The world is full of strange and dangerous people. Some of them think burning a book sacred to those of another religion is a good idea. Others think killing people from the same country as those who burned their sacred book should die. Both are children who look a lot like adults, but there is an important difference between them.
Terry Jones, the minister in question, thinks the Koran is evil. I don’t know. I haven’t read it, and I doubt that anything I did happen to read in there could persuade me that it was worthy of burning. I believe that the open airing of ideas is the best way to sort out the good from the bad. More importantly, I believe that it is each person’s right to speak freely. Symbolically, at least, Jones appears to think the suppression of ideas works better. I wonder how he would feel were his Holy Book the one being burned.
Some Muslims think mayhem is justified when their Holy Book is burned. Likewise if anyone makes fun of The Prophet. At least Jones hasn’t burned any people yet. I am not fond of his message, but I tolerate it because it harms no one. It may make them angry, but it does not materially harm them. The Muslims who are killing UN personnel because they can’t find enough Americans are the culpable ones.
But didn’t Jones incite them to violence? Well, no. He didn’t. They did it to themselves. I think Jones used an astonishing lack of judgment, but only because book-burning is a puerile act, not because anyone should be cowed by people threatening violence to unbelievers. Jones is completely within his rights to burn the Koran. Muslims who kill in retaliation are not within their rights to kill infidels. The same would apply to Christians, Voo Doo adherents, and Fundamentalist Pagans.
At the risk of offending members of most all religions, let me suggest something radical. Your religion may serve a wonderful purpose. It may give you strength when you need it most, companionship with like-minded people, and some way to make sense of the absurdity of human existence, but all those things apply to you in particular. They are not prescriptions for others, and nothing in a decent human being would prompt killing others in your religion’s name.
Live and let live in the name of faith. If you have something worthwhile for someone else, they will come to you freely. No need to force them. If someone insults your religion, don’t demean your faith by defending it. If your faith is true, there is no need to defend it to anyone, especially a childish preacher.