Would Someone in Al Qaeda Be Allowed to Burn a Quran?

Two weeks ago it was the furor over the inaccurately named “Ground Zero Mosque”.  This week, everyone is up in arms about a small-time Gainesville, Florida preacher’s plans to burn copies of the Quran on September 11th.  Reverend Jones, leader of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center, has received oversized attention for someone who leads so small a flock.  Surely we are giving him more attention than he deserves.

With such a deep hatred of Muslims and an uncivil way of expressing it, Reverend Jones is a world-class jerk who doesn’t live his life as an example of the teachings of Jesus Christ.  There is no loving of his neighbors, doing unto others, etc. that we would reasonably expect from a man who claims to be a man of God.


But there is one point I find very interesting in all this fuss.  While burning a Quran is a rather stupid and insensitive way to express his beliefs, isn’t the fact that the wrong Reverend Jones has and can freely exercise freedom of speech actually a big raspberry in the face of those who despise the freedoms that America represents? 

Wouldn’t Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda ilk like nothing better than to see Americans stifle our own civil liberties and freedoms? 

While I’m sure there will be plenty of people in Muslim lands and elsewhere who will be outraged at the sight of an American “Christian” minister burning copies of the Quran, I have to wonder if there won’t also be a whole lot of people who will be amazed that there is a country out there where someone can express contrary opinions without fear of persecution, repression, or execution by the authorities?

That is not the case in many countries out there, certainly not the ones where Al Qaeda likes to spread their poison.


“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Evelyn Beatrice Hall


0 thoughts on “Would Someone in Al Qaeda Be Allowed to Burn a Quran?

  1. And along those same lines, wouldn’t it stand to reason that everyone who supported the first ammendment rights of the developers of Cordoba House (the “Ground Zero Mosque”) over objections by opponents who claimed it was insensitive, should likewise support the first ammendment rights of Reverend Jones over objections by opponents who also claim his Quaran burning will be insensitive?

  2. I just want to say…I don’t really want to be caught as a bystander in a religious war between Christians and the Muslims when I go traveling and flashing my US passport…Stupid religious wars. WTF.

  3. But it’s not a contrary opinion — it seems that a sizable fraction of Republicans (and indeed, of Americans) would gladly throw tinder upon the fire. I myself, while certainly not a supporter of the burning, do not find it intrinsically shocking or horrible. It’s like flag-burning, Fred Phelps, or the Danish cartoons of Muhammad — disrespectful and unnecessarily inflammatory, but acceptable as free speech. No one’s going to force him to stop; they (we) just think it’s imprudent and will have deadly consequences on our troops, provide perfect visuals for the propaganda and recruitment departments of our enemies, intimidate moderate American Muslims, and undermine Obama’s message of outreach to the Islamic world. Yet I think it is more revealing that Muslim extremists would react violently to what is ultimately a harmless act. Koran-burning is stupid, but retaliatory beheadings, suicide bombings, mutilations, stonings, and kidnapping are infinitely worse, and perpetrators of the latter should be swiftly and coldly expunged from existence.Also, Chris, your question sets up an illogical comparison. The Koran is sacred to Al Qaeda; of course they wouldn’t be allowed to. Would they be allowed to burn the American flag or the Declaration of Independence, or religious artifacts of the Roman Catholic Church, or Jewish places of worship in Jerusalem? The Taliban have already destroyed the Buddhas of Bamyan! They probably wouldn’t burn the Bible, as it is also thought to contain revelations from God. (Also, even with our First Amendment, I’d bet that a large number of Americans would move to ban Bible/flag/Declaration/Constitution-burning.)

  4. Problem is… well, I hate drawing far-fetched analogies, it’s like the cases where Americans try to enter North Korea, preaching Christianity. It’s just plain stupid. Freedom of action, and speech, yes (well, they’re doing slightly more illegal activities than Mr. Jones) but it’s the same spiel, no? They cause a whole lot more trouble than it’s worth, and I think that’s what people worry about, in this case. If Mr. Jones is allowed to continue his actions, it may very well be another catalyst for Al-Qaeda/Taliban to point out and act upon. I don’t think they’d go so far as to croon praise if this right of his was stifled. I think, from a legal perspective, Mr. Jones can be stopped by the United States being in a ‘state of war’. Eesh, okay, now that I read my response, it’s nearly the same as Senlin’s above. Oops. Ah well. Book burning, to me, is silly in general.

  5. I love the quote.If he’s going to do it..he’s going to do it. I wonder if he’s going feel like an idiot afterwards though because, yes the bible and Quran are sacred but..And I DON’T mean this in a derogatory or offensively but, hey Jones, they are books in the sense that you are acting like a sissy brat and kicking someone in the shins. Freedom of speech is what it is but he is just babbling nonsense by going this route. Be a man and speak how you feel because that is an action in itself.I’m disgusted with him and the action.And to think that I was afraid of the mosque being built in NY. It’s idiots like this guy that make me think if I am safe where I am standing.

  6. Thanks, everyone for your comments.  Nice to have a conversation around this topic.@moolgishin – Actually, the US isn’t in a state of war.  Congress has never declared war on either Iraq or Afghanistan.  That’s one of the interesting side-issues to all this – from a governmental perspective, the administrative branch has been over-reaching its constitutional powers for the last eight+ years.@everyday_yogi – @YNOTswim – Imagine nothingness… it’s very hard to do.  I suspect we’re a long way from getting rid of religion, countries, ethnicities, etc.  As one kind of group identification was removed, people would find another with which to identify and then someone would get worked up about something and start a battle over it.@z_stands_for – “Sissy brat” does capture his actions nicely.  I should go back and edit my piece and use that expression instead.@Senlin – The comparison isn’t so illogical.  Citizens of many restrictive countries haven’t the right to express themselves by desecrating important symbols.  Reverend Jones has the right in the US to burn a Quran, which to him and some people may not be that big a deal, but he also has the right to burn a flag, a bible, or any other symbol he chooses to.  The question is meant to ask whether members of Al Qaeda would have the right to engage in offensive speech and have such speech protected.@yang1815 – And here I am, perpetuating it!  =(@Wangium – There are many times I’ve wondered if I should get a Canadian passport for just such reasons.

  7. Should burn the Bible along with the Quransince they are not learning anythingfrom both of the books anyways.That’s what I found:Jesus: “But I tell you who hear me:Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you….If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. Andif you do good to those who are good to you,what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that….But love your enemies, do good to them,and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.Then your reward will be great,and you will be sons of the Most High,because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”(Luke 6:27-36)

  8. I understand your point, but I am specifically addressing your statement that “there is a country out there where someone can express contrary opinions without fear of persecution, repression, or execution by the authorities” — my point is that it would be virtually impossible for the resident of an Islamic country to see Rev. Jones’ Koran-burning in this light. Reverend Jones’ feelings toward the Koran are not a “contrary opinion”; Islamophobia is fairly mainstream. Why would Jones fear persecution, repression, or execution? I’m sure a good number of Americans support him (or support the idea). I think many people object to Rev. Jones’ action not out of a respect for Islam, but out of pragmatism and concern for the safety of our troops/citizens. I think America’s enemies would more likely view the act as representative of the American government and Americans as a whole, rather than to see Rev. Jones as a dissident or extremist.1 in 5 people think Obama is a Muslim (with a negative implication) and a majority of Americans oppose the Ground Zero mosque — these facts, on top of 2 wars and America’s special relationship with Israel, are enough to show the Islamic world that America is by and large anti-Muslim. Jones’ Koran-burning merely reinforces this perception and it would be a stretch, in my opinion, for any Muslim fundamentalist to view him as a dissident exercising his right to free speech.

  9. It is a sad situation. Support his right to free speech and be appalled by his ignorance of  Christianity – even though he professes himself a Christian. I just shake my head and pray.

  10. @christao408 – no no no, “religion, countries, ethnicities” are not at the same level… ethnicity is something you are born with, as why we are human but not fish, countries are gang members in a bigger scope, and as for religion, it’s something human invented to fuck each other’s mind and kidding themselves… not the same thing at all.

  11. @YNOTswim – I understand they are not the same, but they are things around which people, at various times, choose to rally and from which hatred and violence emerge.  Genocidal killing based on ethnicity (real or perceived), nationalistic wars, religious battles… the list goes on and on.  My point is that simply removing one distinction (“imagine there’s no countries…”, “imagine there’s no religion…”) won’t eliminate violence or discrimination.  People will merely find something else to rally around.

  12. @Senlin – Point taken, but I suspect Jones’ quran burning will be viewed in the Muslim world much the same way that the 9/11 attacks were viewed by Americans: the act of individual nut jobs will be viewed as representative of the mainstream.@ZenPaper – May I hire a large billboard next to Jones’ church and paint that verse up there with bright lights shining on it?@murisopsis – I shake my head and wonder what silly thing will come along next…

  13. The way I see, he is burning the words of God. It does not matter what the title of the book is, they still contain the words of God. He is a sinner. Not only a sinner, but a mortal sinner. No amount of sacrament can save him.

  14. Thank you Chris for posting this. I tremble at what kind of retribution this man must face evetually, for this sin that he is arrogantly commiting. He has told the media that the muslims are a hard headed, hard hearted bunch of no gooders, and who have no sense, who cannot be talked to because they do not understand. Wow! look who is talking! Hard hearted and hard headed??? This idiot has a black heart. May he burn in Hell, and may he start that right here on earth. I cannot believe I said that about a human being, while I am fasting. May my God forgive me for such ugly thoughts from my heart.A muslim would never burn ANY holy book. NONE! These books are words of The Creator. For this bastard ( there, I said it ) to be so uninformed, just blows my mind. I for one, have no respect, love or patience for people who have so much venom in their hearts. I pray that this same venom devours them. I am going to close my eyes and just pray that my heart can still feel the peace that it did a couple of months ago, when none of this madness was going around.I have never felt such anger and despair in my life before I don’t think.

  15. i think that everything, even freedom of religion/speech, has to be tempered by common sense. for example, it is not legal to yell “fire” in a crowded theater, even if freedom of speech says that they should have the right to say such a thing. the burning of the koran also violates common sense… especially since all it will end up doing is adding fuel to the fire for muslim extremists who already have enough reasons to feel strongly anti-u.s. as it is.

  16. @ZSA_MD –  Of all my friends, I feel like if I could share your story with every person in America, their perception would change greatly. To have moved half way around the world and made your life as a doctor in a small, midwestern town, to have served the people, become part of their community, and to have demonstrated through words and deeds what your faith means – I just think that the scales would fall from the eyes of each person who currently harbors suspicion or even hatred of Muslims.@kunhuo42 –  Agreed, Aaron. Rights come with responsibilities. The right to free speech comes with the responsibility to exercise it constructively.@amygwen –  In cases like these, I hold this image in my mind of the day when someone like Rev Jones shows up at the pearly gates and St. Peter looks at him and asks incredulously, “What version of the Bible were you looking at!?”

  17. you hit the nail right on the head. just on the level of xanga, we have people expressing opposing viewpoints. at the end of the day, the very fact that we can do that says volumes about where our world is compared to those who seek to stifle such free exchange.

  18. @christao408 – Not to be argumentative, but I really do think many parts of the Islamic world will see this not as the lonely voice of an extremist, but as a cause for hostility to the U.S. in general. For example, Interpol has warned of retaliatory violence (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39079573/ns/world_news/) and the event was protested by Afghans (http://abcnews.go.com/WN/Afghanistan/burn-quran-day-sparks-protests-afghanistan-petraeus-endanger/story?id=11569820). I do think they will conflate Rev. Jones with the USA as a whole. The burning will be all over the news, and Jones will be the most visible representative of America — an intolerant Caucasian man burning the Koran in the name of Christianity.News items get distorted enough in our country; just imagine how twisted this event must appear to someone hearing about it by ear in some Afghan village.Still, the threat of violence deserves absolute condemnation. Jones, while unwise, has every right to burn the Koran, just as the Danish cartoonist had every right to caricature the Prophet the way he did. Those who would commit violence against Jones are barbaric, primitive, and totally misguided. Any philosophy that would espouse violence on Rev. Jones should be totally eradicated — this is 2010, not 400 B.C.Finally, regarding America itself, I think the Koran burning is a “teachable moment” because it pits two very American ideals against each other: our religious tolerance and our right to free speech. The former would have us condemn Rev. Jones, while the latter has us grudgingly support him. Thanks for starting a discussion about this topic. 🙂

  19. @kunhuo42 – I agree with you 100%. :)…Regarding Rev. Jones not being a “true” Christian, doesn’t it depend on your interpretation? Modern Christians have very tolerant views relative to Christians 500 or 1000 years ago (e.g., now only 59% of Americans believe in Hell). I know there’s a Renaissance painting of Muhammad being tortured in Hell. Isn’t Jones’ view that Islam is heretical supported by the Old Testament? That’s one thing I can’t stand about religion — people always pick and choose the parts they subscribe to.

  20. @Senlin – I’m glad you aren’t being argumentative (no, you really aren’t…) – if you read my previous comment, you’ll see that I’m in agreement with you. Let me repeat it here:@Senlin – Point taken, but I suspect Jones’ quran burning will be viewed in the Muslim world much the same way that the 9/11 attacks were viewed by Americans: the act of individual nut jobs will be viewed as representative of the mainstream.To continue on that line of thought, even though there were those Americans who were able to see that the acts of the few are not representative of the whole, the segment of the population that is able to do that is much smaller than the ones that will conflate the two.

  21. @ThePrince – It is interesting how some folks on Xanga seem much more willing to deal with opposing views in a constructive way, whereas others either totally shut them down or hammer them with insults.  Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  22. @christao408 – Thank you my dear friend, for such gracious words and for the generosity of your spirit. I am so glad that the malevolent event is not going to take place, and I thank God for that. Ramadan is officially over, and tomorrow we celebrate the holiday. The NBC affiliate station is coming to the Islamic Center here and wants me to make a comment about all that is happening and has happened. I have left it up to the person who conducts the sermons. if he wants to say something, that is fine, if not I will say how beautiful this community has been to us. It has allowed us to stand tall and has supported us in the building of this center. When we didn’t have a place of our own, it was a church that offered us to come and pray in their halls. The friendship and the camaraderie that exists here among us and the various churches, is striking and so peaceful. I hope my message will make this community realize how grateful we are that we have such wonderful friends.

  23. i doubt it. i think the act of burning one religion’s bible is a very grave action of opposing to the teaching of the religion in question, no matter who burns it or where one burns it. it’s not politically correct nor it is a good display of action for others to learn, especially the younger generation. it’s fine to disagree with the teaching of a religion but we should still respect it for it is.

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