Why Koran burning deserves First Amendment protection
April 5 2011
The people who murdered the aid workers did not get magically transformed into murderers from peaceful pacifists by Jones' remote and obscure protest from halfway around the world.
The murders took place because the extremists involved decided to kill, and the responsibility is theirs. To believe otherwise is to reject entirely the legal and moral principles of responsibility and free will, which are the very basis of liberty. Without those principles, the constitution wouldn't apply at all to any human endeavor, whether in wartime or not. No one should know this better than those selected to lead our nation.
Our armed forces defend our constitution valiantly, but that’s their job; the constitution doesn’t exist at their pleasure. Because the constitution acts to restrain government on behalf of a free people, it most certainly does have meaning that transcends a single individual, no matter how valorous he may be.
This is yet another case where there shouldn't be a law, as the one we have in the First Amendment works perfectly well as it is. The proper and most effective remedy to bad speech is more speech, not government-imposed silence.
Apr 6, 2011
'Flaming' of Islam has to be stopped
AN AMERICAN pastor branded a cultist by estranged followers eventually made good on his threat to burn the Quran. He can now rouse his dwindling flock by saying President Barack Obama, the Defence Secretary and the general conducting the Afghanistan campaign could not stop him from dramatising his beliefs. Which were, what?
Of the wanton killings by Muslim rioters that his act caused in Afghanistan the past week, pastor Terry Jones disputes that he has blood on his hands.
His next act, he suggests, is to place Prophet Muhammad 'on trial', just as he had the Quran. Its burning had been the 'sentence'. There is nothing theatrical about random acts of provocation. They are downright dangerous, abetted in some cases by permissive laws.
A case could be made out that there are degrees of madness or delusion which afflict leaders of cults. But how to define depravity within an American constitutional context of free speech guarantees? Bringing decorum to the religious sphere has to start in America because intolerance tends to find fertile soil in its interior communities.
That the Quran burning was a triumph of ignorance and bigotry, there is no doubt. Fair-minded people are rightly alarmed at the poisonous overtone of religious contestation that arose after the Sept 11 attacks spawned a misleading view of Islam. What is being done to roll back the prejudice?
The pastor's act and that of a Danish newspaper cartoonist who drew offensive caricatures of the Prophet are signs of an anti-Islam baiting campaign gathering force. It could get more widespread, in Europe as well as in America. It will spark retaliatory mob violence which in turn will harden attitudes against Islam.
The American public, politicians and the media have acted sensibly in condemning the pastor for his stunt. The Quran-burning ritual which took place on March 20 had been deliberately blacked out by media. It became public knowledge only after the pastor posted a video of it on his website. But America may have to go beyond a climate of censure as a check against intemperance, to consider criminalising incitement in an expansion of hate-crimes legislation.
Arguing free speech as a First Amendment bedrock protection may become less convincing over time when religious extremists begin to cause schisms and serious disruptions in society. The European Union has just as robust protections. Yet Germany and many other European nations still outlaw denials of the Holocaust and the Jewish extermination.
What could be more injurious to social order in a post-Sept 11 world than the 'flaming' of Islam as sport?