Sunday, September 12, 2010

Nuttish pastor and the world media

People, I truly don't get it. You surely have read about the pastor running this small church in Gainesville, FL. He planned to burn a couple of Koran books to commemorate September 11. This guy is clearly a nutcase. He was for a couple of years in Germany. He gained a reputation for being xenophobic and militantly anti-Turkish. His daughter, who still lives in Germany, thinks he's a nutcase. He eventually had to flee the country because he misappropriated money from his congregation. So, a typical sect leader that man is (I won't mention his name or link to his outfit to reduce any publicity for him and his cause).

Now, we all know that many Muslims get quite worked up when their religious symbols are being mocked. They tend to burn US flags and more often than not kill each other - bit Homer Simpsonesque - in their anger. All quite amusing when watched from far afield. Presumably then they'd be really unhappy if someone burned their book of stories. To be fair, Christians would probably be pretty annoyed if someone burned their book of stories, and so it goes. People got quickly concerned that in enlightened places like Pakistan, and Afghanistan there might be attacks by forces of the Islamic enlightenment against Westerners hanging about there to support the existence of the corrupt regimes running those countries. You know, the people that pour billions of our tax $$ into Afghanistan so that Mr Karzai can dump that money into their national bank that has been stripped naked by its senior management (conveniently including Karzai's brother).

Anyhow, so this nuttish thieving pastor in the USA threatens to burn a few Koran books on the lawn of his sect headquarters. Nobody would have taken any notice of this in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan and whatnot, IF Western media hadn't made such a big issue about it. Ever since our nuttish thieving pastor has held the US government hostage (imagine that government folks appealed to him personally to not burn those Koran books). I mean, really??? You just encourage copycats. I'm tempted to threaten burning the Koran books to get ... umm, let's see, what could I want? Serious nonsense. I do not understand why the world media have given this nutcase the oxygen to make this an international media event! Utterly irresponsible and unprofessional.

There is something else I must say though: If I purchase or obtain by other legal means a pile of books (any books), I should be perfectly entitled to burn them! Big deal. They're mine. If you can't handle that, make sure I can't get hold of your holy book, whatever it might be.


  1. Hassan KajeeSeptember 13, 2010

    Hi Udo, I have no doubt that you won't remember me, but I was a Philosophy student of yours at UCLAN back in '97/98. I once wrote an essay on abortion for which you gave me a First; in fact I scored a First for your module in ethics.

    Anyway, I came across your website today and read your blog on Pastor Jones with some interest. I am a Muslim and have been following this story although not with much zeal.

    I must say that I am surprised by a couple of your comments where you describe the Koran as a 'book of stories' and also where you declare that it is acceptable to burn books that you own.

    I think you misunderstand Muslims and what the Koran means to us. You must know that before touching the Koran, there are certain conditions we have to fulfil such as ensuring we are in a clean and purified state. So the thought of someone actually buring the book fills us with great sadness and pain.

    I know that you will defend your right to burn something that you own. But Udo, why would you want to destroy something that billions of people love. Why hurt so many people? Imagine if I was to purchase the Mona Lisa; a universally loved and celebrated piece of art. Now imagine if I called the world media to a special event where I set the painting alight! Yes sure it's my right as the owner but imagine the anguish and regret that would be felt by the millions of Da Vinci followers and the world.

    Hope you're keeping well anyway and it's nice to see that you're still very active in the world ethics.

    Hassan Kajee

  2. Hey Hassan,

    now what a surprise is that! Good to hear from you - even if it turns out to be critical :).

    You are correct, I think, when you say that hurting this many people with my actions is not a good thing. I'm not sure the Mona Lisa example works, because it doesn't match the Koran/Bible/etc book example in that it's not a copy of the Mona Lisa painting that would be burned but the original. You can print an unlimited number of religion's holy books, but there's only one original Mona Lisa.

    So, where does this leave my property rights based argument? I think it stands. I am not saying that we should burn any books. Book burnings put me off for all sorts of reasons. It's wrong because - at least symbolically - it aims to eradicate particular thoughts and views by means of force rather than argument and debate. However, really, burning the copy of a book that is being reprinted in millions of copies every single year all over the world, is also a symbolic act of protest against the views expressed in this book. I really can't see that such protest should be illegitimate just because people might be offended. After all, I also hold particular beliefs dear to my heart. They also are being offended, frequently, by for instance the Pope. Am I entitled - morally or otherwise - to be not offended by the Pope? Should his freedom to speak his mind be limited because of my sensibilities? Probably not. The same holds true for Muslims. This symbolic book burning is a kind of speech act. It's understandable that you'd be upset about it if those beliefs are dear to your heart, but that ain't a good enough reason to say it must not happen.

    And yes, I do think the property rights issue isn't off the mark either. I own it, I can destroy it. Look, I have the bible (aka a print) and the Koran (aka a print), as well as the भगवद्गीता (aka a print) in my personal library. If I felt that using them as doorstoppers or fuel for my oven or dumping them into the recycling bin was a good idea, I would be perfectly entitled to that. I genuinely think that any religion that thinks I must not do such things, should ensure I can't (eg by not selling it to me).

    We will probably continue to disagree on this, but thanks for sharing your thoughts :). Hope you're well!

  3. Heya, Hassan,

    For what it’s worth, I fully agree with Udo’s answer. Your analogy fails, the Koran burning is more similar to burning a printed copy of the Mona Lisa, which surely wouldn’t raise many objections.

    It is fine if you think you have to fulfil certain purity requirements before handling the Koran... but guess what? I don’t have to fulfil those requirements.

    I feel offended daily by the hate that some muslims feel for women, homosexuals, free speech and human rights. So what do I do? I live with it and try to argue why they are wrong. I can’t argue it’s my right not to be offended. That would be against free speech.

  4. Hi, Hasan you express the Muslim sentiment regarding the Quran well however, I agree with Udo in the fact that your Monalisa analogy doesnt quite hold.
    I was raised in Saudi Arabia in a Muslim family during my early years. I have qualms about religion in general for reasons that are irrelevant here. But, I am not sure if you are aware that the normal practice to dispose off old or damaged copies of the Quran in the middle east including Saudi Arabia is to burn these copies. Somehow, it is perceived as a more respectful way of disposing the document than tearing it, letting it rot in a dump or recycling it. I think the issue with this pastor's mania was the reason he cited for the Quran burning. He blatantly blamed Islam for 9/11 and his gesture was an expression of hatred towards all Muslims including the ones who condemn the 9/11 attacks, those who lost family in those attacks and every other Muslim who had nothing to do with the attacks whatsoever. Udo is also right about the absurdity of the media attention and the pleas from public leaders to the man not to proceed with his plan. The burning of the American flag (i understand it is different from burning of the Quran but reasons tend to be the same - generalized hatred for a group of people) is a common occurance in the Muslim world, but there is hardly any attention paid to it by the international media... The pastor is clearly a moron however, the reaction to his nonsense at the global level gave him the time and importance that he did not deserve...

  5. Oh, I realise this is some days late now... but I saw a great comment on this topic on another blog (I think it was Butterflies and Wheels, although I can’t find it now :( )...

    The comment was (from memory):

    "don’t forget that some people who have based themselves on this book (the koran) have killed others for writing books"

    That puts it into perspective, I think.

  6. Hi - I know this topic is well and truly out of date but I was reminded of this pastor this weekend when the media reported that he had been barred from entering the UK to attend an EDL rally.

    Not that I am dwelling on this point, but I think the Mona Lisa example does stand to reason. The only reason that the Mona Lisa has any any value is because there are some people in the world who value Da Vinci as an artist and they regard this piece of work highly.

    Personally, I have little or no connection to the Mona Lisa. If it was destroyed in an accident then I wouldn't shed a tear.

    However, if someone intentionally destroyed for the sole purpose of upsetting those who revere the painting and its creator, then I would object to that.

    I would object on the basis that the act of destruction is designed purely to upset people and that is all I am trying to say.

    It matters not that there are multiple copies of the qur'an and only one original Mona Lisa. To me, and to every Muslim, each and every copy of the Qur'an is precious and to have someone burn it for no reason other than to provoke a response is upsetting.

    Of course, everyone has the right to burn a book if they so wish. But in countries where Islamic Law prevails, the preservation of the Qur'an is far more important that preserving the original Mona Lisa.

    The point about burning the Qur'an in Saudi is irrelevant. My point is very much about what the pastor intended and his reasons behind his proposed actions.


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