Sunday, April 3, 2011

Happy now, Pastor Terry?

Reports are that at least 12 UN employees have been killed after a UN compound in Mazar-e-Sharif was attacked by a mob of as many as 2000 people protesting (peacefully at first) against the burning of the Qur'an by Pastors Terry Jones and Wayne Sapp in Gainsville, Florida. While today another 8 people have died and at least 61 injured after young men rampaged through Kandahar.

Last year, when Jones announced he was going to burn the Muslim holy book, thousands took to the streets in Afghanistan to protest, and a NATO base was pelted with stones, while in Kashmir a Christian Church was burned and 15 people killed. And that was only when he SAID he was going to do it (he subsequently decided not to).

For some reason, Jones decided to go through with it last week. And predictably, now that the news has filtered through to some of the most unruly parts of the Islamic world, all hell has broken loose.

Of course, the real villains here are those nutjobs who decided to vent their anger at some obscure attention-seeker from Florida on UN staff who had absolutely nothing to do with him. Let's not forget that.

But we all know these people exist. And if you're smart you don't rile them up. It's a shame that it has to be this way, but we all need to be careful of what we say when fundamentalist fascists are around, because they'll kill somebody.

Of course, Jones' point all along was that Islam is a religion of violence, and the Afghani protestors have clearly done him a huge favour with the predictably violent manner of their rebuttal.

Now personally I think in a perfect world, anyone should be able to burn a Qur'an or any other religious text. But the reality is that freedom of speech has its limits; the classic example of shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre is not protected speech, and what Jones has done is basically the equivalent of this. If it is obvious that your free expression is going to lead to violent unrest (and it was obvious in this case), then you need to face criminal consequences. This incident has potentially far worse consequences than what we have seen today; it could potentially set back UN and US efforts in Afghanistan back a decade.

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

1 comment:

  1. f it is obvious that your free expression is going to lead to violent unrest (and it was obvious in this case), then you need to face criminal consequences.

    you're speaking as an australian. you people don't understand the american perspective on free speech. talking about criminal consequences is idle, just like convincing afghan muslims not to be barbarians is idle. this sort of action will never be banned by the american gov. because of the nature of the bill of rights.

    and i hope it sets american interests back in afghanistan. we need to get out of that hellhole. let the pakistanis manage it.