Sometimes bizarre events are triggered close to home. Terry Jones, a preacher at a small church in Gainesville, has announced plans to burn copies of the Quran, Islam’s holy book, on Sept. 11, the ninth anniversary of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.
Florida Pundit does not support burning of books. It is a tactic that has been used by Nazi and communist totalitarians to suppress opposing points of view. In so far as a book makes an argument that you disagree with, an appropriate response is a better argument. Burning books either signifies that you have run out of ideas or that you are reacting purely emotionally.
In any case, the announcement by one relatively insignificant preacher in Gainesville has unleashed protests around the Islamic world from Indonesia to Afghanistan where protesters were shouting “Death to America.”
General Petraeus, the commander of our troops in Afghanistan has condemned the planned book burning saying that it could put the lives of American troops in danger and damage the war effort. We certainly understand Gen. Petraeus’ concern which should give the preacher in Gainesville cause for abandoning his plans.
However, the biggest issue with this planned event is not the book burning itself, but the extreme reaction across the Islamic world. Reasonable people would recognize the insignificance of this pastor and ignore him. Instead, there is an expectation across a significant portion of the world’s Muslim population that non-Muslims have to adhere to Islamic codes of conduct and have to show universal respect to Islam and the books and institutions it considers holy.
Imagine someone announcing that they will burn Bibles in protest of some event or other. Our media yawns and moves on to a more interesting story. You certainly would not see protests erupting across the world and threats to non-Christians would be unimaginable. You can google “bible burning” or similar terms and find that it occurs occasionally, but there is no outrage comparable to what happens anytime someone does something to offend Islam.
A previous incident where more than 100 people were killed by Islamic fanatics was the 2005 publication of cartoons making fun of Islam by Danish cartoonists. Most Western media indulged in an orgy of political correctness. This even included a book published by Yale University Press about the controversy which refused to show any of the cartoons.
We live in a society where the right to free speech includes the right to express ideas that may offend others. You can respond to the offensive idea, but acting violently against the speaker or other innocent bystanders (for example, our troops in Afghanistan) is totally unacceptable, immoral and illegal.
Given the threat from terrorist who are claiming the spread of Islam as their cause, what is remarkable is how rare the media can find instances of hostility towards Islam. Americans are a tolerant people and are perfectly capable of distinguishing between radical Islam and Muslims that live peacefully amongst us and are integrated into American society.
We shouldn’t be afraid to speak out against followers of Islam when they behave badly and incite violence in reaction to an event, however ill-conceived, that cannot justify such a reaction if we want to continue to live in a free society.