Burning Korans and Building Mosques: America’s Blasphemy Laws

Blasphemy laws are instituted when members of a religious group decide that their belief system should be unassailable, immune from any real or perceived criticism, and protected from any disrespect or display of dissent.  As with any other laws, they are enforced through thethreat of punishment or dire consequences.

During the past few weeks, America’s commitment to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion, has been challenged by a Pastor’s announced plan to burn several copies of the Koran and a developer’s desire to build an Islamic Community center.  Elements within the global Islamic community threatened violence against Americans, American troops, and American interests, if Pastor Terry Jones, an American citizen planning to carry out an action on American soil, proceeded with the exercising of his constitutionally protected rights. Elements within American society have campaigned, demonstrated, and issued ominous warnings of potential future actions, if the legal owners of property in Manhattan, also American citizens planning to exercise their constitutionally protected rights on American soil, proceed with their approved plans to build their Islamic center.

“If you upset us, we’ll hurt you. We will terrorize you and cause you harm.” This is the message that seemed to be coming from elements within Afghanistan, Indonesia, and various other groups within the Islamic world, as well as form Christian Nationalists within America. It’s a threat of violence as punishment for non-violence, and it’s working. Americans are scared, and they’re willing to trade their freedoms for security.

“He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.” – Benjamin Franklin

Much has been said about the dichotomy between having the right to do something, and whether or not it is right to do it. While the right to do something is clearly defined in the Constitution, the question of whether or not something is ‘right’ to do has been defined as how offensive it may be, or how many people consider it offensive. This is an error. The question of whether or not a group of people decide that a thing is offensive cannot be a consideration when establishing whether or not someone has the right to do that thing.

If freedom of speech, and freedom of expression, were not understood to be potentially offensive, we would not have required a constitutional guarantee to protect them. For every opinion expressed, there is someone who will disagree; and for every opinion expressed strongly, there is someone who will strongly disagree. The vehemence or popularity of the opposition should be of no concern. That disagreement does not give one, or many, the right to silence the other; not when they have the equal right to express their difference, or opposition, in the same non-violent manner.

“Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense. True irreverence is disrespect for another man’s god.” – Mark Twain

From the beginning of the Dove World Outreach Center episode in Gainesville, Florida, everyone has been concentrating on how to stop the Koran burning from happening. While recognizing that Terry Jones has the right to burn the Korans, the argument has been repeatedly expressed that it’s not right for him to do it. Representatives from other Christian churches and organizations, leaders and clergy from other religions, United States Government officials, and the mainstream media, have been unanimous in their objection to the Pastor’s actions and their desire to see these proposed actions, and therefore the threatened consequences of this act of blasphemy, cancelled. Disrespect for a religious text and the resulting danger to Americans, and American troops, has been the consistently cited reasons.

Likewise, the threat of protest, inflamed tensions, and potential acts of terrorism against the proposed mosque at 51 Park street in Manhattan, has developed into a campaign to convince the developers to voluntarily relinquish their Constitutionally protected rights. Rather than stand united with the force of a government sworn to uphold and protect the Constitutional rights of it’s citizens, many have opted for a position of appeasement requiring the representatives of a minority to forgo their rights in order to cater to the bigotry and bias of members of the majority.

Many conservative politicians, and pundits, including Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, have suggested that both the Koran burning as well as the development of the Islamic Center should be cancelled simply due to opposition. The fact that both of them share in the Islamophobic sentiments that are sweeping the nation, openly support fundamentalist Christian Nationalism, and construct their platforms out of the fears, biases, and bigotry of their audience and political base, provides them with strong motivation to pursue this anti-Constitutional agenda. They draw a false equivalency between the two situations, equating an overt action that has as its sole purpose to send a message with the building of a facility that others have chosen to interpret as an offensive message. The only similarity is that, in either case, their offense is of no import.

A De facto blasphemy law has been applied to Americans, with clearly proscribed consequences and threats of punishment, and America seems to be considering capitulation.  Whether it be in response to the burning of Korans or the building of a mosque; groups of individuals, whether they be proponents of or protesters against a certain religion, have stated that if an American offends their religion, or if a religion offends their sensibilities, they will retaliate by causing America, and/or Americans, harm. Recognizing that the act was not considered ‘nice’, or ‘sensitive,’ has allowed Americans to accept this dictated law on its citizens without having to acknowledge the truth of their own fear, and willingness to surrender their rights to that fear.

The act of burning books is universally recognized as reprehensible. Images of tyranny and fascist control, and memories of some of human-kinds darkest hours immediately come to mind. Other than simply being distasteful to many, it is an act that can have two very clear messages. If done on a large scale, it is an act of censorship. If done on a smaller scale, it is a message of distaste and disrespect. Pastor Jones, and his approximately fifty followers, were not threatening an act of censorship that would have violated the rights of others. Pastor Jones was planning an act of disrespect. He was planning to send a message. As distasteful as many may consider it, he was simply planning to exercise his freedom of expression.

Why was responsibility for the reaction to this planned event levied against Terry Jones rather than those reacting? None of his actions committed any violence or had any real effect on anyone in Afghanistan, Indonesia, or anywhere else. The books he was planning to burn did not belong to them, they belonged to Terry Jones and his congregation. Why should he and his congregation be held accountable for violating the rules of a religion to which they do not adhere? Why should anyone be required to adhere to the rules and dictates of a religion to which they do not belong?

To say that the surrendering of these rights is a responsibility that we all have in order to be part of civil society is incorrect. To consider such actions morally superior, defining them as taking the high road for the greater good, is equally erroneous. An honest admission would include these excuses as nothing more than self-flattering disguises of the fear of the threatened consequences. The threat of an uncivil reaction does not define the action itself as uncivil. An action cannot be defined by the reaction of others. Civil society cannot be defined by those who threaten others with uncivil action. Civil society is not achieved by pursuing policies of appeasement to the more base aspects of our human nature, or to the more violent and reactive elements within society.

We cannot let religious leaders dictate what is the acceptable way for society to regard their religious icons and artifacts. Interviews with religious leaders on television demonstrated a unanimous opinion that anything sacrilegious is wrong and therefore should be subject to government intervention. This is like asking oil company representatives to draft legislation regarding environmental regulations for drilling operations. That would be unimaginable stupid, right?

The claim that the burning of a Koran is like yelling fire in a crowded theatre is also a gross misrepresentation. It may be like cheering for the Washington Redskins at a Dallas Cowboys home game, but it certainly is not like yelling fire in a crowded theatre. Yelling fire in a crowded theatre causes people to face the choice of exit or perish. The danger is that yelling fire would create a stampede that would cause people simply trying to save their own lives to be harmed, or to cause harm to others without any intention of doing so. Religious people are not put in a situation even remotely similar when faced with a Bible or Koran burning, or any other comments or actions they find offensive. They are in no danger, nor have they been threatened of any danger.

When demonstrations started in Indonesia, the President of that country, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, called President Obama and requested that he intervene and stop the planned burning of the Korans in Gainesville, Florida. American and NATO embassies were threatened by angry mobs. Rather than hold the protesters in his own country accountable for their violent and destructive actions, the chosen strategy was to ask the President of the United States to require one of his citizens to adhere to Islamic law. No one asked what President Yudhoyono did, or said, to have his citizens take responsibility for their own reaction.

Fortunately, President Obama’s public statement gave no indication that any such action in violation of the constitution would ever be considered. The fact that federal agents paid a visit to Mr. Jones may betray another reality, but there was no outward indication of any such official government intervention. If there was, America is in even greater danger. The capitulation was an act of the American people. Fear of reprisal has been a constant theme throughout the national discussion.

General Petraeus, commander of American forces in Afghanistan, made an official request that Pastor Jones not go through with his planned action. The reaction of the Afghan people was defined as the Pastor’s responsibility. The choice of the Afghan people to respond violently, to a non-violent action, was not defined as their responsibility, but his. On Saturday, September 11, 2010, in Afghanistan, shops and police check points were set on fire. Eleven individuals were reported injured in the violent demonstrations. No Korans had been burned. The clear threat is that, had he actually gone through with burning the Korans, the violence would certainly escalated even further. A line was drawn in the sand and America backed down.

There was no mention of any communication with President Karzai of Afghanistan asking him to address his people; nor was there any news that he did so of his own accord. The responsibility for any potential violent reaction was put squarely on the shoulders of a man exercising the very right to freedom of expression, and freedom of speech, that General Petraeus is sworn to uphold, and yet chose to surrender.

After nine years in the country, are there no relations established with local leaders? Is there no means of communicating with the people of Afghanistan? Is the military not sophisticated enough to become part of the media and Internet presence that seems to be driving the reaction in Afghanistan?

This is not acceptable. The extension of this principle, that something cannot be expressed or communicated because of the upset and reaction that it may cause, is the very antithesis of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. General Petraeus’ duty is to protect these rights, not limit them, abdicate them, or surrender them to a mob of religious fundamentalists.

The principle that offence trumps the right of expression is the foundation of the censorship that allows blasphemy laws. The fact that the restriction is imposed by society on itself, because of a sense of fear, creates an even greater chance that such an injustice may take hold and become institutionalized.

Any such action against the developers of the Islamic Cultural Center in Manhattan would be an even more egregious violation. The offense attributed to these individuals has been the result of propaganda, misinformation, and conclusions arrived at through allegations of nefarious intentions, xenophobic stereotyping, and cultural illiteracy. These people are building a place of worship on private property. End of story. Everything else is the result of ignorance, bigotry, and opportunistic demagoguery.

If those planning on building the mosque at Park 51 are stopped, America has not only succumbed to an Islamic Blasphemy law, but to an American Christian Nationalist Blasphemy law as well.

“Freedomis never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” – Ronald Reagan

Should liberty be diluted in the name of security? Benjamin Franklin admonishes such cowardice.

Should liberty be fearful, or demure? The spirit of Mark Twain’s unfettered boldness suggests otherwise.

Should Americans remain complacent while religious fundamentalist of different creeds are permitted to erode their Constitutional rights and freedoms? Ronald Reagan provided an excellent response to that concern.

The freedoms of speech, of expression, and of and from religion, are too important to surrender in the face of intimidation and threats; whether foreign or domestic. America’s freedoms are being threatened by both internal and external forces exploiting the unwarranted legitimacy they receive through religious profession. The next time someone wants to burn a Koran, or a Bible, unless it belongs to you, debate them, berate them, or ignore them; but you can’t stop them. The next time developers wish to proceed with the construction of a legally approved center for study, worship, or fellowship, on private property, remember that their rights supersede your sense of offense, be it perceived, or manufactured.

If any one is going to secure their rights as an American citizen, we must all stand firmly for the rights of all American citizens.

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36 Responses to Burning Korans and Building Mosques: America’s Blasphemy Laws

  1. Elodious September 12, 2010 at 10:10 am

    The very idea that our generals and the president of the strongest nation on earth would plead for this man to stop his protest is just plain crazy. Finally! A rational voice in the wilderness. Thank you, Mr. Fox.

    • mamaMonsterJAMM September 13, 2010 at 9:35 am

      the president should have kept his mouth shut. as for the generals, I do understand where they are coming from. they have to deal with these crazies daily. i mean come on, they are in their backyard. and we all know how easily they go bat sh!t crazy over the smallest things. safety of our troops is clearly high on the generals priority list, and flicking a rattlesnake in the nose is not the best idea if you dont want to get bit.

      • Stephen September 13, 2010 at 3:02 pm

        Did you not just read this article? You prove his point.

      • ilene September 14, 2010 at 2:57 pm

        MamaMonster, please go back and read the article. Take notes if you have to. You missed the whole point entirely.

  2. Peg September 12, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I honestly do not think the threats of violence coming from Muslim nations have as much to do with the burning of the Koran as it has to do with the US saying that we are in the Middle East to help rid the world of tyranny and yet our soldiers are doing things like shooting civilian farmers for sport and cutting their fingers off to keep as trophies. We invade a country and claim it’s to help them, while killing innocents and back home the media if drooling over those who are preaching hate and burning sacred texts. We cannot effectively do the job we are spending trillions to do if we have people undermining the effort by sending a completely different message.

    • Diebels September 13, 2010 at 9:03 am

      “…yet our soldiers are doing things like shooting civilian farmers for sport and cutting their fingers off to keep as trophies.”

      I haven’t heard of this. Could you please share your source for this information?

  3. rgdaniel September 12, 2010 at 11:53 am

    The crux of the problem is self-contained right in the phrase “blasphemy laws” — “blasphemy” is a religious concept, and “laws” are the domain of governments. Religion and government should be as far into their separate corners as it’s possible to get them…

  4. lost September 12, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    I missed the part where any blasphemy laws were passed in any way shape or form.

    Should politicians be denied the right to exercise freedom of speech with respect to telling people whether or not they should do something? This is a very different matter from sending cops in to prevent Koran burnings and it’s generally a good idea to send a message that while religious insensitivity might be legal in this country it is not approved by the vast majority of the population.

    It’s beautiful when people cite freedom of speech to criticize people utilizing that very freedom.

    • cassandra September 13, 2010 at 7:45 am

      when you are part of the government you don’t get to speak for the government on a religious anything. there is a reason for the separation of church and state . the who ever can still have there opinion but it should not be given in a public forum as member of our governing body. Speak as a person not an official handing down the word of our government. no one from the government should have contacted that man in any official way about his religious action.

  5. Dave September 13, 2010 at 6:11 am

    I disagree, it was a dumb idea from a retard to piss off other retards. Strongest nation? I don’t remember china saying anything…

    • Stephen September 13, 2010 at 3:09 pm

      The question isn’t about what’s dumb, it’s about what we have the right to do. Strong or weak militarily doesn’t matter. It’s our constitution and the principles and rights therein that hold power. Powerful enough to cause these religious zealots to retaliate with violence because they can’t defend their ideals with words.

      • Oliver September 20, 2010 at 12:05 pm

        No, the question is not what you have the right to do, the question is what’s right to do. Because just because someone has the right to do something doesn’t mean it is something that should simply be accepted. The bankers had all the right to gamble with money. Doesn’t mean that people should simply shrug the financial crisis off. It doesn’t mean that it was the moral thing to do. And it is plain and simply intellectually dishonest to declare oneself a proponent of freedom of expression of opinion while denouncing others for expressing theirs.

  6. had_it_up_to_HERE September 13, 2010 at 6:15 am

    There were American flag burning protests and displays of violence overseas at the mere mention of the koran burning ceremony and I expected nothing less when I first heard of it. I kind of wonder if there was ever the intention to actually carry out the koran burning or if it was just bait to incite exactly the kind of violent protest from extremist islam that it did. Look at what happened when there was a cartoon depicting mohamed…except this is more like the cartoon was never even drawn…in this case its like the artist merely said he was thinking of drawing such a cartoon. No matter what violence would have ensued, cartoon or not. The mere mention would have been enough. The extremist islam world has met the mere idea of committing an offensive act with actual violence. But guess what…if it hadn’t been this proposed koran burning ceremony that set them off then it would have been something else. These people are violent. That’s all they know. That’s the solution to every problem real or perceived for them. They’re going to burn our flags and try and kill our troops regardless of whether we burn a few korans or not. Are we supposed to believe that by not burning these korans it will bring peace on earth? LOL

  7. Matt September 13, 2010 at 6:34 am

    There is a fine point that everyone seems to miss in this debate. The right to build a mosque in lower Manhattan is constantly billed as being protected by the constitution. That is not the case. Every church, temple, synagogue, and mosque must go through a building permit process with the civil government. While everyone in this nation DOES have the constitutional right to practice whatever religion they choose, they do not have carte blanche to place a building anywhere they see fit. This is a reality that has been faced for literally hundreds of years by Christians, Jews, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, etc etc etc who have purchased land and faced strong opposition from their neighbors and the local (or city) governments when their building permits come up for review. There are a myriad of examples that go back hundreds of years. They simply get no traction in the press (and for good reason).

    Let me be clear, I do not have a problem with a Mosque in lower Manhattan. I have a problem with misinformation (ie a non-existent constitutional right) and the absolute hate-speech that accompany these debates. Apparently we, as Americans, are in a race to call anyone who does not agree with us a bigot without listening to their point of view. It really is quite sad.

    • Martin LaBelle September 13, 2010 at 7:29 am

      Matt, I agree. I sometimes think that the only reason people are hot about this, is because CNN/MSNBC/FOX tell them they should be.

      On a different note, every time someone says “let me be clear” , the voice of the prose instantly turns to that of Pres. Obama.

      • Ilana September 13, 2010 at 1:37 pm

        Except that the Imam’s organization already applied for and were granted all of the necessary permits before this whole controversy even began (which the opponents of the project typically omit from their explanations), so your point is moot. They followed the law, they were granted the permits, they now have the right to exercise those permits.

  8. Patrick September 13, 2010 at 6:53 am

    Very well written arguments with some valid points that were very well made.

    However i disagree with most of them.

    I am aware that you just dismissed the “right to do something, and whether or not it is right to do it” argument, for the obvious reason that it undermines your entire point.

    The idea behind a good protest is that it offends or inconveiniences the people you wish to make a point to.

    So the pastor burns a load of Koran’s, and obviously offends every Muslim.

    The same as if i were to take a bible, piss on it, wrap it in an american flag and burn it, to make a point to the american creationists. Its not efficetive because it would be offensive to all american christians.

    So the problem was not the fact he was offending a few people. He would have offended everyone from one of the biggest religions in the world.

    Even If you don’t care about offending people, you still should recognise that it will offend people and therefore provoke a reaction. And, for the level of offence caused, obviously some reactions would be violent.

    So basically, i think common sense and courtesy should overrule freedom of speech and ignorance in this case.

    Good article though.

    • Liam Fox September 13, 2010 at 7:25 am

      I wonder if you would feel the same way if you had something that you feel is important to communicate, but might cause offense to the majority.

      • cassandra September 13, 2010 at 7:52 am

        overrule our freedom you are a bright one! do you want to over rule your right to vote because i bet that offends a lot of people on the site right now!

      • Kristy September 13, 2010 at 8:41 am

        I would if I cost many lives, which this already has. And while like Patrick, I think you have some very good points, I think you miss a bigger picture of applying our culture norms and saying that others should adhere to it. The center in NY is not the same as burning the Koran because the offense is to those that are here and exposed to our love of freedom. Conversely with the Koran, the problem is the worldwide violence that can insue and are by cultures that we can not expect to use or understand our our “freedom of speech” debates when they have no concept of it for their own lives.

        On Reuters this morning, it has already been reported that several Muslims have died in protest against the US Koran buring and against their government in Kashmir. So it really doesn’t do a hill of beans for their gov’t to tell them what they should or shouldn’t be doing. Your arguement also does not take into consideration that to in some areas of the world, the act of burning this book is akin to what we would consider physically attacking a person. Except it would be attacking a high up religous person. To a simple farmer in Sringer, who may, in many cases, be too illiterate to even read the Koran, his whole existance may revolve around religion. To him, God gives him food and protects him. And to him, maybe his not defending God, may cause him and his family harm. Burning the Koran is the same as attacking his people.
        Yes Jones has the right to do it, but his actions cost lives and can create massive worldwide problems. We have laws against inciting a riot and similar things that would clearly cause harm to others if the action was done. His actions have already done this in other countries, it is a matter of time before it officially hits home.

        • Stephen September 13, 2010 at 3:28 pm

          I agree with Liam’s point which he made and you missed. It’s up to their government to keep their domestic peace and not for us to do it by appeasing them by forgoing our “rights”. A constitutional right means by definition that you can do a thing no matter what…end of story. So by your rationale, if animal rights activists threaten to blow up a building or kill U.S. soldiers for U.S. citizens eating meat then we shouldn’t eat it for fear of retaliation. I’m not even going to dignify your comparison to inciting a riot.

  9. Martin LaBelle September 13, 2010 at 7:26 am

    Jonas Goldberg says Fascism is a state of society in which no aspect of life is without political significance (paraphrase).

    I agree with Goldberg, and you Liam. Commenter “Lost” has a good point , but when I hear such a huge out-cry I have to wonder if we are not stepping into a Totalitarian society.

    Nice post, love the use of Monochrome pics.

  10. MARGARET CRANDALL September 13, 2010 at 7:40 am

    Other countries do not have the right to tell us that we obey their wishes and build in our country at location they select. They have threatened us if we do not adhere to their demands.

  11. Ian MacPherson September 13, 2010 at 8:48 am

    I wonder how the Little Rock 9 (one of whom died within the last few days) would feel about this. Here was a group of children who had to be escorted by the National Guard into their high school. They had the right to go there, but the ignorance and prejudice of the white majority would have denied them this. Only the use of a show of force allowed them to exercise their right.

    Rather than backing down to the ignorance and prejudice on either of these 2 issues, the US should be supporting both sides with demonstrations of force, showing that the exercising of fundamental rights is just that, regardless of the outrage it might cause.

  12. Eagle Driver September 13, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Liam,

    Interesting article in that I have changed my mind about you and your arguments. Learning has taken place. Although I disagree with some of your writings, with this article I have learned that you stand by the principle not the politics. I liked your comment:

    “We cannot let religious leaders dictate what is the acceptable way for society to regard their religious icons and artifacts. Interviews with religious leaders on television demonstrated a unanimous opinion that anything sacrilegious is wrong and therefore should be subject to government intervention. This is like asking oil company representatives to draft legislation regarding environmental regulations for drilling operations. That would be unimaginable stupid, right?”

    On your previous posts you always attacked the Christian side of the argument and I concluded: another writer attacking fundamental Christian values. However this is a false conclusion of mine as your arguments deal with the manipulation and degradation of our 1st Amendment. Although I believe Christianity is the best solution for a civilized people, it is a religion and this is a Nation that has a Bill of Rights paid for in blood. You have treated the current “reverence” of a religion equally with your posts. Thank you for the equal and balance writing on a principle (the Bill of Rights) that is fundamental to American Freedom. As my father before me defended this freedom against tyranny as a bomber pilot, I defended this freedom as a fighter pilot, and my son after me defended this freedom as a Marine in Iraq – I am thankful (although I may disagree with you) to your opinion.

    Thank you for stating the obvious attacks on our freedom.

    “The act of burning books is universally recognized as reprehensible. Images of tyranny and fascist control, and memories of some of human-kinds darkest hours immediately come to mind. Other than simply being distasteful to many, it is an act that can have two very clear messages. If done on a large scale, it is an act of censorship. If done on a smaller scale, it is a message of distaste and disrespect.” – well put!

    OK no more holding hands to sing Cum-bye-Ya, I’m still going to question you on Christianity.
    C’ya
    Eagle Driver

  13. dave September 13, 2010 at 9:26 am

    I am in complete agreement with the notion of freedom of speech. I accept the man has a right to burn the koran if he so chooses, however I am having a hard time understanding what would be the point in such an act? To demonstrate to the muslim people that a selection of the U.S population hates them? They already know that. To demonstrate his right to free speech regardless of religious sensitivities? We all already know that he along with the other citizens of the U.S.A have that right.

    I understand the frustrations of people who feel as though the U.S has bowed to pressure from other countries, but understand that what is said about the act being a potential danger to U.S lives is very real and very true. Anything that Terry Jones would have gotten out of burning copies of the koran would not have been worth even one life.

    Therefore while I believe in freedom of speech I also believe that the individual has a responsibility not only to themselves but also to their fellow citizens, who may or may not agree with the message, but who have the right to know that their safety won’t be comprised simply because someone else wished to make a point.

    Finally, let us stop reducing ourselves to committing acts that we would condemn the enemy for. It is time to be the bigger man so to speak, and to hold our heads up high and say to ourselves that they might do these things to us, but we shall never let that reduce us to their level where we will do these things to them (here I mean acts like book-burnings and other similarly general acts of disrespect, actual violence is another matter). We can not complain about other people in other countries burning U.S flags and then say it’s justification for burning the koran. Do you think that these people aren’t doing the exact same thing? Do you think they don’t use examples of American disrespect to their beliefs and countries as justification for their flag-burning types of acts? How can you complain about such acts if you are willing to commit the same? ‘They did it’ is not an excuse for what YOU do, we teach that to our children but don’t follow it for ourselves.

  14. Benjamin Franklin September 13, 2010 at 9:29 am

    The article is well said.

  15. altair September 13, 2010 at 9:45 am

    you forgot:
    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”
    -Evelyn Beatrice Hall in her biography of Voltaire

    • M and M September 13, 2010 at 11:36 am

      The US Military confiscated and burned Bibles in Afganistan. The Saudis confiscate and shred Bibles..
      The Afgani’s are not burning bibles because it is contraband
      How about a tolerance anticle about that?
      How about the UN Blasphemy Resolution
      Your pontificating is biased and ill inromed

  16. Solo September 13, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    It seems that what was once a great country has become nothing more than a copy of england. The United states was founded on the idea of freedom of Speach, Freedom of religion, free of Persecution for your beliefs. But look at us now we have no freedom from anything. We have allowed so many people here to find what they lacked in their home country that now they want the freedom to take what they can and expect the American people to genorously give more since they did not have this at home. We in turn have allowed the bleading hearts to run this country.
    What of the americans who died in the world wars and the many other wars since the beginning of time who freely gave their lives so we could have this freedom. If any country feels they need to bring their strife here to the people of the United States whether it be in the United States or The Embassy in that the country the by all rights we should have the right to lock our borders and refuse any more in and those who are within the united States who do not like go back home where they belong and aggravate their own goverment.

  17. Eric Sullivan September 13, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    I 100% agree. I think it is important to note that we all have a right to express ourselves for or against anything. That is regardless of whether it is popular or not. The point at which acts of violence are taken, or laws are made that limit our ability to express ourselves, is when freedom is degraded. If I say to you, I don’t think the mosque should be built in that location, doesn’t mean that I am opposed to freedom. It means I am expressing my reason for not wanting it there. If those who are responsible for building the mosque decide they are going to build it and they have a legal right to do so, then I have done all I can do. But, I still have the right to not want them to build it there and to say so. That is freedom of expression! I think the authors point is well taken. But, I am surprised he is criticizing the General who serves his country to protect his own freedom to speak out, simply because the general decided to express himself against the burning of the Koran. The general has the right to say what he thinks as well no matter if it is popular or not. I realize the general is contradicting his years of service through his words. But, he still has the right to do so. I certainly “Thank God” and all those who have died to give us all that right.

    I do believe the main point that we are letting fear of retaliation sway our thinking is happening more and more. We should not let the threat or acts of violence change our freedoms. We should all be willing to fight to keep them. Even, if it means we will perish in an act of terrorism.

    Regards,
    Eric S. Sullivan

  18. B Bonneau September 13, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    I agree about most of what you have said Liam and many of the comments here. However, I still think that we need to do some more thinking about the exercise of our freedom of expression.
    You say: “As distasteful as many may consider it, he was simply planning to exercise his freedom of expression.” It may seem like a simple thing, one of the ideas the most highly thought of in the nation, our freedom of expression, nevertheless, when you cite Justice Warren about crying fire in a crowded theatre, perhaps you should consider that the analogy concerning world affaires and the fear that such a cry might provoke, it is in fact not such a simple concept.
    After all, many if not most of the barbarous things that people have done to each other on this planet were followed up with such declarations that showed that the exercise of these rights should be a measured and precious thing.
    That is to say that the exercise of the freedom of expression should not be used for barbarous purposes.
    The Nazis for example, knew all too well to exercise what they considered to be their freedom of expression, along with the double measure of this right! Think of, for example, what the Nazi doctors did. I am talking about doctors who took Hippocrates oath when they set out to practice their art. What happened to their sermon to heal once they had been sworn in under the Nationalist swastika banner? Their oath was transformed into a sermon of hate and destruction. They just considered that the Jewish were the disease that had to be cut out of Germany!
    For these reasons, although there is now the Universal Human Rights Act (which also guarantees freedom of expression) nowadays in Europe, it is forbidden to do anything that might “incite racial hatred”. In fact the preamble to this document begins with this phrase “Considering that it is the misunderstanding of human rights that drove to the barbarous acts that revolted the conscious of humanity and … (remember that this document was drawn up after WWII). Just think of it ! A misunderstanding of human rights that drove to the genocide of 6 millions Jews and around 4 million other minorities! A misunderstanding of our rights! Now that is something that we need to ponder on. Isn’t there a limit to our own exercise of freedom of expression? In fact, the freedom that is sacrificed here by the Pastor Jones for security reasons is perhaps not a freedom sacrificed for his own security, nor that of our soldiers (even though that is how his renouncement has been interpreted), but for the security of the religious minorities and in particular the American Muslims in the United States. To protect these minorities against outbursts of racial hatred, and to protect all minorities is to protect what we believe in as Americans, and in finality, each of us as well.

  19. rj September 14, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Liam,
    I gotta hand it to ya, you hit it out of the park this time. Well done…

    How bout well thought out and researched article on the nature of the islam religion and its historical bloody conquest in a truely historical context and not slanted by the currently politically and liberally correct “islam is a religion of peace” mantra panted by the current and past media and politicos…

    America is waking up, how bout you serve a good cup of coffee.

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  21. Mark @ Israel September 20, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Oftentimes, freedom is seen and understood as the right to do what one wishes to do. Such notion of freedom is too far from its real concept. It is not a license to do what one wishes to do… In whatever perspective, the plan to burn the Koran is unacceptable. It is not acceptable socially, religiously or even politically especially that the one who planned it is a pastor. I also think that the plan to build a mosque near Ground Zero is very offensive to those who believe that Muslims were mainly responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Though, there’s religious tolerance and freedom in this country, yet it is not a license to disgrace many people with it.

  22. Oliver September 20, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    The problem is that the article fails in its initial premise
    “Blasphemy laws are instituted when members of a religious group decide that their belief system should be unassailable, immune from any real or perceived criticism, and protected from any disrespect or display of dissent. ”

    That supposes that blasphemy laws are only instituted to protect one’s own faith. The fact of the matter, however, is that they may very well be introduced to protect ALL faiths for the sake of quelling potential conflict on an “I don’t insult what you believe in and you don’t insult what I believe in”. The fact of the matter is they may simply be part of a general law covering hate speech of any kind – and this leads to the second part failing. They might not cover “any dissent” at all, but “disrespect” very much. They might not cover any kind of criticism, but such criticism that is disrespectful and can be seen as an incitement to non-verbal “dissent”.

    I take exception at your accusations at those condemning the book-burning. You are ignoring that such criticism not only was demonstrably not always grounded in fear of the consequences but precisely in the historical precedent and local values. No, you’re going even further – ironically, you are doing precisely that of which you accuse others: Deny others their right to freedom of expression because what they say is not in line with what you believe. And that is the core failing of the article. It’s not only wrong in many facts, it is hypocritical. That, and alas, it’s anti-democratic because it denies the right of a community to regulate how much respect its members are entitled to. By that line, we could equally well say that “repossessing” someone else’s car is simply a matter of expression of the opinion he’s not entitled to it and you are. Now you will say that that’s something different, because it involves someone’s property. But that’s getting things backwards. It is something different because lawmakers decided that other people’s property are off-limits. And in the same vein, lawmakers can decide that libel is illegal. And they can decide that other ways of disrespecting your fellow citizen is illegal, too. As long as such measures are in line with whatever constitution is valid locally, that’s perfectly ok. But frankly, condemning other people’s statement of disagreement and condamnation while promoting someone’s right to sow hatred is a declaration of intellectual bankruptcy. It’s putting your banner with the cause du jour for 15 minutes of fame, while giving a rodent’s posterior for the actual values one claims to promote.

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