February 25, 2012

Two Different Responses to Quran Burning

QuranIt isn't exactly surprising that there will be riots in some predominately Muslim countries when a Westerner burns a Quran. They consider this book "holy" for some reason, and get extremely upset when someone burns it. In fact, they get so upset that people are often killed during the subsequent rioting. We have seen this happen time and time again, so it really can't be a surprise at this point. As far as what to do about it, there are two fairly different responses, each of which has some merit.

Westerners Should Stop Burning the Quran

The easiest solution - and the only one you will hear about in the corporate-owned media - is to stop burning the Quran. This book means a great deal to many Muslims, and non-Muslims should treat it with respect. For some, this argument is merely pragmatic: If I know that my burning this book will lead to rioting and death, I should not burn it. For others, it extends a step beyond pragmatism and focuses on respect: I know that this is their "holy" book, and I should therefore treat it with some measure of respect even if I don't regard it as holy.

The strongest case for why Westerners should stop burning the Quran can be seen in the most recent incident where Qurans were burned at a U.S. military base. Because this particular Quran burning is associated with an occupying force, it endangers the troops and shapes public attitudes even more than others might. That is, for an occupying military to burn Qurans on foreign soil is detrimental to what they say they are trying to accomplish there. Even if you don't think that Westerners should stop burning the Quran, you'll likely agree that this particular instance of Quran burning was a mistake.

It's Only a Book

The other type of response is the one where we refuse to accept responsibility for Muslim violence. The Quran is not holy; it is a book. If they are going to riot and kill because someone criticized their religion, destroyed a book, drew a cartoon, allowed a woman to drive, etc., that is on them and their "religion of peace." Burning the book didn't cause violence; their religion did.

As noted above, even if you or I might prefer this response, I'd still suggest that members of an occupying military force should not burn Qurans. If nothing else, it is unnecessary incitement of the locals with whom they are allegedly trying to cultivate a productive relationship.

There's also a fairly obvious problem with this response: Christians probably wouldn't like it being applied to them. If we are going to argue that the Quran is only a book, the same would have to be said about the Christian bible. While you or I might be fine with this (I certainly am), I don't see it going down well among my neighbors here in the Bible Belt. Perhaps we could set up some sort of exchange where Muslims burned Christian bibles every time anybody burned a Quran.

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