The (Canceled) Burning of the Koran

September 9, 2010

You probably have heard by now that Rev. Terry Jones has canceled the public burning of the Koran he had scheduled for September 11. I consider this good news, although my reasons for being happy about this turn of events may differ from others. 

First, let me emphasize that here at CFI we support the right to engage in peaceful protests, including protests that involve the destruction or burning of some item. The burning of effigies, after all, is not an uncommon form of protest. Hence, as a legal matter, Rev. Jones had every right to proceed with his Koran-burning if he wanted to.

But not every legal protest is to be welcomed—and this is a perfect example of a protest that was ill-advised and senseless, and, in my opinion, abhorrent. My sentiments are not the result of considering the Koran sacred or holy. Quite to the contrary, I personally don’t recognize the category of the sacred. But books are themselves a form of expression. They convey thoughts. We should condemn the burning of books, whether it is the Koran, the Bible, the collected works of Bertrand Russell, or a volume of satirical cartoons about Mohammed. The views set forth in a book may be profoundly mistaken, even absurd, but that is no justification for burning the book any more than it is for silencing someone whose views are mistaken or absurd. The printed word should receive the same respect as the spoken word. The Koran should be critically examined, not burnt.

Comments:

#1 marciaobead on Friday September 10, 2010 at 10:43am

Such a burning would not prove that Olsen stewardess lacked true sociopolitical/technological savvy and did not speak up to move Muslim passengers to a separate aircraft.  [Or, where is my free copy promised through the Internet, ‘Smart Boy Jones’?]

#2 Dave W. (Guest) on Friday September 10, 2010 at 1:28pm

30 years ago, I would have thought the same thing about burning books.  Now?  Meh.  If the book being burned were rare or unique, I’d be alarmed, but the Koran is ubiquitous and nobody’s in any danger of losing the ideas contained within due to a small destructive event in Florida.

Heck, if someone loaded 1,000 old, famous and influential books on a Kindle, and then burned that, should it be condemned the same way as if it were a pile of 1,000 first editions?

#3 jerseyguy on Friday September 10, 2010 at 1:52pm

My question is about the “televised” word.  We cannot deny its MUCH greater emotional impact on people than books - especially on those voters who are ill-equipped to sort out facts from lies.  If it’s illegal to yell “fire” in a crowded theater, why can’t we find some rationale for making it illegal to televise lies about political office holders?  The kind of irresponsible and biased journalism from the likes of Faux News & others is contributing to making our society more and more dysfunctional.  Are there any legal avenues to pursue to change this?

#4 biology101 (Guest) on Saturday September 11, 2010 at 10:52am

“But not every legal protest is to be welcomed—and this is a perfect example of a protest that was ill-advised and senseless, and, in my opinion, abhorrent.”
“We should condemn the burning of books, whether it is the Koran, the Bible, the collected works of Bertrand Russell, or a volume of satirical cartoons about Mohammed.”

I totally disagree.  Burning a book, no matter the reason, should be seen by everyone as irrelevent.  Books are just books.  We’ve got digital copies of them all, as has already been said.  It is the person who is angered to the point of violence because their favorite book was burned that should be looked at in abhorrence and condemnation.  We need those people who are trapped by their religious ideologies to open there eyes and join the rest of us whom live in peace in the twenty-first century.  Muslims especially need to understand that not everyone sees things the same way they do.  Why isn’t this the message being conveyed by the leaders of the free world?

#5 emlazzarin on Saturday September 11, 2010 at 11:32pm

“I totally disagree.  Burning a book, no matter the reason, should be seen by everyone as irrelevent.  Books are just books.  We’ve got digital copies of them all, as has already been said.  It is the person who is angered to the point of violence because their favorite book was burned that should be looked at in abhorrence and condemnation.”

Thank you for this. I’ve been saying this frequently the past few days, since this issue has been in the news, and I’m quite surprised that Dr. Lindsay holds an “all books are sacred” position. A book is just a book.

Burn the Origin of Species; burn Principia Mathematica; burn the Bible; burn Harry Potter; burn a cook book; burn an empty book; burn whatever you want because it’s just a book, and harming someone for a non-violent means of protest (no matter how ignorant) is completely absurd and unacceptable.

#6 gray1 on Sunday September 12, 2010 at 6:41am

Reading it instead of burning it:

# 5:14 (Asad) And [likewise,] from those who say, “Behold, we are christians.” [26]  We have accepted a solemn pledge: and they, too, have forgotten much of what they had been told to bear in mind - wherefore We have given rise among them to enmity and hatred, [to last] until Resurrection Day: [27] and in time God will cause them to understand what they have contrived.

#7 Cygon (Guest) on Monday September 20, 2010 at 6:07am

To #4,

I agree with your point—the only rational reason to be opposed to book-burning is probably that you could instead sell them as used books and avoid wasting resources to reprint them.

In this case however, it was clear that there would be a large amount of people whose minds have been condition to be deeply offended by that. I don’t know whether Jones main goal was a message (“that competing religion is evil, we reject it”) or to hurt Islam-followers whom he might equate with terrorism.

I wonder if anything had happened if some Islam fundamentalist group had organized a bible burning

#8 Robert Schneider on Monday September 27, 2010 at 7:10am

Clearly, the call that should be made by an organization like this is that blame and ignominy be placed where it is deserved: on ANYONE of any faith who responds to “blasphemy” with incitement to violence or actual violence.

THAT is what must be stopped/changed. 

My full take on this, in the wake of Molly Norris going into hiding…

http://seeingthinkingknowing.blogspot.com/2010/09/i-am-openly-opposed-to-omsvaars.html

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