Wednesday 29 September 2010

In the Shade of the Koran**. On Pastor Terry Jones

Has anyone noticed that Pastor Terry Jones (left) – the fellow who ignited a global firestorm, though not, in the end, a book –  looks uncannily like Terry Jones of the Monty Python Flying Circus?  You haven’t? 
Well, I guess that’s because in fact he doesn’t look like Terry Jones at all.  When I got back to Googledom I found that he looks creepily, not like Terry, but like Graham Chapman, the late lamented Python.  Now that’s perhaps even more creepy Darlings, as Dame Edna would say, if she took an interest in the Koran, which I’m sure she doesn’t, is that Chapman played the part of Brian in the  “Life of Brian”, which of course mocked religious belief. 
I was in the UK when “The Life of Brian” first came out and I remember the upset it caused some Christians.   There were even protests outside theatres.  But what happened? 

The government told them to put a sock in it.  Quite right too.  After all, it was not taking aim at Jesus; well not directly. Brian was Brian, not Jesus, and what was being satirized was irrational belief in Messiahs.  And was anyone scared to go to the movies?  Not a bit of it; the demonstrations only had the effect of bringing more people to the theatre, and it was a jolly laugh  too, that has worn very well to this day.  And of course the demonstrators were ladies in cardigans, not skullcapped bearded fellows calling for the beheading of Chapman and his fellow Pythons.
Back to the Terry Jones of Florida.  He declared a “Burn the Koran Day” sometime in June, I think it was.  As a dedicated Jihad-watcher, I was onto this story well before it hit the mainstream media.  And it only did so because of the to-be-expected vomiting of murderous hate in international Muslim circles. 
What did the politicians, the MSM and the literati say?  Basically that he, Terry Jones, should put a sock in it, not that that Muslims should suck it up.  They blamed him in advance for an increase in violence against American troops and westerners everywhere.
What should they have said? 
I think they should have said something along the following lines: “This fellow Terry Jones is a bit of a twit – he hasn’t even read the Koran, after all – and burning books is a crazy/silly thing to do. But he has every right to burn the Koran, the Flag, the Bible or any other item he wishes, as long as he doesn’t litter.  This is the way it is in a free democratic society.  If anyone threatens him, we take that seriously and if anyone tries to do him harm we will bring the full force of the law to bear on them”.
Where’s our Voltaire?  “I do not think you should burn books, but I will defend with my life your right to burn them (as long as you don’t litter).”
Instead of which we had Obama and Gates saying that he should give up his plan, for it would put Americans in harms’ way.  And Petraus said that the Taliban would increase their murderous ways in response.   As if they’re not already fearsome enough fighters – read Sebastian Unger’s “War”, for an inside look at the ferocious fights they face already in Afghanistan.
The most balanced that people could get in the MSM was to call for the moderate centre of both Muslim and non-Muslim worlds, so as not to give succour to the extremists on both sides.   Examples of this were Greg Sheridan in The Australian and Steven Vines in the South China Morning Post.  And this morning, I heard the PM of Malaysia say much the same thing and congratulate Obama for his “brave words” on this issue.  “Brave”.  Huh!
The problem with this tack is that it takes on only one side of the extremists.  Jones is excoriated, but there’s no call for some common sense (“sense” from the Taliban?) on the Muslim side.   Indeed this tack only serves to strengthen the extremists on the Muslim side for they see that threatening violence has the desired effect: of stifling any criticism of Islam at all.
Meantime, instead of protecting Jones’ right to free speech with the full weight of the law, we find that Pastor Jones is going to be charged $US 180,000 by the Florida police for providing “protection” for him, protection that he did not seek.  In other words, Jones is being charged for the entirely disproportionate reaction of the Muslim world, a reaction that we would find in any other circumstance totally unacceptable.
Graham Chapman as Brian, upset at some Bible burning?....

“Both sides guilty of excess in U.S. Islam Debate”, Greg Sheridan, The Australian, September 18-19, 2010. [link]
“Living with extremist idiots”, Steven Vines, South China Morning Post, Sep 25, 2010.  [pdf]
War, by Sebasian Unger, Twelve, May 2010.  [Amazon]
Postscript: Two good articles, on the Koran burning and the Ground Zero mosque issue:
"Burning the Koran", Bruce Bawer, Human Rights Service, 9 Sep 2010 [link] [pdf]
"Getting it", Bruce Bawer, Human Rights Service, 20 Sep 2010.  Critique of letters to the New York Times, [link] [pdf]
 **The reference in the title of this Post is to a book by Sayyid Qutb, the major promoter of the Muslim Brotherhood,  the progenitor to Al Qaeda and most Sunni terrorist and Stealth Jihadi groups in the world today.  The Koran shades so much: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, democracy and the rights of women and minorities.  Oh, and the right to the eco-friendly burning of any book you want.