Pastor Terry Jones intends burning a book this Saturday. Book burning has a long and sometimes ugly history. However presumably he owns the book in question so is it anybodies business what he does with it?
Given that he intends burning the book on September 11th, and given the book in question is the Koran, and given he actually intends burning 200 copies of the book, he is clearly out to make a statement. What he is doing is obviously going to offend a very large number of people. Some of those offended are likely to do violent things and harm innocent people. Presumably most of those people offended won’t do anything violent but will be offended. As such a reasonably predictable consequence of this action is that innocent people will be offended and some innocent people will be hurt or even killed. There are two questions that arise from this issue:-
1. Should Pastor Terry Jones burn the Koran this Saturday.
2. Should Pastor Terry Jones be allowed to burn the Koran this Saturday.
I find the second question trivial to answer. In my view there is almost no question to answer. Obviously he owns the book, he wants to burn the book, he isn’t hurting anybody by burning the book (directly), so he should be allowed to burn it.
The first question I find harder to answer. A part of me feels like there is no way to deal with the insane and disproportionate sensitivities of some Islamic extremists other than ritualistic acts of desensitisation. However how can you willfully do something that will bring offense to a massive number of non-violent people, and likely result in innocent people being hurt? Is this really any different to running through a black suburb in America yelling “Niger”, wearing a Swatzstika to a Jewish funeral or burning an Aussie flag at an Anzac day ceremony? On balance I think he shouldn’t do it.