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After Koran burning, indefensible violence

The following is from my friend Herb Silverman, pres. of the Secular Student Alliance who writes for the Washington Post.  

After Koran burning, indefensible violence

I'm not a person of the book , whether it be the Bible, the Koran, or any other so-called holy book. As a secular humanist, I'm a person of many books. Book burnings appall me. Criticizing Pastor Jones for his action is my second favorite choice. My favorite would have been to ignore this attention-seeking ignoramus.                                                                                                            

Rather than condemn Pastor Jones for exercising his free speech right to act as a buffoon, I condemn violent responses to his action. No book is more precious than a human life. Books can be replaced, but not human lives. Muslims who felt justified, if not obligated, to kill U.N. workers and others in Afghanistan because of pastor Jones did more to turn world opinion against Islam than any infidel could ever do. Things got worse when the top U.N. envoy in Afghanistan called burning the Koran "insane and totally despicable," but did not similarly condemn the slaughter of U. N. workers.

There were also violent reactions several years ago when a Danish newspaper published cartoons depicting Muhammad. Atheism, as well as any religion, should be open to criticism without fear of violent reaction. We counter bad speech by good speech, not by killing people. I would not have been so appalled had Muslims taken an eye for an eye approach and burned a Bible in response to the Koran burning. They could even have burned Carl Sagan's "Demon-Haunted World," since Sagan called into question the beliefs of Muslims, Christians, and others.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are known as the three Abrahamic religions because of a spiritual tradition associated with Abraham. As the myth goes, Abraham was a man of such faith that he was willing to kill his son because he believed God wanted him to do it. Such actions should be condemned by all humans, of whatever faith or none.

1 comment:

  1. I have read that many Afghan Muslims who cite the Koran burning as a reason for killing the UN workers were really just pissed about the US occupation of their country and looking for an excuse to drive the infidels (us) out. Pastor Jones just gave them the excuse.
    Now, I fully condemn the response as well, but if the murders were solely as a statement against the foreign occupation of Afghanastan, the picture seems slightly different (not better, perhaps, but different).
    I guess I look at the situation through the broader lense of human behavior. It doesn't suprise me that the book burning was used as an excuse, because people all over the world look for scapegoats and excuses to act like total jackasses all the time.
    Vigilanties, martyrs, opressors, bullies, all look for excuses to justify their behavior that they know is unjust, amoral, immoral, cruel, or illegal. As soon as they have a shred of justification, they can act without guilt.
    I feel saddened by the conditions that cause this behavior, and I certainly feel pity for the slayed worker's families, but we also owe it to ourselves to look beyond the surface (excuse) and think about the underlying reasons for the behavior (not that they justify the actions either, per se).
    Also consider that the behavior is as common as a penny, but it is perhaps the victims of the behavior that we are empathising with. Or is it the extremity of the behavior which is particularly unpallateable.
    Again, I am not in any way justifying it, I am just offering some thoughts on it for the sake of conversation.