I support the right to burn the Koran. I also support the right to have a mosque two blocks away from Ground Zero. In the news has been a lot of nonsense about Islam in America. Both stories concerned the near Ground Zero mosque and a Florida preacher wanting to burn the Koran in response, which made world wide news. Why are we having this discussion in the media? What possible significance does it have? None.
If someone wants to burn the American flag, or the Bible, or the Koran, it may be offensive, but a lot of things in life are offensive. So what? If someone wants to build Jewish synagogue, a Mormon temple, or a Jehovah’s Witnesses church nearby and you disagree with their beliefs…too bad. In America we have freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
In 1977 neo-Nazis tried to win the legal right to march through Skokie, a suburb of Chicago with a large Jewish population, many who survived the holocaust. It was quite the controversy at the time, with legal attempts to block the march. These many years later, it had no impact outside of clarifying the importance of free speech, even repulsive speech. The best answer to repugnant speech is to let haters talk and for society to ignore them in the rumble of many voices. Let these hateful voices of ignorance and intolerance howl into the wind speaking to their self.
Yet, now something is different. The controversy over the mosque near Ground Zero seems to be inspired by self-serving politicians and talk show commentators looking for ratings. There are votes and money to be made from such controversy, from exciting prejudice and bigotry. Looking for publicity, Newt Gingrich equated Islam with Nazism. Other politicians looking for political advantage piled on criticizing the proposed mosque. Pundits and political “leaders” began stoking the fires of prejudice for their own personal gain.
It should be no surprise that in appealing to the passions of the ignorant, there would be fallout. Now a Florida preacher threw out the idea of burning the Koran in protest to the mosque. It is one thing for an ignorant preacher to burn books or neo-Nazis wanting to march thru a Jewish suburb, it is another when supposedly responsible politicians use prejudice for their own personal benefit.
The real problem is not with our exercise of freedom, but with the media. Who cares if someone wants to burn books? The media cares! Just like the politicians, the media benefits from controversy. They also make money out of stoking the fires of prejudice. They have a 24 hour news cycle that needs to be filled. By focusing on the actions of someone of no importance, we had leaders around the world commenting on this. General Petraeus spoke out about how burning the Koran could cost of the lives of American soldiers and make their job more dangerous. Very true, lives can be endangered. Yet the media still publicizes the actions of a lone nutcase.
I am proud to live in America where I have the constitutional freedom of speech. If I lived in Saudi Arabia or Iran, my blog about the occult, the supernatural and alternative spirituality would likely get me arrested or stoned to death. Yet here in America, nobody notices. I am one voice among many. Thank goodness!
It is the responsibility of Americans to resist the ever present tide of know-nothingness and willful ignorance. And also to support the right to ignorance. I don’t blame a preacher for wanting to express his beliefs, no matter how wacky. I blame the media, punditry and politicians for making this an issue to begin with.