>Question: How much freedom do you want to give up in the name of protecting Islam from the same kind of criticism and even ridicule that all other religions are required to put up with, for no other reason than because Islam is so much more mindlessly violent than all those other religions, and, therefore, insults against Islam are guaranteed to result in widespread death and destruction?
Only Acceptable Answer: None.
[Some of the following stories and sources are taken from the Islam In Europe blog.]
Last October, Muslim clerics in France went to the police and denounced Ernesto Rojas Abbate. It seems that Monsieur Abbate had made a video of himself in which he tears a page out of the Koran, folds it into a paper airplane, flies the airplane into a representation of the World Trade Center, burns the page, and then urinates on the ashes. The Muslim clerics had seen the video on youtube and then immediately contacted the authorities demanding that Abbate be arrested. The young man was then questioned by the police, who described him as “totally coherent”. In defending his actions he is reported to have told them: “Brûler un livre chez soi, je ne pense pas que ce soit interdit.” (“Burning a book at home, I do not think it is forbidden.”) He did not deny being the author of the video, and he stated that he had acted “in the name of freedom”. Abatte was not charged with a crime right away. First, Muslim religious officials had to return to the police and file a formal complaint accusing him of “provocation publique à la discrimination nationale, raciale ou religieuse” (“public incitement to discrimination based on nationality, race, or religion”). The subsequent trial of the 30 year old Chilean-born French citizen began just this Monday (April 11) in Strasbourg. Prosecutors are asking that Abbate be given a three month suspended sentence and a fine of 1000 €. The maximum sentence for his “crime” is one year imprisonment and a fine of 45000 €. A final judgement is expected from the court by May 9.
(source 1, source 2, source 3)
Last November, three Hindus were arrested by the Swiss police for the thought-crime of wanting to burn the Koran and the Bible. The three had publicly announced their intentions, and had thereby garnered widespread media attention. They were apprehended on their way to the would-be scene of the crime: Parliament Square in Bern, where the joint Koran-Bible burning was to take place. Just today (April 12) they were acquitted by a Swiss judge, although they were ordered to pay half the court costs “on the grounds that they had overstepped the boundaries of personal freedom and injured the religious feelings of others.” If they had been convicted they could have been sentenced to up to three years imprisonment.
(source 1, source 2)
Last September, six men were arrested in Gateshead, England, after posting a video on youtube showing them burning two Korans in the parking lot of their local pub. They were all charged with “inciting racial hatred.” In January it was announced by the Crown Prosecution Service that no further action would be taken because there was insufficient evidence. At least some of the Gateshead Koran burners have identified themselves as English Defense League members (source 1, source 2)
On Friday, April 8, Sion Owens was arrested in Swansea, South Wales, and charged under section 29 of the Public Order Act, aka, the “Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006“. But then the case was almost immediately withdrawn and all charges dropped on a technicality. Owens is a candidate for the Welsh parliament representing the openly racist and neofascist British National Party. His initial arrest was prompted by the police being shown a video of him burning a Koran. Another BNP candidate, Joanne Shannon, was also arrested and also released. Prosecutor Bryn Hurford said police inquiries into the alleged incident would continue and a new file of evidence would be collected and passed to the Crown Prosecution Service for review and advice. He added: “I want the defendant and his legal representatives to be in no doubt that the withdrawal of the charge does not mean that no proceedings will be taken. Almost certainly other proceedings will ensue.“
(source 1, source 2)
5. United States
On September 11, 2010, Derek Fenton stood in downtown Manhattan and started tearing pages out of a copy of the Koran and setting them on fire. He didn’t need no stinking youtube: he was surrounded by TV camera crews. He was quickly, and very peacefully, whisked away by some New York City police officers, and almost just as quickly released. And almost just as quickly fired from his job with the New Jersey Transit Authority, where he had worked for 11 years. On November 4, 2010, the ACLU announced they would be representing Fenton on the grounds that his firing was a clear violation of the first amendment. Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the ACLU in New Jersey stated: “Our individual right to free speech depends on everybody having it.” On February 14 of this year, NJ governor Chris Christie made his position clear when asked about the ongoing ACLU backed lawsuit: “I knew he was going to be fired, and I had no problem with it. And I still don’t have a problem with it.”
(source 1, source 2)
6. United States (again)
Meanwhile, (1) Molly Norris is still in hiding (but just try to find a major news outlet that has said anything about her since last fall). (2) U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham has floated the idea of putting “limits” on free speech, in particular to officially criminalize Koran burning “because we are at war.” (source) (3) Houston based military contractor KBR is asking a federal judge to apply Sharia law (as implemented in Iraq, where punitive damages are not awarded) in a lawsuit filed by the mother of an American soldier who was electrocuted while on duty in Iraq. (source) A similar strategy had been employed by Blackwater in a wrongful death lawsuit back in 2008. (source)
7. Finally, some good news!
In May of 2010, Detroit’s SMART bus system refused to run “Leave Islam” ads on their buses because they claimed that the ad campaign is “a purely anti-Muslim hate issue.” But then earlier this month a federal judge overruled SMART and ordered that the ads must be displayed. (source 1, source 2)
8. A closing thought.
Many of the incidents described above, and others as well (such as the infamous doings of Terry Jones), involve groups and individuals who are themselves either religious extremists or right-wing racists, or both. So guess what? Not only does creeping Sharia compliance give aid and comfort to the most regressive elements of Islam, it also plays right into the hands of Christian neofascists, too!
[No Korans were burned in the making of this blog post.]