Sign displayed by Dove World Outreach Centre.

“We have firmly made up our mind” to carry out the Koran burnings, “but at the same time, we are definitely praying about it.” That sounds pretty discerning. Pastor Dave Jones of the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville, Fla, may indeed believe that God wants him and his flock to burn copies of the Koran. However, while they keep praying, perhaps God will lead them to listen to General David Petraeus, who thinks that “International Burn a Koran Day” is a pretty dumb idea that will get his soldiers killed in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Normally I don’t think that military leaders should tell churches what to do, but I’m prepared to make an exception for the General this time.

0 Responses

  1. These loonies (no offense to your currency) rate right up there with their opposite number who go around the country defaming the fallen at soldier's funerals. Both get more press than deserved, but are perfectly positioned in the Infotainment Age.

  2. this issue is such a dangerous one. my original reaction when I heard about the plan to build a mosque close to ground zero was "how dare they?". but I was reminded that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by extremists and that the majority of Islam is peaceful and peace-seeking. but when nut-bars like Dave Jones seek to burn the Koran, this is in my humble opinion dangerous and stupid. it has the potential to make a very bad situation very much worse. it has the potential to inflame an already serious situation and will escalate exponentially. somehow wise heads must prevail before it gets completely out of control.

  3. You seem to be saying that Jones shouldn't burn the Koran because of how the "enemy" in Afghanistan will react.

    How would you suggest we determine which freedoms extremists should have veto power over?

  4. JD:
    Yes, that is what I'm saying. I can think of other reasons why Jones shouldn't proceed as planned, but that is one of them.

    I don't follow your question. Which extremists and which freedoms are you referring to?


  5. President Obama said Jones' act would incite al Qaeda (extremists), but even most critics have acknowledged that Jones is exercising a fundamental right to free speech.

    You seem to say that the extremist threat should take precedence over Jones' fundamental right. If that is the case, what other rights should we curtail in the face of a threat from a group like al Qaeda?

    To put it close to home, if the Taliban said the existence of Canadian Christian Chaplains was cause for violence because it was an affront to Islam, would that be cause enough for the Canadian government to ban Chaplains from service?

    At what point do we choose to defend a right, even in the face of a threat, rather than attempt to appease those who would resort to violence?

  6. JD:
    If you are saying that Jones as a representative of one religion has the fundamental right to burn the most important symbol of another religion, then I would suppose I would agree to the extent that everyone has the fundamental right to be stupid.

    I think your language about "curtailing" his right to be stupid in public is over the top, because to my knowledge, no one, not even President Obama, has said that Pastor Jones will be forbidden from his action.

    There are situations where public security trumps freedom of speech. You can't yell "fire" in a crowded theatre if there is no fire. In this case, Jones is surely pouring gasoline onto an extant fire in that he if he does proceed, then that video will be on Al-Q and jihadi videos for a generation to come, and innocent soldiers and civilians will die because of it. Jones himself has admitted this possibility, but has said that if anyone gets killed because of his proposed action, he won't be responsible. Nice.

    If you want to talk about chaplains, those of my colleagues who are deployed in theatre are seen by most of the populace as holy men and women, people of the book, and therefore my colleagues can play a role in reconstruction and liason with local leaders, even though they are Christians. I also note that we have at least one Moslem chaplain who has served in Afghanistan whose efforts to build links with the locals have been seen as invaluable. Jones' actions and those of the inevitable copycats will make any make it harder to find common ground between cultures and religions.

    I suppose at the end of the day I would agree with Dan Drezner that Jones has the right to be an idiot.

    Also worth quoting is Heinrich Heine: "where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also".

  7. "your language about "curtailing" his right to be stupid in public is over the top, because…no one…has said that Pastor Jones will be forbidden from his action."
    Ah, but you equated his action with killing Soldiers, which most would say should be forbidden. Unless you meant to say "Florida Church wants to kill Soldiers, but that's OK…"

    "You can't yell "fire" in a crowded theatre if there is no fire."
    True, but an inappropriate analogy. A better one would be a movie critic saying they were going to trash a movie in their column, only to have someone say "if you do, I'll blow a theatre up."

    You seem to have missed my entire point. When you let violent extremists dictate what freedoms we can and cannot enjoy (ie, their threat becomes sufficient to justify equating Jones' action with killing Soldiers), at what point do you draw the line and say you will defend a freedom even if there is violent opposition?

    The US military has long held to the virtue that it "fights to defend freedom." Isn't freedom of speech one of those freedoms?

    If we won't fight to defend that freedom, what other freedoms will we surrender because of threats?

    Your last statement (he has a right to be stupid) seems to be a slight retraction, since it seems unlikely you'd say he has a right to kill Soldiers. Perhaps your original post was a bit more inflammatory than it should have been, in retrospect.

  8. JD:

    I assume that the US military fights to defend values including freedom of expression, just as my country's military fights to protect Canadian values.

    What I'm having trouble understanding is exactly how Jones' proposed action of Koran burning is an expression that can be considered worthy of the term "freedom of expression"? Jones tried to articulate his intentions in subsequent appearances before the media, saying (I gather) that Islam had an undue influence in America. Fine. If he believes that, he's not alone. But the act of burning a Koran is of itself an inarticulate action, a wordless expression of mere emotion that a reasonable person would interpret as rage and hatred. I don't see how burning a Koran is any different, at that level, from painting a swastika on a synagogue. In my country the latter would be a considered a hate crime and not an act of expression deserving of any kind of protection.

    Soldiers who are volunteers in a democractic society understand the idea of unlimited liability, that we may be called on to die for our country. Fine, we deal with that. But to see the prospect of our comrades killed and wounded because of a stunt such as what Jones' proposed makes our sacrifices empty and wasteful and makes our mission harder to attain. That is what Petraeus was saying when I first posted this piece, and I don't think that was an inflammatory thought in the least.

    Feel free to respond one more time if you like, then I'm moving on from this discussion.

  9. I'll accept your offer for a final comment:

    You mentioned painting a swastika, but failed to note that would also be an act against another person's property, which is a crime in any context, regardless if it was a swastika or smiley face.

    A better comparison: It is not a crime to desecrate either the US or Canadian flags; it is considered "free expression." Inarticulate, wordless, and emotional, yes, but still protected expression. Similarly, the fact that someone considers a book to be venerated does not eliminate the right of another to treat their property as they desire, including burning their own books.

    It's easy to protect popular speech. Our claim to protection of human freedoms is at its peak when we choose to protect even something we find detestable.

    Thanks for the discussion.