The Rev. Terry Jones said today he is “praying” about his decision to burn copies of the Quran on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, but made his comments in front of a sign suggesting that he would move forward with it despite warnings from top military officials that doing so would endanger U.S. troops.
“We realize that this action will indeed offend people, offend the Muslims,” he told CNN today. But, he said, “we cannot back off the truth of the dangers of radical Islam just because people are going to be offended.”
Speaking in front of a sign that read, “International Burn a Koran Day,” the pastor told CNN, “We are definitely praying about it.” But he stopped short of vowing to go through with the plan.
Before we start this discussion, which is likely to generate some emotion, let’s start with a premise with which most of us agree — all religions are wrong, all gods are false, and all holy books are lies. The Torah, the New Testament, the Koran, are all made to subjugate masses, all cause harm, and all are primitive and useless (yes, Eastern religions too, but they are not involved here).
Why then, do we shudder when some preacher threatens to burn Korans, yet we giggle to ourselves when we deface a Bible or a Book of Mormon in a hotel room? Why is it OK, if not a good thing, to draw a picture of a Muslim prophet, but not OK to burn their holy books? It’s all about reason and context.
If you stay in a hotel, you pay for a room, not a Bible. They GIVE you a Bible — it’s yours, for free, to do with what you will. Usually, you don’t even get the option to say “no thank you” — it’s there for you, irrelevant of your wishes or theology. It is rude and crude for hotels to do this. One would never think of going to a grocery store or gas station and having the manager hand you a Bible, but we strangely accept this practice in hotels. This is wrong, and this is why I say to trash these Bibles. They are yours, and you have every right to do it. Nobody, and certainly not American Atheists, suggested you buy a mass of bibles and burn them, because that would be a vulgar attack on Christianity. Hotels should not be in the religion business, and trashing the one bible they foist on you is a reasonable and peaceful act of protest.
Another kind of peaceful protest involves drawing a picture. In America, we have freedoms that are under constant threat, and one very real threat is that of the criminalization of blasphemy. Many countries, including civilized nations like Ireland, have blasphemy laws. The proponents of those laws, militant Muslims who can’t stand the thought of anyone making fun of their precious prophet, want it to be worldwide (they are even going through the UN). When the Danish newspaper published a cartoon, innocent people died from the riots, and as a result of this terrorism, Comedy Central began to censor South Park. Draw Muhammad Day was a reaction to this censorship, which sent a clear message around the world that we would not be squelched. Pakistan banned Facebook and Youtube — the message was heard loud and clear. Nobody destroyed anything, and this was a completely reasonable reaction to terrorism and the censorship that resulted. It will happen again, because this is speech, and nobody is immune from insult and ridicule.
But buying loads of Korans and burning them is a totally different activity. This is not a single person in peaceful protest against hotels foisting bibles in your hand, nor is it a reaction to preserve legitimately-threatened Constitutional rights. Burning volumes of Korans is an action, not a reaction, and it is a vulgar attack. It is intolerant and hateful, and serves no purpose other than to instigate hate and violence, at which it will unfortunately succeed. It will have no positive outcome — and it will push the terrorists to riot. Some people may die, and they will die for nothing, except the publicity for some rinky-dink church nobody ever cared about until they escalated a war.
Drawing pictures to protest censorship and trashing Bibles placed in your room against your will is not the same as buying loads of ‘holy’ books to burn on TV, and we should not allow anyone to forget that huge distinction.
I have said before that the last words you hear before a holy war is “my god can beat up your god.” This is proving true, and we should all be prepared for the nutty Christians to start a war with the nutty Muslims (or vice versa), who will fight God’s fight with us normal people in the middle. Things are about to get messy.