Using right to burn is wrong

Published 11:38 am Monday, September 13, 2010

Gen David Petraeus is wrong. That Florida guy wanting to burn copies of the Qur’an will not cause Muslims to kill Americans in the Near East. He is wrong for at least two reasons: Islamic terrorists have been killing Americans worldwide for decades, and it is the American news media that has brought all this to the attention of Muslims. Petraeus — and just about everyone else — is right that the man should not and must not burn the Qur’an and for allowing he has the legal right to do so. I say about the Florida situation what I said here recently about the Ground Zero mosque: The Florida man has the legal right to burn the Qur’an but is morally obliged not to exercise his right.

The general is correct, of course, that it can be predicted this fully stupid act will inflame Muslim violence, and this predictability is sufficient reason to abandon what is, in fact, freedom of (stupid) speech. I know the Florida guy’s name, but I refuse to give him yet additional publicity by mentioning it, because all the appearances are he does this not out of profound theological convictions but raw desire for publicity. And the media have certainly accommodated him in this. You couldn’t buy this kind of publicity and attention.

This guy is a nobody, and his following is nothing. He could have burned a ton of books, and no one would have known. But the media picked it up and played it up for more than it’s worth (which is already nothing). This is one of the most irresponsible things American media have done for a long time. Petraeus should have shot first at the media and then, if enough time remained, at this guy.

Email newsletter signup

Hasn’t anyone else noticed that rising to the defense of Islam, as not only the media but public officials are doing, actually affirms what they have (rightly) been dening since 9/11, i.e., Islam is a warlike religion. They don’t mean so to characterize Islam per se or all Muslims, but they have strongly asserted violence is a characteristic of currently practiced Islam.

If a man tells a crowd he hates the Vikings and a Vikings fan aims a gun at him in retaliation, do the police ask the speaker to refrain from provocative speech or do they take the gun away from the assailant and put him in jail? In this specific instance, of course, they can avert immediate trouble by persuading one citizen to refrain—until the next time some Muslim doesn’t like what someone else says.

Bibles have been burned by Muslims for centuries, and they’re still being defiled. Burning the American flag has been indulgently ruled freedom of speech. This guy’s wish to burn the Qur’an is clearly freedom of speech. We dare not force him to desist. (I need to file this column prior to the scheduled event and cannot now accommodate to what will have happened.)

To claim the Qur’an is “a book of the devil” is to give Islam far too much credit, because there are plenty of Muslims who are eager to kill without a sacred mandate, for which they do in fact use the Qur’an. For this guy to think he accomplishes any good purpose by burning is idiotic. There are many logical reasons for rejecting the Qur’an’s teaching, especially its teaching of selective violence. When these have been effectively preached, they have persuaded many Muslims to leave Islam entirely and others to modify their love of violence.

I hope you have noticed I have chosen not to copy the media by referring to him as a pastor, for I do not know he is. I strongly resent the MPR person I heard refer to him as “one of the evangelicals.” He is not.

When this finally appears in the Herald, I hope — indeed, I pray to the Lord Jesus Christ — that this burning will not have happened. Ever. I also pray that Muslims will recognize Jesus the Son of God loves them and so do I.