It’s been said many times that while American pastor Terry Jones has the right to publicly burn the Qur’an, he has the responsibility not to do so. In other words, acts have consequences, and even actions that are legal may lead to illegal responses.
But here, surely, is the point. The burning of a book, any book, may be annoying, but the burning of a person, any person, is grotesque. Jones sometimes destroys words while Muslim mobs frequently kill people.
It’s the difference between action and reaction.
Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses, Kurt Westergaard’s cartoon of Mohammed, and Pope Benedict’s statement in Germany about Islam, for example, all led to hundreds of people being murdered, and countless people beaten, property destroyed, and threats made. One was a book, one a picture, one the repetition of a question asked centuries ago about the Muslim faith.
So, whom do we hold responsible for the horror and terror that ensued after these three now-seminal events in recent history: The person writing, drawing, or speaking, or those who threw themselves into paroxysms and spasms of anger and brutality?
If we are to define ourselves, our culture, and our laws according to the responses of the brute, we might as well give up immediately.
The issue is not whether some obscure cleric should be allowed to enter Canada, but whether Canada is a nation that protects freedom of speech and seeks to curtail the more extreme and unreasonable manifestation of religious fervour.
We’re the first to mock the Americans for bringing God into politics, but we spend a lot of time appeasing Islam when it insists on bringing its god into pretty much everything.
Good Lord, consider what has happened in one single week. Liberals and leftists condemned politicians for wishing to discuss abortion, because they claimed that this was religion interfering with the state.
But the same people then insisted that a man be barred from our nation because Muslims might lose their tempers and kill people as a result of his crossing the border.
If this is not hypocrisy coated with cowardice, I do not know what is. Bibles are regularly incinerated in Muslim countries, blasphemy laws lead to the arrest, torture and murder of Christians, Hindus and other non-Muslims in Islamic states.
The most outrageous and obnoxious things are regularly broadcast and printed about Jews and Christians in the mainstream media in Muslim lands and even Muslim community newspapers in Europe and North America.
But in a way none of that really concerns this debate. It’s not about how immoral and oppressive others are, but how moral and tolerant we are supposed to be. And morality and tolerance have to be protected, even by laws and responses that may seem distasteful. It’s not that ends justify means, but that the bully does not respect compromise.
The reason Canada and the West are so attractive to most Muslim immigrants is because they can be free in a way they could not in their Islamic homelands. We owe it to them as much as the rest of us to preserve freedom, even if it burns a little.