This highly publicized event has, in the words of the Washington Post, been covered by international media from "Mumbai to Melbourne," and the whole world will be watching between the hours of 6 and 9 p.m.--when Pastor Terry Jones and his followers say they will feed copies of the most sacred book of Islam into a bonfire.
Thankfully, there will be more for the international press to cover than book-burning alone. Several activist organizations are working to mobilize hundreds of people--to send the DWOC the message that their bigotry will not be tolerated in our community since the event was announced.
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THE PLANNED Koran-burning in Gainesville is only one example of a wave of anti-Islam racism.
The most prominent outburst of bigotry is in New York City, where Tea Partiers and other right-wing organizations have attacked plans for an Islamic community center to be built in Lower Manhattan, near the site of the World Trade Center. Right-wingers are planning another in a series of rallies on September 11--and anti-racists will hold a counterprotest.
In other cities, Christian Right-aligned groups are likewise protesting proposals to build mosques, and Islamic groups and facilities have been targets of a wave of vandalism and violence. Construction equipment at the site of a planned Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tenn., was set on fire in late August, and days later, a gang of white teens was arrested for firing weapons at a mosque in the upstate New York town of Waterport.
In Gainesville, the DWOC bigots, who have published such insidious books as Islam Is of the Devil, are well known in Gainesville for projecting a message of hate toward any segment of society other than conservative white Protestants. Last year, activists from the Gainesville branch of the International Socialist Organization and Queer Activist Coalition organized a protest against the right-wingers' message of hate toward the LGBTQ community.
Some DWOC adherents--a typical Sunday service at DWOC draws around 30 people--have gained notoriety for sending their children to school wearing "Islam Is of the Devil" T-shirts and holding picket signs outside City Hall to smear Craig Lowe, Gainesville's first openly gay mayor.
Originally, the self-proclaimed "armed Christian conservative" group Right Wing Extreme had promised to "protect" the center against the threat posed by anti-racist protesters. But Right Wing Extreme backed out with the explanation that DWOC's plans to burn the Koran don't "glorify God."