The Holy Qu'ran at the Pergamom Museum, Berlin. Flickr/JMCPhotos/CC License.
What can one even say about this? "Afghans Angry Over Florida Koran Burning Kill U.N. Staff":
Stirred up by a trio of angry mullahs who urged them to avenge the burning of a Koran at a Florida church, thousands of protesters overran the compound of the United Nations in this northern Afghan city, killing at least 12 people, Afghan and United Nations officials said.
The dead included at least seven United Nations workers — four Nepalese guards and three Europeans from Romania, Sweden and Norway — according to United Nations officials in New York. One was a woman. Early reports, later denied by Afghan officials, said that at least two of the dead had been beheaded. Five Afghans were also killed.
[The minister who led the burning, Terry] Jones was unrepentant. “We must hold these countries and people accountable for what they have done as well as for any excuses they may use to promote their terrorist activities,” he said in a statement. “Islam is not a religion of peace. It is time that we call these people to accountability.”
Really? Really? Where is the religion of peace practiced, then? I'm confused. It would seem to me that someone who presides over practices that regularly spark violent protests by offending other religious adherents has no high ground upon which to stand. People have been killed. People who were working to make things better and more stable in a place that has a dire need of both of those things. These people were killed -- make no mistake -- because they were so foolish as to join an international governing body that has the bad luck, today, to be associated with the United States of America.
Let's think, for a moment, about tolerance and understanding. These two should go together. Just as we -- as thinking, rational, compassionate creatures -- should understand that not every evangelical Christian wants to burn the Koran, we should understand that not every Muslim wants to avenge that act violently. In both instances, a fringe group, fueled by fear, by ignorance, by misled fervor and a misunderstanding of religious tenets, has clothed itself in the garb of religious adherence to carry out terrifying acts.
Only one side, here, has broken the laws of its country, and that's the most difficult part of this situation. I deplore Mr. Jones's tactics, his decisions, his methods, nearly everything he stands for, but his actions are protected under the same laws that protect my speech on this web site. What those laws do not guarantee, of course, is safety from the consequences of your speech. If you yell "fire!" in a crowded theater, and there's no fire, and people die in the stampede, you are responsible.
If you light a fire, in a world that's not unlike a tinderbox, after you've been warned, explicitly, that your action may be destructive -- should there be legal consequences when the whole things sets ablaze? Let me quote, for a moment, from my own holy book and repeat the Schenck opinion of Oliver Wendall Holmes:
Words which, ordinarily and in many places, would be within the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment may become subject to prohibition when of such a nature and used in such circumstances a to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils which Congress has a right to prevent. The character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done.
Should Terry Jones and his 30-some congregants who participated in burning this book be punished under U.S. law? I don't have a legal answer to that. Should they be punishable? My answer is yes. At the very least, I hope the families and friends of those killed in today's attacks, who will be forever bereft, are never very far from Mr. Jones's mind.
We have a situation in which over a dozen people have died, between two years' worth of protests. Both sides are fueled by religious fervor. Neither side feels any need to "repent." Only one side, though, has recently been under investigation by the U.S. House for radicalism. Legislators, check your home states. Radical Christianity is costing us lives, too.
Embarrassing admin note: I tried to post this earlier, but apparently no text appeared. My apologies! I've been importing selected posts from my personal website over to OS, and I hadn't realized that the settings were bad. You can always find me, with words, at http://kepkanation.com.