In the 21st century, on the lunatic fringe of American religion, a man decided to revive the medieval practice of putting an animal or inanimate object on trial for some grave offense, which was usually for witchcraft or being an instrument of the devil. The medievalist man is Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, who announced plans to hold a “trial” of the Islamic Koran, charging it with “inciting murder, rape and terrorism.” Mr. Jones’s capacity for intellectual discourse on the evil of the ideas contained in the book being severely limited (he is a Baptist), burning an inanimate object was all that is left to him in the way of rebuttal and protest.
On the evening of March 20, the “trial” went ahead with Jones presiding. It ended with another pastor setting alight a kerosene-soaked copy of the Qur’an.
A brief Agence France Presse (AFP) report said that although the event was open to the public fewer than 30 people attended. A subsequent local media report said the only journalists who turned up on the day were an AFP stringer, several students and an unassigned photographer. A video clip was posted online, however.
The news media paid the event little or no attention. Jones had promised to burn a copy of the Koran last September 11, on the anniversary of 9/11, but was talked out of it by officials who feared a repetition of the Danish Mohammad cartoon riots. They feared in vain. The riots occurred anyway. For Muslims, knowledge is a dangerous thing. If it doesn’t fit, they throw a fit.
Everyone underestimated the determination of Jones to make some statement, however addled it might be, and presumed that his apparent thirst for publicity had been slaked.
The “trial” served as an excuse for another round of riots, murder and mayhem by Muslims. Warring Muslim factions, however, have burned or destroyed more copies of the Koran than have any group of Westerners, but this fact is an unthinkable thought to Muslims. As with Jones’s original broadcast intention to burn a copy of the Koran, together with the publication of the Danish cartoons, there was also this time a measurable delayed reaction that went unnoticed. Time passed between knowledge of the “offenses” and Muslim reaction. This was to give the doyens of “anger management” time to whip their predisposed flocks and armies of manqués into a frenzy.
As of April 5th, the riots and protests against Jones and a potpourri of things Western continue.
A unique train of events ensued, one that led to the latest blathering of American politicians.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who last week drew Afghan public attention to the burning, an event that initially gained little media coverage, on Sunday called on the U.S. Houses of Congress to join in the condemnation and prevent a repeat incident.
Several Muslim clerics seized on this unsolicited piece of Constitutional advice by our alleged “ally” to give their humble congregations double doses of feverish outrage.
Karzai was abetted in this by Pakistan.
On March 22, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, in a speech to the federal parliament, condemned the incident “in the strongest possible words,” and Pakistan’s foreign ministry called the burning a “despicable act.” Dozens of reports on the Qur’an burning appeared in Pakistani media outlets on March 22-23, but the story received negligible coverage elsewhere in the Islamic world.
On March 31, 2011, Pakistan’s United Nations ambassador, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, spoke to reporters at UN headquarters on behalf of the 56 member state Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Ambassadorial Group, condemning the recent burning of a copy of the Koran by the pastors of a small Baptist Church in Gainesville, Florida. He highlighted the OIC’s “grave concern that the despicable act had severely hurt the feelings of 1.5 billion Muslims around the world” and warned reporters that it could lead to “incidents that are uncontrollable.”
Was that a “prophecy,” a hope, or a threat?
The very next day Ambassador Haroon’s warning turned into a tragic, self-fulfilling prophesy. A large mob of demonstrators in Afghanistan, angry at the Koran burning and apparently responding to calls for revenge by three mullahs who had addressed worshippers at Friday prayer in one of Afghanistan’s holiest mosques, stormed a United Nations compound in the northern region of the country and killed a number of innocent people, including at least seven UN staff members – two reportedly by beheading.
Not to be outdone in condemning Jones for “causing” the Afghan riots, a number of American politicians, a Supreme Court justice, and one American general chimed in with their own “anger.” South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, Senate majority leader Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, one Supreme Court justice, Steven Breyer, and General David H. Petraeus, commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, all piled on the hapless Jones.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says congressional lawmakers are discussing taking some action in response to the Koran burnings of a Tennessee [sic] pastor that led to killings at the U.N. facility in Afghanistan and sparked protests across the Middle East, Politico reports. “Ten to 20 people have been killed,” Reid said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “We’ll take a look at this of course. As to whether we need hearings or not, I don’t know.”
Lindsey Graham was more specific, but just as ignorant.
Senator Lindsey Graham said Congress might need to explore the need to limit some forms of freedom of speech, in light of Tennessee [sic] pastor Terry Jones’ Quran burning, and how such actions result in enabling U.S. enemies. “I wish we could find a way to hold people accountable. Free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war,” Graham told CBS’ Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation” Sunday.
ABC’s George Stephanopoulos of “Good Morning America” reported these interesting instances of ignorance.
We also saw Democrats and Republicans alike assume that Pastor Jones had a Constitutional right to burn those Korans. But Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer told me on “GMA” that he’s not prepared to conclude that — in the internet age — the First Amendment condones Koran burning.
Last week President Obama told me that Pastor Jones could be cited for public burning – but that was “the extent of the laws that we have available to us.” Rep. John Boehner said on “GMA” that “just because you have a right to do something in America does not mean it is the right thing to do.”
General Petraeus offered his own politically correct obloquy:
“We condemn, in particular, the action of an individual in the United States who recently burned the Holy Quran. We also offer condolences to the families of all those injured and killed in violence which occurred in the wake of the burning of the Holy Quran.
We further hope the Afghan people understand that the actions of a small number of individuals, who have been extremely disrespectful to the Holy Quran, are not representative of any of the countries of the international community who are in Afghanistan to help the Afghan people.”
Where have all the great generals gone? Can you imagine George Patton being outraged over a desecration of Mein Kampf, or William Sherman frowning on a mocking rendition of “Dixie”? Lastly, President Barack Obama consulted his script writer and had this to say:
The desecration of any holy text, including the Koran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry. However, to attack and kill innocent people in response is outrageous, and an affront to human decency and dignity. No religion tolerates the slaughter and beheading of innocent people, and there is no justification for such a dishonorable and deplorable act.
Empty but ominous words. In Indonesia, as a boy, Obama reputedly studied the Koran, and should know better than any other politician that the Koran indeed tolerates – nay, encourages – the slaughter and beheading of non-Muslims and other infidels. Note that he specified the “text,” and not the physical object. The “text” contains ideas that sanction a brutal ideology. Mr. Obama is certainly smarter than Terry Jones.
Daniel Greenfield summed it up neatly on Sultan Knish. Citing the incident of a German propagandist jailed during WWI, he notes:
Today we aren’t jailing filmmakers who traffic in anti-American propaganda in wartime. If we did then half of Hollywood would be behind bars. Instead Democratic and Republican Senators are discussing banning speech offensive to the enemy. Because even though they’re killing us already– we had better not provoke them or who knows how much worse it will become.
What it will all lead up to is a kind of selective censorship that will insulate Islam from any criticism. Politicians, generals and pundits do not become overwrought about the burning of bibles, Torahs, or other religious documents. Only about Korans. This is because Islam is always in the news, in some form or another, and that is because Muslims are always being “provoked” by the least criticism of them and their creed to throw bloody tantrums. Islam is another “culture,” another religion, another “way of life,” and by the criteria of political correctness and an affinity for dhimmitude, it must be protected from all forms of offense.
And that selective, privilege-granting censorship will serve as a precedent and lead to other brands of censorship, including prohibiting the kind of writing you are reading here. Calm, reasoned, and deserved criticism of Islam must sooner or later be classified as a “hate crime,” as “injurious,” “hurtful,” and “bigoted” as burning a Koran. Observe the intellectual and moral stature of Americans who attempt to establish a causal relationship between the Afghan riots and Jones’s publicity stunt-cum-protest.
These people are not going to defend the First Amendment. They are unable to. They are intellectual troglodytes. For evidence of the fishbowls of swirling, floating abstractions their minds are, I invite anyone to read the transcript of an interview of Lindsey Graham by The National Review and to reach his own conclusion. The interview was conducted to give Graham a chance to expand and qualify his weekend statements on the Afghan riots and Jones’s Koran-burning. I challenge anyone to find an operating principle in his illiterate, emotionalist gibberish, the kind of equivocating rhetoric that can justify the kind of fascism that is congealing around American life. To wit:
“Let me tell you, the First Amendment means nothing without people like General Petraeus. I don’t believe that the First Amendment allows you to burn the flag or picket the funeral of a slain service member. I am going to continue to speak out and say that’s wrong. The First Amendment does allow you to express yourself and burn a Koran. I’m sure that’s the law, but I don’t think it’s a responsible use of our First Amendment right.”
And if Graham, Boehner, Reid, Petraeus, and Obama do not think my writing here is a “responsible” use of my First Amendment right, what do they propose to do about it? How do they propose to make me “accountable”? The menacing growl is in their words. The First Amendment has already been whittled down to a splinter of what it once meant. It would be nothing to them to reduce it to a sliver.
What distinguishes their position on freedom of speech from that of the United Nations? Nothing. A U.N. spokesman felt compelled to add his own two cents about freedom of speech as he recounted the murders of the U.N. staff by the Muslim mob in Mazar-i-Sharif. Staffan de Mistura, the U.N’s Envoy to Afghanistan, described the Koran-burning as an “insane and totally despicable gesture.”
“Freedom of speech does not mean freedom of offending culture, religion or traditions,” de Mistura said. “Those who entered our building were actually furiously angry about the issue about the Quran. There was nothing political there.”
Oh, but there was, Mr. Mistura. Freedom of speech now stands to be sacrificed on the altar of pragmatic accommodation to Muslims and Islam. And as a Graham or Reid or Boehner touch a match to a compromise-soaked Constitution, Muslims, gathering after their prayers, will watch the ashes and smoke rise in the sky, and chant: “Burn, baby! Burn!”
They will not need to chant, “Death to America!” America will already be dead.