the misguided drama of the great qu’ran roast

Blasphemy is an important tool in a secular society, but it's not a good way for angry religious zealots to engage in a low brow tit-for-tat.
burning book

It’s quite amazing that a pastor whose congregation numbers just fifty people can make international news by threatening to burn hundreds of Qu’rans in a ceremony of abject witlessness. I mean let me get this straight, pastor Terry Jones is going to spend thousands of dollars on buying easily replaceable books to burn them? Why is he paying publishers of the very book he loathes so much, he’s ready to sink to the censorship which helped make the Dark Ages what they were? Obviously, this guy isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed and all he would be doing is playing the same zero sum game all fundamentalists play: justifying their intolerance of all dissent with religious verses and flashy demonstrations of how little regard they have for the other faithful. So much for all the peace and love religious devotion to a higher power is supposed to bring to our world…

Jones himself is actually quite the charmer. An admirer of Fred Phelps, a bottomfeeder loathed across much of the political spectrum, Jones used the church he founded in Germany as a personal piggy bank, proudly says that he knows nothing about the book he keep threatening to burn but is absolutely convinced that it’s pure, demonic evil, and freely admits that he wants to pull this stunt off to irk Muslims. Amazingly, those taking to the comment pages of every major news site, from CNN to WSJ, rush to imply that people questioning his judgment and political figures telling the pastor that he’s playing with fire and knows not what he does, are a bunch of anti-American traitors and that backing off the threat would mean that the nation has fallen to Islamic radicals. On top of that, in a stunning display of totally missing the point, they used examples of how intolerant some Mulsim nations can be as justification that we should be allowed to engage in intolerance as well. So if the Wahabbi clerics in Saudi Arabia won’t let you build a church and confiscate your Bible, they imply, we may as well reject any and all permits for mosques and burn Qu’rans. You know, just to see how they like it.

This is the kind of logic one would expect from vindictive five year olds rather than sober adults. It’s one thing to defend yourself from religious fanatics who want to harm you, but to use these fanatics’ mere existence as the justification for your hatred of those with a different worldview is ridiculous. Yes, there is a serious issue to be considered by Mulsims when it comes to the volleys of death threats sent to any public figure who doesn’t seem to show what their most extreme representatives consider proper respect before their religion. Killing a critic for daring to voice a dissenting idea is barbarism pure and simple, and using a threat of violence when you feel offended is downright uncivilized. But just because Islamic extremists demand to practice their hate and intolerance with impunity, doesn’t mean that you suddenly have the right to be as bad as they are and do the same things. Isn’t the point to be better than that? Aren’t we supposed to be the civil society which allows you to say what you want, believe what you want, and permits you to criticise what you see around you without reprecusssions? Aren’t we supposed to avoid becoming that what we claim to loathe?

Really, it’s not about a book and whether it gets burned or not. It’s about the disregard of the principles that we claim to stand by for the sake of small-minded, pious xenophibia and intolerance. Why did politcians, military leaders, and religious heads have to call and try to persuade some ignorant nobody who just really wanted to burn some of those Qu’rans not to do it rather than let him stew in obscurity? Why didn’t we just say, “yeah, he want to do that and he’s really desperate for attention, so why don’t we just disregard the fool?” Why egg him on, or act shocked and rush to shed a spotlight on his antics? Blasphemy has its place, but this isn’t about a declaration of one’s rights not to obey religious fundamentalists. This is a simplistic tit-for-tat meant to insult, provoke, and offend for the sake of insulting, provoking and offending. It’s one thing to skewer sacred cows to demonstrate that you’re not intimidated by religious zealots. Defacing something held to be sacred or holy by another culture solely because you really, really hate that culture, is very, very different.

# politics // organized religion / religion / religious beliefs / religious fundamentalism


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