Wednesday, September 08, 2010


"Anyone who opposes this project is a bigot, plain and simple."

Burning Books
There's a religious structure in the news, and Americans are opposed to its plans by a very large majority, according to recent polling. The people behind it claim that they have the right to what they want to do and some even claim that it is religious intolerance and bigotry to deny them the freedom to carry out their plans. Is it bigotry to oppose them?

The Dove World Outreach Center led by Dr Terry Jones has an event planned for September 11th, 2010 in commemoration of the terrorist attacks on that fateful day. He wants to burn copies of the Muslim scripture, the Koran, in a bonfire. Several unexpected groups have condmned the event, such as right wing citizen's militias, and even General Patraeus has requested that this event not take place because he is concerned that it may endanger troops and Afghanistan rebuilding efforts. Pastor Jones, who wrote Islam is of the Devil, has vowed to go on with the burning despite these concerns.

I would argue that this pastor has the right to burn Korans on that day or any other day. Indeed, I would argue that he has the first amendment right to freedom of expression to burn books if he chooses to. I would also argue that he has the religious freedom in the United States to make such a statement, even though it is hurtful and offensive to Muslims worldwide and in the US particularly. He's free to do so.

However, I would also argue that he should not, because all rights come with responsibilities. All rights must be balanced with how your actions will affect others, and an honorable man would choose not to exercise his right of expression and religion in this manner because of that. I also would argue that to continue on this course of action is dishonorable and disrespectful toward Muslims in America.

It is not bigotry which drives opposition to this event, nor is it a rejection of basic American concepts of freedom of religion and freedom of property. They have the right to do what they want with their property, and they have the right to take this action. They simply ought not do so because it is disrespectful and dishonorable. A majority of Americans agree with this; its too bad the small minority cannot seem to understand that opposition isn't bigotry or some desire to restrict religion.

On the Dove World Outreach Center website is a statement that part of the reason for this event is to capture attention. The Dove Outreach center and Dr Jones are certainly gaining a great deal of attention. Their facebook page has nearly 6,000 fans, and Dr Jones has been interviewed on several major news organizations such as CNN. To some, this may seem like a deliberate, crass attention-grabbing event, but the Dove Outreach people say it is to raise awareness about their concerns and their fears for America.

Yet just because someone is free to do something and believes they have a noble cause does not necessarily mean they ought to do so - or that authorities necessarily have to permit them to do so. Building a bonfire in any major city requires permits, something Dove World Outreach has presumably obtained by this point from Gainesville Florida authorities. Gaining permits is part of the process a community decides what it wants to have in what place; the city should have denied them the permit for this event because of its nature and provocative, disrespectful intent.

Ultimately, as most Americans do, I oppose this event, not because I am opposed to religious freedom or somehow am anti-Christian or bigoted against these people, and not because I think they have no right to take this action, but because of what it will do to families of Muslim people, some of whom died on 9/11 themselves. I call on the Dove World Outreach Center and the city of Gainesville its self to end this event.


JoelAT said...

A question for you, was it wrong of Elijah to openly mock the prophets of Baal when he challenged them to have their god burn an altar? He had the right to do so, but should he have restrained himself to show that he was the better man? I would argue no, there are right and wrong things in the world. Are we to not respond to the burning of the bible, or flags with some sort of gesture? I know that the flag being burned is not the same as the bible, but you probably understand where I am coming from. If there is absolute truth, and we believe that the absolute truth is that the Bible itself is the inerrant word of God, should we not demonstrate that it is above all more important than a book of musings by a centuries dead pedophile? I believe that even if they choose not to burn the koran now, they have made their point. We as a country are so afraid of angering a group of extreme individuals so much that we are willing to attack our own people.

Serious George said...

I'm not sure how calling out the stupidity of a proposed act constitutes willingness to "attack our own people."

Any yoyo can toss a book on a bonfire or threaten to for attention. It hardly seems obvious how this demonstrates the superiority of what they (or we) believe to be true.

Craig H.