On Libricide

Something tells me the Quran-burning scheduled for Saturday at the delightfully named Dove World Outreach fundamentalist Christian church in Florida isn’t going to happen. What with 100 armed citizens’ militia, the world’s media, pro- and anti- demonstrators and probably fire permit enforcement officials all planning to attend, the whole thing would end up being a crowd-control circus. And even if they have little time for the Vatican, Hilary Clinton or Germany’s Angela Merkel, the cretinous Evangelicals led by Pastor Terry Jones may at least pause for thought before defying US General Petraeus, Sarah Palin and other patriotic and God-fearing opponents of the event.

This will be a good thing because book-burning is creepy, and because such a specific and extreme insult to Islam is almost designed to boost recruitment rates at suicide-bomber training camps across the world. The Dove World Outreach folk are Western civilization’s equivalent of strict Muslims. To them, the New Testament is the word of God and the literal truth. We are currently in the End Time, the chaotic era preceding the second coming of Christ, following which Jesus Himself will cast all sinners – including all heathens and non-Evangelicals and non-believers in Noah’s Ark and the rest of the Book of Genesis – into the eternal fiery torment of Hell, after hacking them up a bit with a sword. It would be great to tie these people and their Muslim counterparts into a sack and leave them to it.

But a little bit of me secretly wouldn’t mind seeing the book go up in flames. On a radio interview yesterday, Pastor Jones outlined his thinking to a (presumably BBC) reporter wringing his hands about grievously offending a billion Muslims. The preacher’s main concern was that Muslims needed to be saved for Jesus lest they end up in perpetual suffering being roasted on a spit by demons. But at one stage he briefly mentioned something that should resonate with all of us: the growing de-facto status of Islam as a special faith that is protected from criticism and overrides freedom of expression.

For years in most Western societies, a well-intentioned spirit of multiculturalism has yielded to Muslims claiming to be offended by something – it could be as ridiculous as a cartoon of a pig in a kids’ book, or the portrayal of Mohamed in contradiction of Islamic (but no-one else’s) teachings. (There is probably also a feeling of ‘anything for a quiet life’. When the Shelley Street Mosque was built in the 19th Century, the colonial Hong Kong authorities passed a law banning the transportation of swine past the site. For all I know, anyone clutching a pack of Park N Shop bacon on the Mid-Levels Escalator today is committing an offence – though the worshipers don’t seem to care.)

Perhaps encouraged by this reluctance to defend basic principles of free speech, somewhere between 0.1% and 99.9% of Muslims have come to assume an entitlement to demand this privileged protection for their faith more rigorously. To offer help – albeit no doubt as a stunt – for people wishing to leave Islam and thus in physical danger is inflammatory or polarizing. Indeed, they assume a right to enforce it. When the vast majority of Western newspapers and TV stations failed to reproduce the Danish cartoons satirizing Mohamed, it wasn’t out of some kindly respect for Muslims’ sensitivities but because they were afraid of their offices being firebombed.

The FBI is now warning that the Quran-burning, an act fully within constitutional rights, may provoke violence, with the clear underlying message that it should therefore please not happen. Implication (stripping all the idiocy and obnoxiousness out of the picture): individuals or groups threatening violence may now veto others’ exercise of their constitutional rights. Another example is some British commentators’ views and protests that the UK’s presence in Iraq/Afghanistan brought the 7/7 London suicide bomb attacks upon the country. Implication: the foreign policy of the UK’s democratically elected government should now be subject to a veto by a little group of disaffected Pakistani youths.

An attempt to be tolerant has encouraged muddled thinking and irrationality. A recent Washington Post opinion column featured confused Muslim academic Muqtedar Khan who says of the planned Quran-burning: “The Constitution does not permit this. The Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment. For Muslims this is worse than torture.” (The bar on cruel and unusual punishment, lifted from England’s 1689 Bill of Rights, is of course designed to constrain government.)

As for irrationality, he also says:

…the Quran is the thing that Muslims hold the dearest. My children have been listening to it since even before they were born. I use to recite it to them while they were still in the womb. Their children will be reciting it to them when they will be lowered in to their tomb. Believe me, there is nothing more precious to Muslims than the Quran, and watching people toss it into fire, will be horrifying. I would rather burn in fire myself, than watch a Quran burn.

Rather immolate yourself than see some paper and ink go up in smoke? This is verging on a mental health issue. If your religion is that sensitive, vulnerable and fragile, you need to get a new one – one that has the confidence to let the almighty penalize such slurs as he sees fit in the next life.

What I think we are seeing here and with the Ground Zero Mosque fuss is a backlash against this creeping Islam-is-special mentality. (Khan, to his credit, says: “I think Muslims may have invited this through their own hateful zealotry.”) Since moderate defenders of free speech haven’t had the guts to stand up and insist that all faiths have equal non-protection against insults or being offended, the lunatics of Dove World Outreach will happily do it for us in their own unhelpful way.

My humble suggestion for Saturday: The Great Holy Scripture Cook-Off. Get all the people who believe their scriptures are the literal truth and unbelievers are damned, and let them burn each other’s sacred texts for as long as it takes until inventories are exhausted. Beer and soft drinks available. Maybe when they’ve burned every last Bible and every last Quran on the planet we’ll have some sanity and peace.

Not this one. We'll keep a few historic editions tucked away in museums

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21 Responses to On Libricide

  1. Sir Crispin says:

    This clip from Lewis Black on the Old Testament beliefs which spawned sequels such as Christianity 2.0, Islam 2.1 and Mormonism -10 is one of my all time favourites.

    “They are stone-cold, f#ck nuts.”


  2. Darovia says:

    “I would rather burn in fire myself that watch the Quran burn.” I’m sure this can be arranged.

  3. Mike says:

    I second the great religious cook-off, but you seem to have forgotten the additional bronze age relic – toss the Torah into the pot as well, just to keep things equal.

    “God is unnecessary” – Stephen Hawking, 2010

  4. Sarah Palin says:

    Everything I need to know about Islam, I learned on 9/11.

  5. Foxtrotosca says:

    Like Beer, religion is the cause of and solution to all of lifes problems.

  6. John Pilger says:

    Sadly you have missed the point.

    Muslims are more concerned with invasion, occupation, genocide, land grabs and the stealing of oil and other resources in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.

    Witness the revelations in the UK Guardian today about US troops killing Afghans for sport and keeping the fingers.

    The religious element is often incidental and frequently a smoke screen.


  7. pcrghlll says:

    I always thought Terry Jones was one of the best Pythons. What came over him?

  8. Not John Pilger says:

    Is it really The John Pilger?

    I don’t think the point has been missed at all. Iraqi’s, Afghan’s, Palestinian’s and many others (certainly not only Muslims, as you put it) can and should be very concerned about invasions, occupation, theft. It isn’t (or shouldn’t be) a Muslim thing.

    However, very separately, and nothing to do with the invasions, the Muslim faith is accorded very special treatment which can result in, at one extreme, the indignation of some sectors of society against others who are simply going about their normal daily business, to at the other extreme the obscenity of fatwas issued against writers or cartoonists and gross acts of terror against innocents in the name of religion.

    No doubt the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the religious element have become confused but they are and should be treated as separate. The religious element is not incidental. It is, alongside the invasions, at the core of the problem.

  9. Maugrim says:

    A good article Hemmers. Logic and honesty without the handwringing that goes on in society. I do find it ironic that Muslim academic Muqtedar Khan is using the Constitution as a defense when a number of his brothers spit on all it stands for. Can’t have it both ways.

  10. cecilie says:

    Ha ha. Let them be offended, I say. They are always looking for something to be offended by, so why not give them something real for a change? Real, as in “something that can be construed as an insult by people other than muslims.”

    Meanwhile, I’m more offended by stoning of “adulterers”, hanging of homosexuals, child marriage, hand-chopping, burning of churches and cultural artefacts, wrapping of women in death-shrouds, killing of daughters, cutting off people’s ears and noses, killing and/or threatening to kill guys who make films based on the scriptures in the koran …

    But then again, as people take such pains to tell me, I have completely misunderstood islam. It’s really the religion of peace, and all those imams spouting violence and hatred from the mosques, all the guys holding posters saying “behead those who offend islam” have *also* misunderstood their own religion, built solely on the koran … which, when they read it and take it literally, they misunderstand.

    I’m against book burning, it is indeed creepy, therefore I must be against this little up yours from one facial hair-wearer to another.

    But not because I’m worried about muslims’ feelings – we all know how they feel, and have known since around the year 622. I’m tired of their dreary, over-predictable feelings.

    Jones is doing what a lot of people would like to do if they weren’t so afraid of being beheaded. Everybody’s looking forward to Burn Koran Day!

  11. Zoroastrian says:

    ‘John Pilger’ is the one missing the point (which the real Pilger would get). It’s about Koran burning and this special treatment thing for muslims..

  12. Donald Tsang says:

    I resent the implication that all religous zealouts are nutbags. Having been been touched by his noodly appendage more than once, I know that there is no god but the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and we are right to worship him. I am a devout pastafarian, and I encourage you to join ‘Burn the Korean’ day or whatever it is, so that people may look pasta this charade of a religion and see the Spaghetti Monster in all his saucy goodness.

    Body of Chrissie Chau, Amen.

  13. Jack Custard says:

    Go Lady, Go! (to Cecilie)

  14. Germaine Greer says:


    You left female circumcision off your list.

  15. cecilie says:

    I didn’t have enough fingers. The list is too long.

  16. expat says:

    Death to those who say islam is not a religion of peace!

  17. Angus says:

    You book burners are living in the dark ages. Download the religious text of your choice to a Kindle and then delete it.

  18. Ian Dunross says:

    See you outside the new Bible Temple ( aka The Vine 2 aka old Imperial Cinema, Wanchai ). A bring a bible (or at least bring a book) party. It’s conveniently located near to the Wanchai mosque – for a bit of balance.

    The Noble House will gladly bring its Hotchkiss three pounder from East Point to start the proceedings.

  19. Voltaire says:

    Where’s the freedom of speech and assembly in the hysterical protests against Cordoba House?

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