Earlier today I read one too many comments along these lines:
"Due to the ignorance of one Pastor in Florida who threatened to burn a Koran (which by the way is a disgusting and ignorant act) violent protest broke out across the Muslim world."
Let me ask a radical question: Why should we, as lovers of freedom, label Terry Jones' symbolic burning of a Koran - or another person's burning of a Bible or other sacred text - be a "disgusting and ignorant act?"
Insulting to many? Yes. Provocative? Certainly. But "disgusting" or "ignorant?" It was neither to me.
What was (and is ignorant) is the knee-jerk condemnation Jones received from all quarters - I maintain it was only partially due to his proposed action.
I believe a large part (VERY large) came because of who Jones is: a Christian pastor from the South, with a W.C. Fields-like nose and a large, droopy moustache. For many media elite, he perfectly fit the part of "the ignorant Bible-thumping, redneck Christian leader from the South." Lights, camera, action! Roll universal condemnation...
Now... Let's do a thought exercise:
Let's imagine Terry Jones is now Dr. Terence Jones, a doctor of divinity and tenured Harvard professor. Dr. Jones, in a secret effort provoke discussion about tolerance in religion, has announced a "Burn the Koran Day" at Cambridge.
The event gets worldwide publicity, and predictably, third-world Muslims go nuts, burn flags and buildings, and kill innocents. Condemnation rains down on Dr. Jones. Protests from Harvard ensue. There are telephone calls from many who urge him not to do it.
The President weighs in publicly and privately. In fact, Jones receives a call from the President's proxy, the Secretary of Defense of the United States, who is worried about the safety of American troops (in a war zone)!
In the end, Dr. Jones cancels his plans to burn Korans, and shocks everyone with an announcement that it was all an academic exercise through which, he believes, he has made some important points:
- The Muslim world has and stifle the right of free expression and thought through intimidation and violence.
- The line between "church and state" has been blurred. Our political leaders openly called upon Jones to cease his plans. The President weighed in publicly. His proxy, the Secretary of Defense, telephone him express his general's concern that soldiers who are fighting a war might actually be harmed because of the reaction to the burnings.
- Those who forced him to back down had simply further stoked Islamic fires by once again appearing weak. They handed Muslim clerics one more important propaganda tool ("See... through our actions, Allah intervened to stop this heresy... our God is greater than theirs... we are doing Allah's work when we threaten to kill, burn and maim in his name. May Allah be praised!")
Though he has insulted many, Dr. Jones' actions have sparked the intellectual debate he sought.
He appears on Sunday morning talk shows, and his arguments are debated among the elite. Even everyday American Muslims as well as American Islamic clerics take part.
In the end, it is generally agreed that in America, burning a Koran is no different than desecrating the symbols of other religions, e.g. ("Piss Christ," and the "Elephant Dung Virgin Mary".) Some find it repugnant, others do not. But it is not ignorant.
It is a protected right, and yes, it should have allowed Jones to torch any book he wanted to without physical harm coming to him or his church. He should have been able to burn the Koran, and those who fought against it were "ignorantly" giving up our rights as Americans in the face of violence.
[End of thought exercise.]
I wish this was how it would have all played out.
Through such a discussion, America might have finally demonstrated a resolve to stand up to the mob intimidation which seeks to strangle the western world into submission. Personally, I have question about the Koran myself. It does contain passages of hatred, conquest and dominance over other peoples. These are passages which not all Muslims take literally and seek to live by, but... they are in the core document of the religion. They cannot be excised or ignored. Someone has to explain them.
Making it worse is that many of the religion's leaders embrace its violent precepts, and exhort followers to follow them to the letter.
So instead of parroting politically correct cries of "oooh, isn't Jones icky," conservatives should always be at the forefront of calling for freedom and open discussion. Such a call in his case might have further strengthened a bond with those of all religious and political stripes who are fed up with the one-way tolerance that the Islamic world demands from everyone else.
Smart conservatives must be more careful in their condemnations, lest in the face of tough decisions they become RINO-like without thinking about it. But how to do it? How can one avoid getting swept up in the chorus of politically correct on issues like this?
A good gut-check against knee-jerking might be to ask: If liberals are for something, let's re-examine the issue before opening our mouths. There has to be something wrong it it.