I sadly have to disagree with PZ over at Pharyngula regarding the controversy surrounding some bumpkin’s plan to burn a copy of the Qur’an. In a post today PZ essentially argues that the only appropriate to the threatened book roasting is a hearty, “whatever.”
On the one hand, PZ is right that the Qur’an is just a book, imbued with no more mystical powers than a copy of The Da Vinci Code. In a rational world no one would be upset if some hillbilly lit a copy up in some feebled-minded protest against “radical Islam.” On the other hand, this isn’t a rational world. And the fuckwit planning this little book burning isn’t doing it as some sort of high-minded demonstration of the ultimate unimportance of religious symbols. No, Terry Jones is doing this as a calculated affront to a community.
If, instead of a Christian religious leader burning the sacred text of a different religion, this was a member of the Klu Klux Klan burning a cross on an African-American’s lawn would we respond by saying “Hey man, it’s just a piece of wood. No worries”? No, we wouldn’t. The fact that it is a religious object being destroyed is secondary to the true message in the act. Which is to anger and intimidate people who follow the Islamic religion. Sure, in a perfect world we’d all be happy little atheists and wouldn’t have to worry about religious differences. But in reality we’re not. And in the real world have a duty to stand up to those who would attack others without cause. No matter whether that attack comes in the form of burning a book, burning a building, or burning a person.