A little more than a year ago, the United Nations compound in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan was raided and set ablaze by riots that were a visceral, if deadly and inappropriate, response to the burning of a Koran by an American "pastor." Two UN workers were beheaded, others were shot to death. The blood spilled by the rioters is on their hands but also on the hands of the pastor, that despite almost universal and bipartisan condemnation, proceeded to burn the Holy book of Islam, the Qu'ran.
Terry Jones is at it again. At 5PM Eastern, Jones has vowed to not only burn the Qu'ran but also images of the Prophet Mohammed. Jones claims to be fighting for the freedom of Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor in Iran sentenced to death for apostasy. Nadarkhani converted to Christianity as a child and led devotional services in his home, and with fellow Christians in Iran.
Nadarkhani's desire for religious freedom is courageous. Extremists in the Iranian government may find Jones' irresponsible and incendiary act as reason enough to carry out the death sentence given to Nadarkhani by the court in Gilan, Iran. Jones' threats to the Iranian government may hasten the death rather than prevent it. He knows this and chooses to disregard it.
Freedom and equality require reciprocity through calm, deliberative actions and speech. If Jones' extremism and seeming desire for fame proceed as scheduled this evening, any blood spilled will be on his hands as much as the extremists who commit the crimes. He will be partnering with those who commit heinous attacks on innocent civilians, and is in fact, embodying the evil he pretends to fight.
There are people of good conscience in every country, in every faith. To save lives we look first to fundamental rights, respecting sovereignty and the power of diplomacy and passionate advocacy. Nadarkhani deserves to live, be released from prison, rejoin his wife and sons, and practice his faith. That is a freedom Jones' enjoys, with no consequence beyond the public scorn and shame he earns by jeopardizing a man of faith.
And of course the blood of each innocent person who dies when he incites a riot.