Why Should We Burn the Koran? April 19, 2011

Why Should We Burn the Koran?

Thunderf00t explains why we need to stand up against the Islamic mentality that says burning a Koran is not just offensive, it’s an act that justifies murder of the culprit.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with criticizing Islam, or burning a copy of the Muslim holy book, or drawing Muhammad. I see nothing wrong with doing those things in protest of how radical Muslims have reacted against them — to me, that’s different from doing it out of pure hatred of Muslims.

That’s why I loved Draw Muhammad Day (DMD) last year. As more people draw Muhammad, the stigma against doing it goes away, and the people who oppose it just look more and more ridiculous. You realize it’s a silly rule that doesn’t apply to non-Muslims and no one has the right to stop you from doing it.

Thunderf00t calls it “diffusion of the threat by dilution.”

DMD will happen again next month and I hope more people join in.

In the meantime, if you’re not quite up to burning a hard copy of the Koran, you can just download the PDF file, toss it in your computer’s recycling bin, then delete it forever. Go be a rebel.


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  • Hmmm… I’m not sure that I really see the value in tactics that are deliberately incendiary (excuse the pun). It’s just being done to mock Islam, and I’d like to think that there are more constructive ways to change minds. I suspect that most radical Muslims, if they even catch wind of this, would probably miss the “message” entirely and simply view it as an act of provocation that reinforces their disdain for non-Muslims.

  • Surely you’d need to download and delete the Arabic version for it to be considered the actual Qur’an.

  • Oli

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvvDtKm0Qwk burn all the copies except one same with the bible and all other “holy books” then put them in a museum to show how much we have learnt since then

  • Christophe Thill

    I can’t help seeing a sinister aura about book-burnings, whatever the book. The fanatic Catholic church did it during the Renaissance. The Nazis did it too. Can’t escape these associations.

  • Jenny Bliss

    @Christophe Thill

    i suppose its all about what context its done in but your very right that it seems just about every time in history its usually been done in a.. lets say very negitive way as it were heh then again burning books in general seems a waste when should be recycling them rather than burning them but that might just be the environmentalist in me talking ^^

  • I had concerns about book burnings as well, when Terry Jones first announced it. It’s Thunderf00t that changed my mind regarding it. We should examine why it is we believe what we believe: Book burnings are offensive, because, in a time and place, when you burnt books you destroyed knowledge.

    In today’s modern, printing press and internet-enabled society, that’s no longer true. The only remaining objection is the symbolism in the public mind of a murderous historical regime. However, I think it’s possible that burning books could be a reasonable expression of free speech: Provided it can be used in such a way that the divorce can be made in the public mind between burning books and burning people.

    In the late 60s and early 70s, burning flags came into vogue as a way of a strong public objection to national policy. There’s no reason I think that burning books can’t serve as a similar rejection of a particular idea.

  • @Jenny Bliss,

    “i suppose its all about what context its done in…”

    It is all about what context it’s done in.
    The predictable hand-wringing and comparisons to the RCC or the Nazis have no place in a reasoned discussion of this subject. In one case you are talking about the imposition of will from an oppressive power, in the other, an act of defiance against an oppressive, deeply entrenched, and violent ideology. Those who cannot make the distinction or who choose to ignore that distinction add nothing of value to the debate.
    Besides, with the nearly universal reach of electronic media, book burning as a means of definitively eliminating or controlling access to literature in developed nations is pretty much an anachronism anyway.

  • I agree with Christophe that I find it sinister, whether you’re burning a Qu’ran or a copy of Farenheit 451.

    Yes, it’s legal and no, murder of someone who does it is never justified in any way, but…I think I would avoid it just for the distasteful connotations.

    I loved Draw Muhammad Day, though!

  • Kaylya

    Book burning symbolizes trying to suppress the ideas contained inside. When that book is a religious text, it’s also inherently disrespectful (when it’s Harry Potter, it’s just stupid). The point of Draw Muhammed day is (for most people) not to draw disrespectful images, but to say that we should be able to draw these images. It’s trying to say “You should not be offended when others do this”. I don’t think there’s any positive connotation to book burning…

    I can certainly see why people would be upset when someone burns their holy book. Of course, that’s no justification for death threats either.

  • JJR

    Slightly OT, I have a (free) Book of Mormon & (free) Holy Bible on my iPhone but there weren’t any free (English) Koran apps…be nice if the Skeptics Annotated Bible, etc, did a mobile app…maybe they have by now…

    Free Koran app (in English translation) would be a handy reference, too; especially a skeptics annotated version.

  • Paul

    Please, please, please, please. “Book burning” of the pre-internet world was an attempt to eliminate ideas and prevent the spread of ideas. There is no comparison to this practice of the past, and the burning of any number of books today. Please stop feeling weird about it. The burning of any book today is the equivalent of having a campfire. I clearly understand where the offence is regarding the reaction to the burning of the Qu’ran. Do you? Muslims are dictating what is appropriate behavior for you. They are speaking to you as though you are subservient to them. They expect you to know your place with respect to them, or be killed. “If you don’t want to die, then don’t insult islam.” To this attitude, I say “Fuck you, and fuck islam.”

  • TychaBrahe

    Paul, you might as well say that burning a church is no different an act of arson than burning a warehouse, because of televangelism, and can’t we all just conduct worship services online via GoToMeeting or streaming video?

    Man is a symbolizing animal, and burning a book is a symbolic act of destruction of ideas. You can’t get rid of thousands of years of meaning by declaring the feelings moot.

  • It doesn’t have to mean “symbolic act of destruction of ideas.” Symbolism changes. It can change with book-burning, and I dare say that change has already begun.

  • Darryl

    It would be interesting to see a Christian pastor publicly burn a Bible, as a way of demonstrating that it is essentially a harmless act, destroying only a single paper copy. Such a pastor could even turn it into a statement of faith, as in “God’s word is stronger than any small act of book destroying I might perform.” (I guess freethinkers could burn a copy of Darwin or Dawkins, but, since we have no sacred texts, it wouldn’t be the same at all. And we’d probably just laugh at others who did so.) Anyhow, it would be nice to send a signal to the Muslim community that, hey, one book burned? It does nothing to your own beliefs or traditions at all. surely you’re stronger than that.

  • Alex

    Tycha is right. Even though a book burning now days isn’t really destroying the ideas, it IS the symbolism. I admit, I find book burnings disgusting, this is because of their history. There’s nothing illegal, or even immoral about burning books like Thunderf00t is suggesting, but I still don’t think it’s the best idea. Mainly because it alienates the more moderate Muslims, and they are the ones who really have the power to change this.

  • John Small Berries

    Nope, sorry; I still can’t buy into it.

    A person who burns a book is someone who cannot argue rationally against the ideas contained within it. Like an ad hominem attack, it is an implicit acknowledgement that one has run out of valid arguments; an admission that “since I cannot counter the ideas in this book, I will simply destroy it instead.”

    Or, if the burner can argue effectively against those ideas – I’m sure people like PZ Myers, Thunderf00t, et alia are perfectly capable of doing so – they place more value in shocking and outraging those who subscribe to the ideas contained within the book than in actually addressing the content.

    It is an ignorant, barbaric and deliberately provocative act, and I’m sad to see Thunderf00t advocating for it; I thought he was better than that. Heretofore he has always been a shining example of the fact that one doesn’t need to be either an accommodationist or a gleefully antagonistic asshole when combating the ridiculous ideas of religion, but can in calm, measured tones utterly demolish those ideas by holding them up to the light of reason.

  • Todd

    I agree with Darryl. Other religions should lead by example, burn their own books and show that it is of no consequence.

  • AxeGrrl

    John Small Berries wrote:

    one doesn’t need to be either an accommodationist or a gleefully antagonistic asshole when combating the ridiculous ideas of religion, but can in calm, measured tones utterly demolish those ideas by holding them up to the light of reason.

    Beautifully said.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    Is this the best we can do? Really? One maniac’s intolerant devotion to something is not a good enough reason for me to destroy it. The same goes if it’s a billion maniacs. Of course, as protected speech you may burn the Koran or the flag and I will support your right to do so. But don’t suffer from the delusion that I will respect your small act of violence any more than I will their larger one.

  • I am with John Small Berries.

    I think burning book is an irrational, religious, symbolic act. If atheism is not a religion, then why do you act like a religious person?

    I also do not support DMD. However, burning book is even worse than DMD. At least, DMD has a sense of humor, maybe. Burning book, on the other hand, is totally a violent symbol.

  • The predictable hand-wringing and comparisons to the RCC or the Nazis have no place in a reasoned discussion of this subject. In one case you are talking about the imposition of will from an oppressive power, in the other, an act of defiance against an oppressive, deeply entrenched, and violent ideology. Those who cannot make the distinction or who choose to ignore that distinction add nothing of value to the debate.

    Quoted for emphasis.

    Even though a book burning now days isn’t really destroying the ideas, it IS the symbolism. I admit, I find book burnings disgusting, this is because of their history.

    I consider this hypocritical. In the old days, being against book burning was being for free speech. Today, being against book burning is being AGAINST free speech.

    Please think about the issue, don’t just have murky feelings about it.

  • As I look out my home office window this very moment, a woodpecker is being bullied out of the home he just finished this morning by two blackbirds. Instead of putting up any real resistance, the male woodpecker has just stood by and squawked in protest while the others have their way. This is what some in this thread would have us do.
    Reasoning only works if the other party is receptive to it. To be effective, you must send a message that the recipient will understand. To those who are whining about how barbaric it is to burn the Koran, I can only say that they have no concept or clue of what they are up against. This isn’t something new, of course. In fact it’s a hallmark of the extreme left and right.
    Nobody here is saying that reasoning, logic and peaceful methods should be dispensed with wholesale. It is silly and dangerous, however, to assume that the other side is going to be open to pleasant discussion over cookies and tea. With certain opponents, there are times when it is necessary to roll up a newspaper, smack them squarely on the nose and tell them “NO!”

  • Alex

    “I consider this hypocritical. In the old days, being against book burning was being for free speech. Today, being against book burning is being AGAINST free speech.”

    How is it against free speech? I’m not saying you can’t burn your own books, I’m saying I don’t think it will accomplish much and that I personally find it distasteful. There are lots of things people say that I disagree with, how is stating my feelings on the subject “against free speech?”

    Also, bravo John Small Berries, that was exactly what I was trying the say.

  • Yeah, gotta jump on this bandwagon of anti book burning… but then I feel that all books burned should be met with that kind of fervor… especially any that get under the skins of people for one reason or another. I think the burning of Hustler should be met with the same fervor that the Qu’ran is.

  • @John Small Berries,

    “…in calm, measured tones utterly demolish those ideas by holding them up to the light of reason.”

    Agreed, believe it or not.
    I’ll go even further and state that anyone that disagrees with that stance is delusional. Ideas, of course, cannot be demolished with force. They always find a way of coming back. A world as depicted in 1984 is an improbable one, given the nature of the human spirit.
    I think we are talking on two different planes, however. A bully tells me that if I cross a line, I get punched. I tell him “NO” and I cross that line. It’s rather simplistic as an analogy, but more than sufficient to explain what is going on here.

  • anna N

    hahaha, your comment on downloading the koran made me think of this comic: http://xkcd.com/750/
    PS: I am strictly against burning books.

  • Steve

    They don’t burn the book to create associations with Nazi book burnings. They do it because treating the Koran badly is a taboo in Islam.

    They consider the book as a physical object as holy. Not just the ideas in it. They also don’t like putting it on the ground for example.

  • “They don’t burn the book to create associations with Nazi book burnings. They do it because treating the Koran badly is a taboo in Islam.”

    Exactly, Steve. Kudos to you for being one of the few who actually “gets it”.

  • Rich Wilson

    @Barry

    Surely you’d need to download and delete the Arabic version for it to be considered the actual Qur’an.

    The offense is purely in the eye of the ‘offended’.

    Recall they were offended when someone made a soccer ball with national flags on it, (including Saudi) which includes both Allah and Muhammad (albeit in Arabic).

    Recall the doctor in Pakistan who got in trouble for throwing away the business card of a pharmacy rep, who was named Muhammad.

    Recall the outrage over cartoons, some of which didn’t even exist.

  • Sarah

    John Small Berries wrote:

    one doesn’t need to be either an accommodationist or a gleefully antagonistic asshole when combating the ridiculous ideas of religion, but can in calm, measured tones utterly demolish those ideas by holding them up to the light of reason.

    I agree with Axe Grrl, this was beautifully said, and I agree completely.

    I also don’t think it’s necessary to

    roll up a newspaper, smack them squarely on the nose and tell them “NO!”

    These are people, not misbehaving pets, and I don’t think burning their holy book accomplishes anything at all. It’s petty, taunting, and disrespectful, and I see absolutely no reason for it.
    Now obviously you have the right to burn a book if you want to, as long as it’s your property, and no one should be threatening to kill you for it. But the only thing I see happening as a result is making people mad, and if your only reason for doing something is to piss someone off, I think you’re extremely childish.

    And one last thing…

    A bully tells me that if I cross a line, I get punched. I tell him “NO” and I cross that line. It’s rather simplistic as an analogy, but more than sufficient to explain what is going on here.

    This is a flawed analogy, at least the way I’m understanding it. If a bully tells you to give him your lunch money or he’ll punch you, then you have good reason to tell him “No” and cross that line. But if a bully says “Hey, if you insult my mother, I’ll punch you” what reason would you have to stand up to him? Insulting his mother would be rude and you have no reason to do it, if you’re trying to be the bigger person. Once again, it’s doing something just to piss the other person off, and all it brings about is anger and bloody noses.

  • @Sarah,
    In regards to the analogy you put forth, it’s just as deficient if going by your own standards.
    Try this on for an analogy:
    “Piss on my magic bush and I’ll kill you.”
    That’s certainly not off as far as analogies go. In fact, it’s dead on.
    As far as “doing something just to piss the other person off”…they’re ALREADY pissed off. Also, and much more importantly, fear of pissing someone off is never a reason to not do something. It’s cowardice of the highest degree.
    Oh, yes…in regards to this:
    “…These are people, not misbehaving pets…”
    What makes you assume that some people are any better or more deserving than other animals? Sounds like a religious bias to me.

  • Sarah

    @The Godless Monster

    The point I was trying to make in my analogy is this: Someone telling you not to do something is not a good reason to do it. I completely agree that not doing something for fear of pissing someone of is cowardice, and you shouldn’t let fear of making someone angry keep you from standing up for what you believe. I’m not saying “You shouldn’t do this because it’ll piss people off.” I’m saying, “You shouldn’t do this JUST to piss people off.”
    If you have some reason to burn a Qu’ran, go for it. I just don’t agree with the reasoning people have put forth on this site so far. I don’t think burning religous books is going to make religious people react any less violently to it – I think it’ll just make it worse. I think we should respect that it’s important to them while arguing rationally that not respecting that isn’t a crime punishable by murder.

    And as far as the misbehaving pets thing goes, other animals are treated with less respect than humans in most societies. Maybe we should increase the respect we give to other animals, but I don’t think we should decrease the respect we give to fellow humans. And my inclination to think humans are better than other animals is certainly a societal bias and not a religious one. Trust me, I’m just as godless as you are.

  • Lola

    I do not understand why the video backs up the idea that the problem is not fundamentalism it is Islam. It is no different than the other Abrahamic religions, killing for any reason is banned. The Catholic/Protestant divide in Northern Ireland has very recently caused someone to be killed because they joined the police. This is not sanctioned by religion but it was done in it’s name.
    Yes all religions are the same (wrong!) but as atheists we should not be incouraging some more than others. Islam may not be the reason behind the reaction – maybe it is dictatorships, being poor, no education etc. Many people who can read the koran only know the Arabic that is actually in the pages. They do not actually speak Arabic, if you could read Wuthering heights and memorise it but didn’t speak English how could you interpret it?

  • Mackrelmint

    “Reasoning only works if the other party is receptive to it. To be effective, you must send a message that the recipient will understand”

    I think it important to consider if the message sent by book burning as discussed in this post and in the video is being understood AS INTENDED. As evidenced by the horrific recent killings of innocent and absolutely unassociated persons in response to the book burning by Terry Jones, I would argue that it is clearly NOT being understood, which completely negates the purpose of doing so. With the knowledge that a response to book burning is not likely to be rational, and is likely to result in the deaths of innocent people, how can one possibly argue that this act (of book burning) is justifiable? Does disregard for this not also make the book burner culpable in addition to the murderers?

  • The Captain

    I think a lot of the debate on this subject is well frankly subjective. And that’s the whole problem with most disagreements isn’t it.
    First, I can understand why some people feel burning any book is wrong, but I’m going to guess (I know, I know) that those that think that way are mostly of an older generation, pre-digital. I myself straddle that generational line so I do understand the thinking both ways. But context is what is important in all cases. Yes, in the olden days book burning was done to actually remove any traces of an idea from society, to the point that future generations could not even learn some ideas existed. That is wrong. But that’s not what was being done here. The people burning the Koran are not trying to prevent anyone from learning about Islam, they are showing their level of respect toward islam. And sorry, but no idea or philosophy is inherently deserving of respect. Respect is earned, and they have no more obligation to respect Islam, than I do creationism. Now is it childish? Perhaps, but who are any of you to say what is or isn’t childish? This whole problem with the muslim uproar revolves around the idea that all of us must be beholden to the standards of Islam, and frankly those non-muslims condemning the burnings are just doing the same thing. Demanding others must be beholden to your standards.

    Now the second issue is that of what is “provocative” is also a very subjective subject. As I said, since no idea is inherently deserving of respect, no attack on any idea can be provocative. To think otherwise is to give in to the idea that some things can never be challenged. And isn’t that the whole problem with religion, it demands to be treated as special? Now sure, individuals can be provocative to each other, for instance calling my girlfriend a whore to my face will get your nose broken. But calling all girls whores to my face would just get a laugh, it’s not personal.

    So burn away I say. Show the level of respect you have for the idea of Islam (or any other religion, idea, concept) since we in the non-muslim world do value the idea of freedom of expression which I will not allow oversensitive religious thugs to define for me.

  • Nakor

    I think this isn’t doing something because someone told you not to do it. I think it’s more, having so many people do something that the crazy zealots will find it difficult if not impossible to react to or quell any longer. As long as people only do it occasionally when they would have on their own accord, death threats can keep them “in line.”

    Now on the topic of the actual burning of books. I’m something of a book lover. I love to read and learn, I love knowledge, and I’m all for protecting the past. I’d be pissed off to all hell if someone, say, burned a 100-year-old copy of the Koran, because something significant would be lost. However, that’s just not happening here. In fact, if anything, a better argument against the book burning is that it’s funding money to print more of the damn things. But that said, the point being made and the actual symbolism here isn’t “Destroy Islam, destroy all Islamic knowledge and history.” It’s “we will NOT let you have power over us.”

    As for the message being sent being received as intended, I’m not sure it’s as much about sending a message (though that’s part of it) as it is about making it hard to react to any single incident when so many have happened. As tf00t says, it’s a lot harder to get worked up over the 7293516th Koran being burned than it is to get worked up over the first (publicly heard of) one in months/years.

  • The Captain

    @ Mackrelmint

    “With the knowledge that a response to book burning is not likely to be rational, and is likely to result in the deaths of innocent people, how can one possibly argue that this act (of book burning) is justifiable? ”

    So then if muslims rioted and caused the deaths of innocent people because you didn’t pray to Mohammed 5 times a day, you would do so then? Should christians stop praying to jesus if muslims burn down a town? It’s all the same thing, Your position of deference to those that are willing to use violence is in effect a legitimization of that violence, and a surrendering of your rights and autonomy to those that are willing to kill others.

  • Mackrelmint

    No, I am absolutely not in a position of deference to those using violence. I am simply looking at this from the perspective of those subjected to the violence, from which most of us writing are largely isolated from. (Are any of you posters out there living where these killings occur? Would this be your argument if you had to talk to the families of those most recently killed?)

    How many innocents have to die in response to irrational killings because of Korans being burned? Do we need to wait until the 7293516th Koran is ashes before the murderers give up? I would suggest that we have an obligation to the innocent victims and that this is NOT out of a deference to the murderers.

  • Stephen P

    If one wishes to defy religiously-imposed taboos while avoiding the historical overtones of book burning, how about finding a more creative way of destroying holy books? Such as, say, tearing the pages out and turning them into a papier maché dog?

  • Jachra

    I’m honestly opposed to burning books as a rule, because it has a fairly firm historical connotation with the destruction of knowledge.

    I am not, however, opposed to criticizing Islam. It needs much criticism. We should be allowed to depict Mohammad exactly as much as we like.

  • The Captain

    @Mackrelmint

    “No, I am absolutely not in a position of deference to those using violence.” And then you go on for two paragraphs arguing why we should defer to the positions of those that use violence, simply because they use violence.

    ” would suggest that we have an obligation to the innocent victims and that this is NOT out of a deference to the murderers.” Same thing, same result!

  • walkamungus

    since no idea is inherently deserving of respect, no attack on any idea can be provocative

    No idea is inherently deserving of respect*, but since people do believe that their ideas deserve respect (because they tend to identify deeply with some of their ideas), any attack on any idea can be provocative.

    *except for those adequately supported by science and mathematics

  • The Captain

    @walkamungus

    Just because some people believe their ideas are special, does not mean anyone has any obligation to treat them as such.

    To some people the mere existence of atheist is provocative, does that mean that we are just by being here? Some people think the existence of interracial couples is provocative, if they leave their house then to go to dinner is it their fault for starting shit?

  • walkamungus

    Radical Islamists aren’t going to care whether it’s the first Koran or the 7293516th Koran. Their level of outrage will be the same, and they’ll likely continue to kill people.

  • The Captain

    @walkamungus

    And that makes them terrible people. But what makes you think that if you do as they say now, they won’t start killing people for other stupid reasons. I mean you will only show them that their methods work by giving in.

  • (Warning: TL:DR candidate to follow)

    The Godless Monster and the Captain already covered a lot of the points I wanted to write about (damn you, wage-earning job) , so I will likely be redundant at places.
    I see a few different issues raised by people regarding this situation but I don’t think any of them are good enough to support their position.

    As it has been rightly said humans are symbolic creatures, and our symbols matter to us. Muslims will defend their own symbolism, in extreme cases to the point of murder.

    Symbolism however matters to everone. It seems to me that some of the commenters are saying that the Muslim symbolism of the holiness of the Koran supercedes the symbolism of a secular westerner to proclaim his values of religious freedom, which is exactly what stepping on religious taboos is done for. Why is that I should respct their symbols, when they manifestly don’t respect mine?

    On the other hand, some people are objecting to book burning precisely because of the symbolism it has for them, because book burning has always been an allegory for intellectual suppression and censorship. Indeed this was my first visceral reaction to the idea of burning a book. I am personally loathe to destroy a book (At one point I owned more bookcases than I did chairs). This instinct however is misplaced in this case. The point is not to destroy the content of the Koran. That is a practical impossibility to begin with, with the millions of extant physical copies, never mind the electronic ones on- and offline. The point is to offer a response to the threat of violence from Islamists that we acquiesce to their demands.

    I was having a conversation regarding this and the following point was made: One doesn’t even need to actually burn a Koran to make the point. I can burn a million Korans in my back yard and noone’s the wiser, and I can start a bonfire with a phonebook and just lie that it is a Koran in arabic, and have a destructive effect. (In fact I will try something similar at the end of my comment). The point here is its not about the book, its about the public ‘repudiation’ of Islam.

    It has come to the point that it’s normalized in our minds that destroying a Koran will result to violence and death, with blame being laid to the people doing the former and not those doing the latter. When X is being laid out as verboten, on the threat of intimidation, of violence, or death it is an act of freedom to do X, no matter what X is. Don’t try to draw parallels to Nazi book burnings, as they simply don’t apply. The Nazis weren”t burning Darwin’s books because early German Darwinists threatened to kill anyone who even tore a page out of them.

    Furthermore, I will also note that for those who are philosophically against book burning to note that the current equivalent of book burning are modern means of censorship, from false takedown notices on media sites, to shutting down the internet on Draw Mohammed Day, to getting the RDF site and the God Delusion banned from publication and its local publisher and translator prosecuted (as was attempted and partly succeeded by Adnan Oktar in Turkey). These are closer to the spirit of book burning than Thunderf00t’s actions ever were. That is where we should focus our ire, where actual censorship is taking place and not on our visceral reactions and superficial comparisons to other book burnings.

    Some people say that burning the Koran is disrespectful to all Muslims, and that as an action it will only alienate further, both the extreme and the moderate Muslim. I disagree. The extreme believer is already alienated from the mainstream and this is a message to the moderate, to compare one action (the burning of a book, even a Holy Book) and the violence and slaughter caused by his fellow believers and judge the actions. I think that those who would side with the murderers over the book burners are in no way moderate, and I include in this a specific type of Muslim, one I have seen online several times. In the wake of some confrontation of this sort or other, they make a terse claim of “oh, of course killing and violence is not the answer but…” and then spend paragraphs describing the stridency of those who maligned the Koran, or Mohammed (or the Eucharist. despite Islam being topical, this is not solely a Muslim issue) as the primary issue. It is an other instance of the normalization of violence in service to religion.

    What won’t make the moderates stand up and think however, is if we stand down, accept that the Koran and the insane demand of the extremists is beyond criticism.

    It has also been mentioned that it is all well and good to do this, but it is not us who will feel the brunt of the punishment. I disagree there as well. There are Muslims in Canada and in the US that have killed their children for becoming too “westernized” or secularized. These are our neighbors and possibly our friends, and the friends and neighbors of the moderate Muslims we need to reach who need to actively condemn the violence.

    There are in fact many moderate muslims that do so. Im not denying this, or that their actions require more courage than my own, but they are objectively not enough to stem the tide.

    As it is, the people living in fundamentalist theocracies and in such communities in secular countries, are already in danger of dying. If its not a Koran burning, its the French hijab ban, or some Danish cartoons, or someone throwing a business card that happened to have the name ‘Mohammed’ on it in the trash, or some books being printed, or even some expedient incendiary commentary by some “Koran-thumping” corrupt politician is enough to get the rage started. Shining a light on this needs to be done. And this is the reason we can’t only respond in a measured and calm demeanor, because there are some elements in religion that are beyond reason, and we need to expose these to the moderates as crazy and insane, and the only way to do so is to confront them.

    Back when I was a (albeit lukewarm) believer, I would have been annoyed at anyone that who tossed a bible in the trash, but I would never had placed even a stack of bibles over a single human life. This is the idea I would like to go through every moderate muslim: “Is a physical copy of the Koran worth more than a human life?”

    And so, in conclusion, as I am placing my own copy of the Koran in my grill on my balcony and striking a match, I do so because it matters, and I think if you’ve read this, you understand why.

  • Greg

    Cafeeine – thank you for that: I think you said almost everything I wanted to say.

    I just want to reply to TychaBrahe’s comment to Paul which went like this:

    Paul, you might as well say that burning a church is no different an act of arson than burning a warehouse, because of televangelism, and can’t we all just conduct worship services online via GoToMeeting or streaming video?

    There is a big difference between the two:

    As arson of any sort is illegal (unlike book burning), the bolded part is a complete non-sequitur. Arson is an act of destruction that necessarily targets someone else.

    Book burning (in the information age) isn’t.

    Also, I think people should remember that like with DMD, Thunderf00t isn’t doing this in order to offend people, but rather he is doing this to show that he will not be cowed by bullies who threaten death if you don’t do what they want you to. His response would be equally as valid if some crazy non-religious sect killed people for burning the Origin of Species (or Harry Potter.) The only reason, really, that Muslims are targeted by this is because they are (a group containing) the ones who had the irrational and unreasonable reaction of violence in the first place.

    That paragraph is particularly aimed at people like John Small Berries who don’t seem to understand the difference between Pastor Terry Jones burning the Koran and Thunderf00t burning it. They are both motivated by very different reasons.

  • Lion IRC

    Hemmant Mehta wrote : “There’s nothing inherently wrong with… ….burning a copy of the Muslim holy book”

    Excuse me?

    Atheists who burn books put themselves in the same category of brute ignorance as the Taliban and the Nazis.

    What is rational or enlightened about that? Still, I suppose a fundamentalist well meaning atheist might feel that the end justifies the means.

    I had to laugh when I read about little street kids in Afghanistan* warming themselves near the piles of burning books set alight by the Taliban. A powerful image to illustrate the meaning of what was going on but on two completely different levels.

    *(See Asne Seierstad‘s- “The Bookseller of Kabul”. Loved it!)

  • Brandon

    I’ve never been one to tiptoe around the sensibilities of fools, but there’s something inherently disquieting about the burning of a book. The Qur’an has informative historical and literary value and, as one who prizes the pursuit of knowledge above all else, I’m not sure I can condone the destruction of even a single copy.

    “Draw Muhammad Day,” on the other hand, strikes me as a much less profane way of expressing discontent with Islamic oversensitivity. Satire is far more palatable than iconoclasm.

  • Lion IRC

    And Christians who burn the quran are burning a book which includes Jesus, (whom the quran reveres more highly than even Moses) it includes Noah, Abraham, Mary the mother of Jesus, it includes many teachings which amplify Isaiah, Jeremiah and other Old Testament scriptures. It includes suras about righteous God-fearing people/prophets such as David, Solomon, Job, Lot, Jacob, Aaron, etc

    So what they are burning is, in part, the Word of God.

    What Christian can do that even if they dont agree with other parts of the same book or even if they dismiss it as entirely non-canonical

  • @Lion IRC

    Book burning is considered odious because it symbolizes censorship. However there is nothing being censored in these acts. Indeed, the fact that the items in question are books, is INCIDENTAL. If a population similar in numbers to Islam (with mirrored proportions of extremists and moderates)threatened me with death for wearing different color socks, then I would be wearing green and purple socks, and for the same reason.

    @brandon
    Really? This is the age of information, where you can download the Koran in 50 different languages offline, as well as order free print copies from several Islamic knowledge centers. Do you really think a single copy destroyed in protest will endanger the informative and literary content of the Koran being lost?

    I sorta understand the fetishistic nature of this aversion to destroying books. I would never dream of emptying my bookshelves, even though many of my favorite books have lately been only read on the computer screen (thank you Project Gutenberg!) but they still are material objects, and replaceable ones.
    It is notable that most both these arguments are essentially arguments against censorship, which shows you don’t understand the purpose of these actions.

  • Jorge

    This entire response makes no sense what so ever. I don’t even know if I disagree with you because it is sounds like an 11 year old child is writing it, very pedestrian.

  • Katherine

    the burning of any holy of any religion is wrong. its wrong because it holds value to that religion. everyone should respect every religion and try not to do anything to offend them. respect their wishes and leave them alone. I am christian and can’t even imagine how i would feel if anyone wanted to burn the bible, it wouldn’t be right because it holds value to me and my religion. so whether its a “material object” or not its an important “object” to some, saying its not is wrong and ignorant.