On Burning the Koran

Everyone's heard about it...a pastor in Florida wants to burn Korans on September 11th because Islam is apparently "of the devil." Everyone from Hilary Clinton, Sarah Palin, President Obama, and Joe Shmo from my high school is commenting and has something to say. We're making too much of a big deal about this situation and giving religion undue respect.

What are the objections to "Burn a Koran Day" and are they valid objections?

"Buring the Koran is so disrespectful! People hold beliefs and you shouldn't offend them!
Each religion, with its respective sacred books, places of worship and symbols, has the right to respect and protection,”"

The main problem here is that we are putting religious items on a pedestal and giving undeserved respect to religion about other areas of life. Sure, some people might find great meaning in religion, holy books, etc, but why should this be a reason to step away and not criticize these books and beliefs? People also take great pride in their business, movies, blogs, etc. Should people stop writing scathing restaurant reviews just because people might find the criticism offensive and disrespectful? Should we stop giving movies horrible reviews? Should we stop saying about how horrible popular radio music is...?

I might hold a litany of beliefs and certainly wouldn't cry and kill people if they disagreed and critiqued me. I put a good amount of time into blogging, discussing religion, etc. If someone printed out pages from my blog and burned them, should I threaten the individual because they did this? Of course not. Behavior like this should not be tolerated. If I had a belief that I could shoot mind lasers from my eyes and ignite streetlights and held this "close to my heart," should my belief be immune from criticism and "not be made fun of?" Of course not...so why do we treat ideas regarding religion differently? No idea should be above criticism.

"If the guy burns the Koran, people are going to die because of what he did! The pastor is going to be responsible!"

Many problems exist with this claim. Is it possible to link the burning of this book to increased violence? And if it is, is this a sincere link? What if Muslims use this as an excuse to incite violence and/or we interpret violence as resulting from this? Correlation is certainly not causation.

If people do die (and we were somehow able to directly link the burning to the loss of lives), it's not the pastor's fault, but rather the fault of the killers. If I write a book about, say, how much modern radio music is terrible and gangster rappers go out and kill the publishers of my book is it my fault that the publishers die? Of course not...it is the fault of the gangster rappers.

Finally, do Radical Muslims even need more reason to want to kill us? They already want to take over the world, kill all Americans, impose Islamic Rule everywhere, etc (hopefully this isn't a gross generalization, but you get my point even if it is one). Would the burning of a book really blow the gasket? I think not.

"I just hope the guy is stopped from doing it. We should stop him because lives may be lost."

I addressed the "lives will be lost" objection above. Stopping this man from burning the Koran would be a tremendous step backward for the rights of Americans in terms of free speech. Why should we not be able to burn the Koran and be able to, say, burn Twilight? This has obvious problems of favoring religion over non-religion, backing down because of potential threats, etc. Stopping this man from burning this book would be horrible.

"Radical Muslims will use this as propaganda! They'll recruit more terrorists!"

There's certainly no shortage of propaganda when we have Farfur (an Islamic version of Mickey Mouse) indoctrinating children to be suicide bombers and various other forms of propaganda. The idea that someone will use propaganda because we do something reeks of nonsense and certainly wouldn't apply to other situations. Imagine if we said, "We should stop drone attacks because they'll use this as propaganda," "We should stop using the phrase "The War on Terror" because they will use this as propaganda," or "We should stop airing The Price is Right because they will use this as propaganda against American capitalism."

We also risk a slippery slope argument when we say, "If we burn the book," x will happen when we have no good reason to suggest that x will happen.

The real problems here are that the media is blowing this out of proportion, we tolerate violent threats and want to back down when the potential of retaliation is amidst, and that we give way too much respect to religion.

If everyone drew pictures of Mohammad, burned Korans, and said, "You know what, free speech is important and we're not going to back down," it would be impossible for terrorism to even work and we'd be united in solidarity. I don't think that burning Korans is the way to go, but drawing pictures of Mohammad with a positive message attached and the support of moderate Muslims certainly is. Everyone Draw Mohammad Day was a great success.