Fundamentalism on the Frontier, or Terry Jones Meets the Mohammedans

Brian M Downing

Their moral passion spent most of its force in self-accusing, self-denial and self-scourging. They began by howling their sins from the mourners’ bench; they came to their end, many of them, in the supreme immolation of battle.

– HL Mencken

While thinking (more) about Terry Jones’s efforts to win friends and damage foreign policy, it came to me. Once again, HL Mencken gave me inspiration. Yes readers, while reading his “Puritanism as a Literary Force” it came to me and with such blinding clarity that I had to reach for my Ray Bans.

At first I thought the solution lay in Terry and the Pyrotes following the grim example set by Jim Jones (any relation?) and his People’s Temple – and go off to Guyana, I mean. But I decided the answer lay in a different change of venue. Instead of Florida, why not burn the Koran in Afghanistan, which by chance has a sizable Islamic population, as I have recently learned. After all, judging by the spirited demonstrations I see there, he has evidently excited great interest already and there will be little need of the media attention that has come about – through no action of his, of course.

A more specific locale, you say? Yes, A-stan is rather expansive. Kabul would be attractive, of course, but the banking system there is in a bit of a flux just now. I recommend somewhere in the South or East – the Pashtun areas that have delighted foreigners for centuries. The town of Gandamak would be attractive. And its surrounding defiles make for splendid canters!


Yes, it was there in Gandamak, that enchanting hamlet in Nangarhar province, that General Elphinstone’s party, way back in 1842, exchanged views with the colorful natives and their jezails. Who knows, many in Jones’s party may even choose to live out their lives there in Gandamak – as did General Elphinstone et al. In fact, as I understand it, only one person – a Dr Brydon, by name – ever saw England again.

Oh yes. Harry Flashman made it back too. Note the facial similarities between Flashy and Terry. Uncanny, no?

Terry Jones is a gun enthusiast and as though by divine order, so are many of the Pashtuns! Gone are the jezails, however. Alas, gone too are the venerable Martini-Henrys that travelers have brought in and left behind. Kalashnikovs, graceless but serviceable, are the rule out in the countryside. Thankfully, not all the rifles of yore are gone. Terry will still be able to marvel at a number of Lee-Enfields whose .303 round is still thought by tradition-bound locals to be ballistically superior to the AK’s stubby 7.62 round. Terry sports a .40 pistol – a weapon I suspect is largely unknown to the Pashtuns. Perhaps an enterprising local will find a way to persuade him to part with it as he lies on Afghanistan’s plains.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that misunderstandings between locals and guests have been known to happen in Afghanistan. Take for example the Soviet visitors back in the 1980s. They came with the best intentions, of course, but were treated rudely by their hosts. At least most of the Russians left with enduring memories of their time there. And that’s what foreign travel is all about anyway.

In the unlikely event that the intentions behind the burning of the Koran are misconstrued, Terry and his Branch Floridians can be certain of the help of American troops who, perhaps unbeknownst to the Floridian faithful, are already in Afghanistan. The GIs know well how Terry has toiled ceaselessly to help the American image in the Islamic world and how he has made their efforts in Afghanistan all the easier.

© 2010 Brian M Downing and the FCM