David Blackburn

Burning the Koran

Burning the Koran
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The US constitution cannot stop Pastor Terry Jones from burning 100 Korans to mark the 9th anniversary of 11 September, and neither should it – the right to free speech is absolute when within the law. But free speech comes with responsibilities. Just as it is unwise to build, with provocative intent, a mosque near the site of Ground Zero, so too for a Christian minister to burn the Koran as a publicity stunt. Such mindlessness is grossly offensive to the peace abiding majority, and it also furthers endanger US and Allied troops abroad and the population at home by inciting contemptible extremism.

Common sense and the tenets of Christian faith aside, Jones should desist and be tolerant. The war against Islamism must not become a war against Islam; not least because the forces of moderation could not win such a war. Islam, for all its faults, can, and often is, on the side of moderation – embodied recently by President Abbas offering a hand of peace to Prime Minister Netanyahu. The 'war on terror' is a battle of ideas between an enlightened mindset and a theocratic barbarism bent on darkness. In addition to neutralising terrorism in the field, the anti-Islamists must win an intellectual argument to promote tolerance and freedom above bigotry and fear – that is what free speech is for. Burning a book is not an argument.

UPDATE: Many commenters evoke memories of protestors burning The Satanic Verses in Bradford. I agree, Douglas Hurd was at his most insipid in avoiding an outright condemnation of the puerile protest and what it projected. Burning Rushdie's book was senseless rage, not argument. Ironically, it reinforced Rushdie's point.

And to 'Brit Abroad': Islamic Community Centres hold prayers. I've got nothing against them doing so, but let's call a spade a spade. Also, the mosque is not at Ground Zero, hence the use of the phrase 'near the site of Ground Zero'.