Is Burning the Koran a Freedon Too Far?

Pastor Terry Jones and his Campaign

Thank goodness, Pastor Terry Jones from Florida will not now be burning copies of the Koran on the 11th September as an attempt to “wake up” Americans to the “dangers” of Islam but it still surprises me that he could have done it legally, in the United States. Such an act in almost any liberal democracy however, would have landed the Reverend in prison; so what is going on in the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave?

The truth is that the First Amendment of the American constitution provides citizens of the states the right to say exactly what they think about any subject, no matter how offensive that may be to other people. Neo-Nazis may parade the swastika with impunity, Klu-Klux-Clan members may burn the fiery cross on private land with no consequences and holocaust deniers can claim that six-million jews did not die in gas chambers during the Second World War whenever and however they like.

What Pastor Jones believes

Does the fact that Pastor Jones would have been arrested in the UK for breaching the law making it illegal to incite racial or religious hatred make the UK less democratic than the US? I think not. In the materialist States, burning a sacred book is not considered an act of aggression against a person so there, I could burn a whole stack of bibles without the chance of arrest [so long as I had a permit to hold a bonfire] where as in the UK , the symbolic meaning of the act would be taken into account and off to Wormwood Scrubs I would go…

Now, you may call me an old bleeding heart pinko but I hold firm to the belief that I should be able to think whatever I please and do whatever I want, so long as I don’t harm anyone else. I also believe the same holds true for everyone else and that’s the reason the UK has such the incitement  law. It assumes that You have the same rights as Me and neither of us has a right to offend the other. Very British, don’t you think? Now, I don’t think the British legal system is perfect and but when it comes to Free Speech, I think they have it about right. You can say exactly what you want at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park or on the floor of the House of Commons even if it isn’t true without fear of prosecution but saying it in a newspaper or in a public place will land you in big trouble.

In 1917,  the General Secretary of the Socialist Party of America was prosecuted for opposing the draft of soldiers to the First World. He claimed the First Amendment as his defence but was convicted because his actions presented “words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent”. Since that time the term “imminent lawless act” had been used to qualify the meaning of the term and as such Pastor Jones, living his small life in Florida has avoided prosecution because he wasn’t planning to attack any particularMuslims in this community…

Rioting in Afganistan thanks to to Rev. Jones

What about the lawless acts that took place as a result of Pastor Jones’s exhaultations in Afganistan [where one person was killed during rioting] and how about the added danger to US, UK and other forces placed in the line of fire as a result of his campaign? We live in a global village and what is whispered at one end of the community is heard at the other loud and clear. 

On the eve of 9/11 it is time for small minded people like Terry Jones to shut up once and for all.

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About stevehollier

Steve Hollier is the editor of AZ Magazine, an English language lifestyle magazine based in Baku, Azerbaijan. He began his career working for a firm of stockbrokers in the City of London then went on to attend the University of Essex where he was awarded an MA in Sociology in 1984. After a career in arts and cultural development work, he became a freelance arts consultant, writer and photographer.
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8 Responses to Is Burning the Koran a Freedon Too Far?

  1. cumbrianwa says:

    Well said, Steve! Words travel. Let good sense and fair play prevail.

  2. Hugh Paxton says:

    Global whispers! Brilliant!

    This is exactly right.

    A small story – and the pastor is small – as is (was?) his congregation.

    But the story grows with the re-telling and the re-telling. It becomes monstrously distorted in the telling and in the different translations and interpretations.

    In defence of the pastor, I can understand his irritation. Crowds consistently yell “Death to America!” burn the American flag, defame America as “the Great Satan”, chop heads off and blow people up.

    If they routinely pulled that offensive bullshit and burned the Union Jack I’d want to burn their flags and kick them in the knackers!

    Some Islamic people wear me out with their tedious self-destruction, their hatred of the other, their abuse of women, their willingness to negate the positive in life.

    But, if there are a billion Moslems, I can’t help feeling that a few of them or maybe several million might be very nice people.

    What I think is necessary is that Islamic leaders come out, in force, and condemn Al Queada, issue fatwahs on suicide bombings, and reign in the militants and hysterics who are soiling a religion that, like any religion, provides a source of strength and comfort to many.

    Executive Summary: the pastor’s a jerk. And so are Islamic extremists.

    Hugh

  3. Mr. Roach says:

    One thing Jones did expose, however, was the craven hypocrisy of our leadership class and the just-beneath-the-surface propensity for violence by Muslims, which claim rather unconvincingly that they are a Religion of Peace. That one man could shake this unstable system to the core says a lot about how fragile and soon-to-disappear are the shibboleths of multiculturalism.

    • stevehollier says:

      I don’t think that Terry Jones exposed anything new, he was counting on an extreme response to his actions to gain as much publicity as he could get. He succeeded and wasted a lot of very important peoples time. I don’t think it fair to say he has “shaken to the core” anything. It says more about the desire for rating by TV companies and the appeal of sensational stories to news media.

      The word “shibboleth” is not one that I use, so I looked it up in Websters and find it means a word or saying used by adherents of a party, sect, or belief and usually regarded by others as empty of real meaning. So you feel that America is not a multicultural country or should not be one? Either way, I think you are wrong. It you have a look at the Wikipedia article on ethnicity in the United States, you can see that in 2000,
      nearly 30 million Americans claimed African American ancestry, 18 million Mexican, 8 million American Indian. The majority of the rest have backgrounds a diverse collection of European countries. Perhaps that is not what you mean? Perhaps you are suggesting that the only True American is someone with the same beliefs [white, Catholic and conservative] as yourself? Perhaps you feel it is the duty of America to bring the “American Dream” to the entire world and turn us all into Good Americans?

      In a country that prides itself on Freedom, do you not think it appropriate to celebrate the cultural diversity that is the very foundation of the United States?

  4. Mr. Roach says:

    The foundation of the United States is white people seeking to live among one another without the sectarian conflicts of Europe. Slavery was a mistake, not least because it introduced an alien and incompatible culture into the mix. It’s not been a happy history between the two races. The newer groups have been brought since 1965 in a deliberate attempt of cultural genocide of white America.

  5. Mr. Roach says:

    Read my latest piece on Koran Burning, in particular on the legal realists. It’s not a “conspiracy theory” but it does get at who is changing America and why.

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