When word got out in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif last weekend that a Florida pastor had burned a copy of the Koran, a mob gathered in the streets and violence has ensued over the past several days resulting thus far in the deaths of 22 civilians including seven UN workers.
Let us not minimize the significance of burning a Koran. It is holy to millions of people the world over. Setting a Koran aflame is an exceedingly stupid thing to do whether or not it results in a violent response because it casts aspersions on all Muslims regardless of their behavior. After all, most observant Muslims manage to go through life without killing another human being.
So once again the Muslim world is inflamed. But then again when isn’t the Muslim world inflamed? Of course, most of us remember the late Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie following the publication of The Satanic Verses. While Rushdie is still walking this earth more than two decades after the fatwa was issued, the same cannot be said of Hitoshi Igarashi. If his name isn’t familiar it ought to be. Igarashi was the man who translated The Satanic Verses into Japanese and because of it he was stabbed to death in July 1991. And in case you think the Muslim world has forgotten about Rushdie, there were renewed calls for his death in 2007 when it was announced he would be knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.
Remember when authorities in Sudan accused an English schoolteacher named Gillian Gibbons of blaspheming Islam because the children in her class named a teddy bear Mohammed? She was sent to jail and was due to receive forty lashes until international pressure was brought to bear against the Sudanese government, which released her from jail and deported her back to Britain.
Remember the Danish cartoon controversy? In January 2010, nearly four years after the cartoons of Mohammed were published in Jyllands-Posten, a Somali man broke into the home of Kurt Westergaard, the man who drew Mohammed, with the intent of killing him. Fortunately, Danish police were able to thwart the attack and Westergaard was unharmed.
Theo Van Gogh wasn’t so lucky. In November 2004, he was murdered in broad daylight in the streets of Amsterdam because of his documentary film Submission,which documented violence against women in the Muslim world. Remember what Van Gogh’s murderer, Mohammed Bouyeri, said to his mother in a Dutch courtroom? Bouyeri said to her face that he felt no sympathy for her because he deemed her a non-believer. Van Gogh collaborated on this project with former Dutch Member of Parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali who to this very day is under 24 hour protection?
Speaking of violence against women in the Muslim world, it was in January of this year that a14-year-old girl named Hena Akhter was executed in Bangladesh for having been raped. Yet in the eyes of Sharia law and the Muslim village council who upheld it she was nothing more than an adulterer who brought dishonor to both her family and to her village.
Let’s suppose for a moment that the Koran hadn’t been burned in that Florida church. Does anyone think it would have abated the anger in the Muslim world one iota? If there are Muslims who are prepared to kill someone for translating a book (let alone writing one); for drawing a cartoon; for making a film; for naming a stuffed animal or for being forced to have sex then something is very horribly wrong with how Islam is presently being practiced. In what other religion would such behavior be tolerated much less sanctioned?
Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact a Koran was burned inside a Christian house of worship on our soil. As such I would think that it is reasonable to expect Muslims to be displeased with such an act. But I also think it is reasonable to expect Muslims to express their displeasure without committing acts of violence or calling for grievous harm to be done unto others. I think it is fairly safe to say that most American Christians think that burning Korans is a bad thing. With that in mind I further think it to be reasonable to expect Muslims to condemn their fellow Muslims when they commit acts of religious desecration such as when the Iranian regime recently burned 300 copies of the New Testament.