Ordinarily, this is not a subject I would care to address...
But, in a world where safe and satisfied hate-mongers are getting airplay while frontline aid workers attempting to assist victims of Pakistan's devastating floods are being murdered by extremists -- well, perhaps you will excuse me just this once.
Demagogues have been with us since day one, and ideological intolerance is by no means confined to any one polity or religion.
Just this past week, Buddhists in Leh beat a blind teacher for attempting to convert others to Christianity. So, I don't think any of us can feel wholly entitled to claim the high ground just yet.
Nevertheless, when we have such a clear example of moral failure set before us as that of the man in Florida, pretending to be some sort of pastor, who wants to boost sales of his own book by burning the Qur'an -- in such circumstances as these, you come to understand why certain people feel compelled to commit the outrages they commit. They believe their very faith to be under assault, as indeed it appears to be.
This man is not burning a book; rather, he is pouring gasoline on an already burning fire. Those who engage geopolitically in the Islamic regions have already called him to account for his actions, and rightly so. By his irresponsible behavior, this man in Florida is placing not only military and peace-keeping personnel in harm's way, but international humanitarian aid workers as well. His conduct is just disgraceful, and he embarrasses all Americans.
However, while it is easy to say "tsk, tsk" and point fingers at this man -- or his counterparts in every one of the world's other religions -- it is not so easy to look within ourselves and find the origin of this thinking. That, I believe, is what we need to do -- to look at ourselves as human beings, and discover what it is that gives rise to this sort of thing. If enough of us are able to do this, then perhaps the day of the demagogue will pass.
The origin is fear.
Fear's origin is, I think, a fit subject for Buddhists to examine.
So is a reasoned and compassionate response to the ignorance of religious extremism -- our own, or that of others -- and the horror that it inevitably brings.
We are not here to police each other, punish each other, or proscribe each other.
We are here to be kind.