Equal Condemnation

I hate the automatic disclaimers that so many topics have to be opened with, but this one seems so universally embraced that I don’t think anybody will listen unless I parrot it, also, so here it goes: Florida Pastor Terry Jones was wrong to plan to burn the Qur’an on 9/11.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  It was a cheap, ignorant, counterproductive stunt. 

There.  Now I’m one of the millions of opinion  makers who have said the exact same thing.  What courage. 

When this story went big about a week ago, my first thought was that this is precisely what would happen, but I had another prediction that turned out to be totally wrong.  I was reminded of the cartoon protests and riots about five years ago, and the debate they sparked of how cultures define themselves, how they interact with each other, what our mutual obligations are in such conduct, etc.  It became a landmark in international freedom of speech issues. 

I was sure that the last week would be filled with similar observations.  I was dead wrong.  Though I’ve seen dozens of articles condemning Jones, I have yet to see a single one condemning the threats of violence directed at him and other Americans by the aggrieved around the world.  In a better world, we would be shaming Jones for his juvenile display, but we would also be heaping criticism on the crowds everywhere who would use this as an excuse to incite violence. 

Actually, we should be condemning those crowds more than Jones; while he desecrates people’s sacred text, others promise to harm and murder innocent strangers.  One is bad, the other is worse.  One is protected free speech, the other is not. 

The fact that there has been absolutely zero backlash against the backlash against Jones suggests that we’ve truly lost the will to stand up to bullies, that we’re content to have others dictate to us what we can and can’t say.  And make no mistake, such assertive declarations of our right to speak our minds freely, even when others are grossly offended, no matter who they are, is a cornerstone American right, and we must not let anyone think they can dilute that by threats of force.  We will not stand for it.  Well, we should not. 

Every ethnic, political, and religious group in America’s history has learned that and deals with it.  In the age of terrorism, when we are at war with guerilla elements around the world who have announced their ongoing desire to destroy us, we are not only entitled to but obligated to confront anyone who would threaten violence against Americans for any reason.  You gave a report on al-Jazeera saying that you want to kill American soldiers because of this jerk in Florida?  Fine.  He is a jerk.  But you know what?  Now we have some guys in Homeland Security who would like to talk to you.  Please come along quietly. 

I was musing on this apparent lack of will on the part of anyone to defend America’s commitment to pluralistic dialogue (again, not that this Florida pastor is the best example of that), but reading this line in a news story today really made me need to say something: 

Cops pounced on one protester, 29-year-old Sebastain Bagby, when he held up a Koran and whipped out a lighter. The officers grabbed the items out of Bagby’s hand but didn’t arrest him.

That, my friends, is intolerable.  And scary.

8 comments on “Equal Condemnation

    • Amir, we have something called the marketplace of ideas: our informal public forum where everybody gets to debate, discuss, analyze, criticize, and contribute what they want to dialogues, or abstain altogether. But nobody gets to threaten to physically harm anyone else. And nobody gets a guarantee of never being offended or hearing things they don’t like. With so many opinions floating around, everybody WILL hear things they strongly disagree with, and we may argue or protest, if we like, but never inflict physical injury.

      • Oh come on! one always has something “very” dear to him or herself. If you’d hurt, you’d be hurt in return. And it is only the amount of hurt, timing and probably the people around which is going to decide when is that hurt coming from any side, progress into physical. So, how about being respectful and asking questions that don’t “mean” hurt? That part is usually left at parents to teach but yes, we have to teach “grown-up” kids about that as well.

  1. I think the lack of commentary does not really indicate an acceptance of Muslim extremism. Rather, most people probably rolled their eyes, just as I did, and thought “there they go again.” The riots in Pakistan and elsewhere brought immediate mental pictures of the riots following the publication of the Danish cartoons, and the silly book by what’s-his-name — Salmon Rushdie — whose story years ago was the first instance that most of us knew of this kind of violent protest over minor insults. (It also reminded me of the riots after the verdict clearing the officers in the Rodney King claims — the Pakistani protesters were destroying their own neighborhoods in a protest against something someone elsewhere had done. How foolish.)

    In other words, hearing of the Pakistani riots was akin to hearing that a dog bit a man. It’s to be expected. Why waste my breath by commenting on it? A lack of comment was not an expression of approval.

  2. I have totally been thinking about this topic. So its not ok for someone to say that plan to burn a Koran (and not actually do it) but its ok for them to actually burn American flags and threaten to kill us? I am really worried about the double standard that I continue to see more and more about religions of all kinds, but especially with Muslims. I just don’t get it at all. How is that ok? How is it ok that we don’t get to pray in public anymore but Muslims tell us that they must be allowed to pray and protest if they don’t (story out of Hartford). Please tell me why the double standard? It seems like temper tantrums to me.

  3. Ardis, you raise strong points, and thanks for adding perspective. I don’t think the lack of comment from the majority was an expression of approval, but the failure to directly engage those who would saber rattle as prelude to real violence will not serve us well later on. Still, the “dog bites man” angle is interesting.

    Jennvan, I’m not so worried about the attitudes of Muslim immigrants / activist groups as much as I am about our blind, slavish devotion to a one-way multiculturalism that will massively change the Western world before the mainstream even realizes what its empty rhetoric has brought on. You’re right about the double standards, though. For years I’ve been reading Mark Steyn’s articles about Canada and Europe, glad that we don’t have such conflicts here. In the last two years or so, however, it seems to be growing everywhere.

  4. Well, to dig deeper into the issue Ardis brought up: The “Islamists” — or whatever we want to call the people who want to kill, maim and more in the name of “Allah”, although it’s usually just in the name of doing something destructive — have been ranting and raving about killing Americans, and yet actually few real incidents have taken place. 9/11 the exception to the empty threat rule.

    Sure, it was spectacular enough to keep us on our toes, but still the violent fringe would be acting destructively for whatever reason. We know only a small bit of violence from those countries. We only hear about it in these contexts, but they’re always killing each other, and the question is always: Who is going to collect the money from these helpless peasants?

    Did I use the colon right, prof?

  5. It seems a little weird from my point of view that someone could say that we don’t condemn those…those…Muslim terrorists vigorously enough. Really? I thought there’s plenty of that.

    Think of the WTC “mosque”. A building with a room dedicated for prayer and meditation is a “mosque”. There always was a “mosque” on WTC square, sans minarets and the onion-like cupola.

    One of the Midwest governors was saying not so long ago that there will be no “mosques” in his State. I’m almost 100% certain they do, but they don’t have the minarets, cupolas and Muezzins.

    I’ll say it: I detest those, who desecrate something they know someone else finds sacred (and threatening is doing in this case), as much as I detest those, whose first resort to solve a crisis or a conflict of interest is always violence.

    We can hardly keep throwing stones and try to justify our acts by saying, I’d stop if they’d stop. If someone has to be the first to actually stop throwing those stones, why not me?

    I hope I can be the one who withdraws from violence first, not last. Unless I’m willing to let myself be vulnerable and let the other prove their worth by keeping their word, I don’t know how I’ll learn Christlike love. He gave himself before me.

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