For nearly all Muslims, the Qur'an is the UNCREATED word of God. The Ibadhis in Oman and a few others do not believe that but they are a small mimority. For the "orthodox" majority the Qur'an is really not a "book" at all in the sense that a volume of Shakespeare's poetry, the Bible or "Huckleberry Finn" are books. The fact that the Qur'an is printed or transcribed and exists between covers means nothing. These are mere appearances and physical attributes of this manifestation of the divine here on earth.
For the Muslims, the Qur'an has existed in the mind of God from all eternity. It has existed in these exact words from all time or from before time if one can imagine such a thing.
Christians believe that the Bible is a divinely inspired book, that it contains great truths, but they all (so far as I know) believe that the Bible was written by people.
That is not the case with the Qur'an and the Muslims. They believe that the Qur'an descended from heaven and was transmitted by the angel Gabriel (Jibril) to the prophet Muhammad in the very words in which it had always existed as an aspect of God's "mind."
Therefore, when Jones deliberately destroys a copy of the Qur'an they see this as an attack on God himself. Such an action can easily be characterized in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) as deserving death. That is why it is possible to assemble a mob for violent action. Karzai should have known better than to say what he did, but his motives are obscure. The fact that Jones hardly represents "The West" means nothing to the Muslims.
American political tradition protects such acts? For most Muslims that is simply irrelevant. They would say that we should not have such traditions. For me this is reminiscent of the nuns who tried to educate me before Vatican II. They often said that Freedom and Liberty were all very well so long as one did what was acceptable and "correct," in other words, what the Catholic Church wanted. Liberty that became "license" (their word) was not liberty. It was moral anarchy.
A new and different interpretation of Islam is very likely to emerge in the US. This society is endlessly and remorselessly absorptive and synergistic but that "new" Islam is still "a borning." When people like Jones do things like this they are asking for trouble. Other people, in Afghanistan, are paying for his stupidity. pl