As we witnessed scenes of killing and rioting in the Arabic and Islamic world this weekend over the burning of a Quran in Florida, it's easy to paint entire nations as extremist. Twenty-two people are dead, including seven United Nations workers and Afghan children.
The sad part is that it appears that world events can swing from the extremism of one angry group to another. Were Terry Jones' actions hateful and bigoted? Of course, and more important, he was warned by individuals in the White House and the Department of Defense that his actions could instigate violence, and he did it anyway. In turn, religious clerics in Afghanistan incited angry mob violence.
But the irony, often mimicked in our own political discourse in the United States, is that the voices of the moderates are lost in heady chants of those on the extreme right and left. I would argue in this insistence that even Hamid Karzai is partly responsible for the violence. Knowing that the United States government and President Obama himself had repeatedly condemned Jones' actions and tried their best to prevent them, he let out a national call that the United States needed to take more action. It was like tipping over one domino in a long line of complaints and grievances for the Afghan people.
It's hard to comment on religious symbolism and violence. I don't think the hateful act of one small group of people justifies the deaths and injuries of many more. And in situations like this, where extremism meets extremism, words are lost and arguments against violence are often accused of washing over or dismissing the act that incited it. Perhaps that's true, but I would hope that at some point, we walk the road of Gandhi and MLK and hear more moderate voices stand against the idea that violence should beget more violence.