By now I suspect most everyone is aware of Florida pastor Terry Jones’ plan to burn copies of the Quran, the holy book of Islam. He claims that Islam is “of the devil” and that God wants him to burn the Quran. He has been asked not to do this by religious figures who correctly point out that espousing hatred for anyone doesn’t advance the cause of his faith, and by political figures who correctly believe this act will inspire hatred and violence against America and Americans. But so far he has refused to reconsider.
I grew up reading constantly and I have always loved books. Old books, new books, good books, bad books – there is something special, something magical, something sacred about books. Burning books isn’t just about the attempt to kill an idea, it’s a crime against knowledge and free expression. If most of our moral decisions are made at the gut level, something in my gut says that book burning is evil.
In the days before the printing press, burning books was an effective way of killing ideas you didn’t like. Today, you can burn all the copies of the Quran or the Bible or The Satanic Verses that you can get your hands on and the publishers just print more.
This book burning is ritual theatre, an act of black magic performed to generate publicity and sales for his own book. Yes, this pastor (and I hate using that term for such a despicable person) has his own book, titled Islam is of the Devil [wonder how long it took him to think up that title?]. Yes, there would be a certain irony in burning his book, but that would put royalties in his pocket and lower me to his level.
Yes, the First Amendment protects his right to do this, just as it protects the right of anti-government protesters to burn the American flag. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it.
Watching this interview with ABC News, I get the impression Terry Jones thought he’d get his name in the paper and might even get on the local news. I don’t think he had any idea what a shit-storm he was going to stir up, and he doesn’t have a clue how to handle it. He obviously has no decency – here’s hoping what little sense he has overrules his pride and he decides to call this thing off.