No one in their right mind could defend a deliberate, unprovoked insult intended solely to wound people's feelings. How brave and righteous the ragged little band of headcases from Gainesville must feel as they prepare to burn the Qur'an--like the Phelpsbrood picketing the funerals of American soldiers.
I can appreciate that millions of Muslims worldwide will take grave offence to this gratuitous display of bigotry. No doubt a good many of them will fill the streets of their countries, protesting this stupid slur against the Recitation.
I just find myself wishing that they would display equal fervour when unspeakable atrocities are committed in their name.
In Iran, a country combining 21st-century technology with a 10th-century leadership, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has already been lashed ninety-nine times because a newspaper printed a picture of someone who looked like her, without a headscarf.
That's just for starters. This woman will shortly be stoned to death, not by a mindless lynch mob, but by judicial order. Her "trial," for adultery, was carried out in a language she doesn't even understand, with no interpretation.
And the stones may not be too big--because she might die too quickly.
Why will this not arouse the passion of those crowds who rally to the defence of the Qur'an? Why are they not furious that such obscenities are to be carried out in the name of the very Book that they hold dear, the Messenger who transcribed it, and the God--Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful-- who transmitted his holy words through the angel Gabriel?
No Christian or Jew can defend the burning in Gainesville, and many are already speaking out.
No Muslim should countenance the stoning in Tabriz.
And as a secularist, I can't help but observe: the flames will devour a book with no nerves and no blood. But the stones will strike and slowly bruise the life out of a screaming Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. In 2010, before the eyes of the world.
UPDATE: (September 8) Stoning "on hold." Iran: "not a human rights matter."
UPPERDATE: (September 9) Burning cancelled. Right-wing bloggers devastated.
UPPESTDATE: (September 10) Oh, make up your mind, you infernal boob. Seems like a moronic tag-team is now in play.
Incidentally I agree with this. We are not dealing merely with the antics of a rightfully little-known Xian sect, but with a much larger phenomenon, including media hypermagnification. And it is, of course, that phenomenon as a whole--the entire hideous assemblage of actors, media, public figures and innumerable second-order commenters--to which Muslims around the world are already reacting, and of which they are, in fact, a part.
For those who think the (on-again, off-again) cancellation of the bonfire is a Bad Thing because it's somehow knuckling under to something, take note: many of us civilized folk are more concerned by the gratuitous nature of the act itself, and its publicists (in whose number we must paradoxically include ourselves) than by the threat of retaliation.
There should be no acts of retaliation, of course, although there almost certainly will be if the burning proceeds. But that probability doesn't figure very largely in the progressive calculus when we assess the original provocative act, its cranked-up amplification, and its benighted defenders.