Friday, September 10, 2010

Random Questions on the Koran Burning

The best way for me to understand the Muslim uproar over the Koran burning and the Muhammed cartoons is to think of it in terms of desecration of the Eucharist (which, sadly, still happens nowadays). The desecrator might claim he's simply abusing a cracker, but Catholics understand that the cracker is actually Christ himself.

Granted, if I'm not mistaken, the Koran is a lot lower on the totem pole of sacredness for Muslims than the Eucharist is for Catholics (for Catholics, it doesn't get much higher).

Regardless, does (or should) the fact that a cultural or religious group holds something to be sacred give it any special protection in our society? Is intentionally desecrating this sacred thing considered a hate crime, and if not, should it be?

In a larger sense, if you do something that a person or group perceives as hurtful, and you are aware of this perception, but you don't think that any harm is actually done, are you in the wrong?


  1. I don't think there should be any legal special protection, but there should be common decency.

    "Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble," the relevant passage says.

    Deeply ingrained in the American psyche, these rights are seen almost as a matter of national identity.

    "The fundamental principle is that the government cannot restrict speech based on its content, even if an audience finds it offensive," says Prof Tim Zick, a First Amendment specialist from the William and Mary Law School.

    "A speaker's autonomy to express himself - even in this deeply offensive manner - is, if not sacrosanct, then very highly regarded."

    As a nation, he says, America has made a very different calculation about the protection of the speaker versus the dignity of the audience than many countries in Europe. America prioritises the autonomy of the speaker.

    Denying the Holocaust, for example, is illegal in 16 European countries. Germany has banned the production and dissemination of pro-Nazi material.

    But in the US, the courts have protected the rights of Nazis to express their views.

    In one well-known case, the Supreme Court invoked the First Amendment to uphold the right of a neo-Nazi group to march through the predominantly Jewish town of Skokie, Illinois, and display swastikas.

  2. I thought it was a ridiculous idea from the first moment I heard about it. Imagine how many people would be in an uproar if there was a Bible burning. If you want to show support for this country and do something to commemorate the memory of those who died, then fly the flag, hold a vigil, say a prayer. Do something positive. Burning the Koran doesn't even target the right group of people. At the end of the day, I just think doing something negative is not the way to show your support for any cause.

    As far as the legal issue goes, it's interesting because it involves freedom of speech as well as religion, at least to a certain extent. Although, I think freedom of speech is the main issue here since because the government is not prohibiting anyone from practicing their religion. I agree with the bbc article. Americans do take our rights seriously, and rightly so. I just wish people had the courtesy (and common sense) not to do something so horribly offensive and misguided.