pluralism.
Press TV: Professor, this particular church says it's doing this on the anniversary of 9/11. My question to you is, although, you're saying it's just a handful of people, will such acts really guarantee another 9/11 will not happen? Will anyone be safer?
Zunes: Not at all. This kind of extremism coming from the United States will only encourage extremism elsewhere. This whole myth of the clash of civilizations is a problem, and what we need is a dialogue of civilizations.
Press TV: How far is this going?
Zunes: I don't think this particular event is going very far at all. There is the Islamic Culture Center in downtown Manhattan, and because it happens to be a few blocks from 9/11, you're having people acting really hysterically about it, including former vice president nominee Sarah Palin and others. They are forgetting over 100 Muslims died in the 9/11 attacks, and the Islamic community in this country should be just as outraged as anybody. So you have some politicians taking advantage of this sort of thing, but all you really have is just a handful of fanatics.
Press TV: We do not have a lot of time left. Let me get to my last question. Israel has been raging deadly wars in the Middle East region and is holding the Gaza Strip under seize for several years, and yet no synagogues have been raided or set on fire by Muslims. Are acts like burning the Quran fair dealings towards Muslims?
Zunes: It's completely unfair and it's completely indicative of a deep racist undercurrent by this tiny minority which is going to this extreme. It shows a need for people in the United States to learn what Islam is really about and to reach out and get to know people; to not let these petty predators lead people to such extreme behavior.
Press TV: Many thanks. Stephen Zunes, Chairman of Middle Eastern Studies, at the University of San Francisco, we thank you.