Thursday, September 09, 2010

Stoke up the bonfire

This is one of those awkward posts. You see, I think the best way to deal with the whole Koran burning story is to starve it of publicity. So blogging about it here, even though this place has few visitors, is a little on the hypocritical side. The best outcome would be for Terry Jones and his fifty followers to have a nice little barbecue on Saturday, and for no-one else to notice at all.


Of course, the world media being what it is, that's not going to happen. The story will be spread around the world, most likely with live cameras showing the flames. There will be no context as these images are broadcast in Muslim countries, except that this is a deliberate insult to their religion and it's happening in America. It will inevitably become another rallying cry to those who think the best way to deal with people you don't agree with is to kill them, and that a good way to do that is to persuade some poor footsoldier to strap a bomb round their middle and walk into a crowded marketplace.


I think Mr Jones is probably one of the most stupid and bigoted men I've ever had the misfortune to learn about. I certainly would never want to meet him, and his creed certainly weakens any desire I had to visit America soon. His act of defiance is an idiotic stunt, the pathetic tantrum of a child. I wish he wouldn't do it as much as I wish the world would ignore him until he goes away.


But.


If I was in Gainesville on Saturday, I wouldn't try to stop him. I'm glad to see that President Obama isn't going to try anything other than persuasion to make him change his mind, either. However crass his actions are, Mr Jones has every right to burn a copy of a book that he has purchased, as long as he isn't in contravention of any zoning laws or other statutes that prevent the lighting of fires in public places. Just as I have every right to criticise him for his actions. That's how we do things in the western world.


Perhaps predictably, the cry has gone up around the world to stop him. Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Pakistan have all waded in with demands. I've no doubt that a similar stunt, if it were attempted in any of those countries, would end up with the perpetrator being hauled off to a cell before he could even get his matches out. I can see how it might be difficult for them to understand what is stopping the authorities in America from doing the same, and that, unfortunately, is the fundamental problem underlying the conflict between Islamic thought and that of secular or Christian societies.


That's a gross exaggeration, of course. There are plenty of moderate Muslims who are rather embarrassed about this latest furore, and who condemn without reservation the actions of the jihadis and militants, if anyone is prepared to listen to them. And of course there are the Christian fundamentalists, like Mr Jones, who would no doubt like to see the whole world ruled by their peculiar interpretation of the Bible, and burn anyone who disagrees. All religions seek to control, some in a relatively benign way others by killing those who refuse to conform. And states don't even need the prop of doing God's will as an excuse to enforce conformity, either; using a strong military and police to terrorise a population seems almost to be the norm rather than the exception.


So perhaps it's no surprise that there will be rioting in Indonesia on Saturday, American flags burned in Pakistan. I expect Iran will have a field day, Ahmedinejad spouting forth about how this proves that the west is a force for evil, bent on destroying his people - by which he means, of course, every single Muslim in the entire world and not just those few who voted for him. I doubt very much that any of them will say anything at all the next time a suicide bomber blows up in a Baghdad market. 


It may just be the way these things are reported, but it seems to me that there are very few spokesmen for Islam who will unequivocally condemn the actions of the extremists who claim to be of their religion. I can't remember the last time an Imam appeared on the news expressing his horror at the carnage wrought by Muslims on Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, let alone condemning the actions directed against western forces in those countries. Yet there are plenty of loud voices when a Dutch newspaper prints a few crap cartoons, or a well-meaning but naive teacher names a teddy bear Mohamed, or a man with fifty followers out of a population of more than three hundred million decides he's going to burn a copy of a book.


However much it has become a cliché, Voltaire's mis-attributed quotation* is very apt in this case. 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.' To which I would add that I would also defend to the death my right to disagree with you, as well.' It is the strength of the western world that we can allow the likes of Terry Jones the freedom to spout their drivel. Obama's condemnation of the man should be enough to satisfy anyone with an ounce of sense that this is not the view of America as a nation. 


If Islamic leaders insist on treating the actions of a few individuals as indicative of the entire race of non-Muslims, and stirring up righteous indignation at the most minor of slights to their way of life, then is it any surprise that many in the west come to believe that all Muslims are suicide bombers, and want to burn the book they believe calls them to arms?


For myself, I wish all religion would go away. It's not going to happen, but I can dream. Many years ago, my niece asked me why I didn't believe in God, and I explained to her that it wasn't so much that I didn't believe in God as that I didn't believe in belief. She didn't get it then, and I'm guessing most people won't get it now, but if we weren't all so certain that we were right, and they were wrong, then I think the world would be a much better place.


* read this explanation. He never said it at all.

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4 Comments:

Blogger highlandwriter said...

great post.

personally, i'm not big on religion either -- b/c as a whole, it stifles spirit. and as spirits, we are meant to fly free.

:-)

peace...
--hw

September 10, 2010 12:22 am  
Blogger Dave Telling said...

An excellent post, sums up what most people think. The problem with any 'fundamentalists' is that they tend to shout louder than the rest of us :-(

September 10, 2010 8:03 am  
Blogger swallowtail said...

who knows how the screw comes loose? fundamentalists shouting loud cause so much destruction and mahem in the name of "religion." like Highland Writer... spirit is free, and I may add, spirit is not hellbent on destroying other spirit(s), as that would be couterproductive to free spirit.

ok. I'll stop now.

great post. I've been wanting to write something about this idiotic crap-head, but didn't trust myself to stay within the realms of decent language and relative logic. so I say, thank you. you included much of what I've thought and some extra!

September 10, 2010 7:35 pm  
Anonymous SteveG said...

Could not agree more with this, well put.

September 15, 2010 1:46 am  

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