|Terry Jones and his|
righteous facial hair
I reckon he was unprepared for the global backlash. Everybody from the Afghan government to the Vatican has condemned the idea. Even his neighbours in Gainesville hate it. Indeed, local Christians, Jews and Muslims are organising inclusive events with each other. Some churches even plan to read from the Koran this weekend. So well done, Pastor Jones! Your reactionary stance has been the catalyst for the promotion of peace and mutual understanding.
But something about this has bothered me. You'll have discerned from my use of Günter Grass' quote that I am not in favour of destroying books. They are (and I realise this might sound a bit pseudy) the means by which we document our humanity, good, bad or indifferent. So, yes, please don't burn the Koran. But...why don't governments and religious leaders around the world condemn the burning of Bibles by radicals of other faiths with the same urgency? Are we not just appeasing those who shout loudest?
The answer, I now think, lies in the capacity of the offendee to be offended. Where I work there is a anti-harrassment policy which makes it clear that it's all about the perception of the individual. You may be able to make a jokey remark which most people would laugh at and consider inoffensive, but if one person finds it offensive, and you know that, then you are harrassing them. This may seem over the top in some circumstances, but the principle is a good one.
The issue with the Koran is that it is very hard for those outside Islam to understand just how offensive it is to a Muslim to disrespect his holy book. Christians may get annoyed when the Bible is burned, or those like me might be very cross to see people destroying, say, The Origin of Species, but very rarely will it seem a personal blow striking at the very core of one's beliefs. You may say, well, those Muslims, they shouldn't get so upset about it, but in human society that is not really a valid response. People who deliberately offend others are bullying them, and whatever you may feel about the religious views involved, that is what the Koran-burning is.
All of that said, I am grateful to Pastor Jones for reminding me again of the horror of 9/11. I just think we need to find a less unhelpful way to remember those who died.