Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | September 6, 2010

Burning Korans? I’m Agin It

File this one under “Maybe not quite as bad as the Westboro ‘Baptist-in-scare-quotes’ hooligans but pretty darn close.”  An enterprise called the Dove World Outreach Center, in Gainesville, Florida, is planning to burn Korans on the anniversary of 9/11.

Dove lists ten reasons why it’s appropriate to burn the Koran.  You can read the reasons and form your own opinion.  As a Christian myself, I find a number of the doctrinal points valid – but not as reasons for burning a text that disputes the Old and New Testaments.

Dove cites, as justification, a passage in the book of Acts that describes converts to Christianity burning the books and implements they had used previously to engage in “magical arts” (e.g., sorcery).  The passage is Acts 19:18-20.  But the most obvious points about this event are that the converts (a) were already converted, and (b) decided on their own to burn the trappings of their former life.

If a Christian convert from Islam wants to burn his own Koran, more power to him.  Don’t do it in fire season in southern California.  But there is nothing in the New Testament that would prescribe it as a Christian act to burn Korans – piles of paper with words on them – preemptively.  In fact, Christianity is compatible with intellectual freedom for others precisely because it is not a collectivist faith that locates salvation in earthly outcomes.  It took the West centuries of predatory monarchy and temporal church organizations to iron this out, and get the mechanical activities of human political organization out of the life of the church.   Believing you need, as a Christian witness, to make symbolic statements like this is a big step backward.

It’s not Christianity to engage in gratuitous offense.  We all sometimes fall short of the standard in this regard, but it’s another thing altogether to go out of your way to deviate from it.  Sometimes it’s necessary to say what you believe is true, even though others will be angry.  But it is never necessary to symbolically burn what others believe in that you think is not true.  If the others decide they want to repudiate their past by burning things, that’s between them and the local fire chief.

Fortunately, Dove is one small organization.  I assume the government authorities will treat Dove’s plan as freedom of speech, as they have whenever Christian symbols have been immolated, covered with dung, and urinated on.  Dove has every right under the First Amendment to burn the Koran.  But if doing so were to invite retaliation, of a kind that made the US authorities take a reactionary look at one of our most basic liberties, it would be tragic – and I don’t use the word lightly – that what started the whole thing was an un-Christian and unnecessary act.

Cross-posted at Hot Air.



  1. Right on, Jennifer, and very well said.

  2. I am very supportive of the argument of this post, but the story has already broken out beyond our own debates over whether this is the right thing to do–they are protesting in Afghanistan and Pakistan and, as the opticon links to above, General Petreus has weighed in with the claim that the koran burning endangers the troops. As John at Powerline notes, it’s now also a question of giving in to Islamist blackmail by trying to muzzle our fellow citizens. Anyone who is against the koran burning should certainly say so, but those who believe that Muslims are simply incapable of making the distinction, or learning to make the distinction, between the acts of a few Americans and America, on the one hand, and between an act of symbolic expression and violence, on the other hand, please let them say so too. Because if they are so incapable, we need to organize our relations with Muslims very differently than we are trying to do right now. And if most Muslims now seem incapable or unwilling of making these distinctions, but it can be imagined they will come to do so, let’s hear that argument as well. (To complete the thought, if those protesting in the usual “Death to America” vein are just a few fanatics with no connection to any religion whatsoever, well, then, there’s really nothing to worry about, is there?).

  3. As a citizen who is not President, I believe that whackjobs have the same right to exercise free speech as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to burn offensive books in Florida or anyplace else they want as long as they don’t cause forest fires and stuff. This is America. And our commitment to freedom of speech must be unshakeable. The writ of the Founders must endure.

  4. Sully, there’s no question about that. Government shouldn’t intervene here (except to the extent that there’s a fire being set).

    But your comment is a good pretext for me to make this point: we have gotten to the point in our national life at which there seems to be an automatic assumption that whenever someone opposes something, he wants the government to do something about it. That’s a point we have to recognize and move away from, deliberately, if we want to retain the freedoms we have.

    It should be axiomatic that when I criticize the actions undertaken by Christians, I am not proposing that government intervene. It should be, but for too many Americans, it no longer is.

  5. adam — I understand your point, but ultimately, we have to be governed in this situation by who we are and what we believe.

    We should never do something that has no useful PURPOSE, just for the sake of stating afterward that we weren’t deterred by the threats of Muslim hysterics. That’s a fundamental position that is part and parcel of the Western mindset. It’s what enables us to produce a civilized, quiescent public space that stretches across continents and oceans and embraces “diversity,” rather than making it a pretext for armed conflict wherever it occurs.

    It’s not “us” to be driven by the fear of being shown up in a petty confrontation. As I reiterated to Sully above, this doesn’t mean I think the government needs to step in and prevent the Koran burning. I don’t. But neither do I think it would be a sign of weakness or fear, for the Dove crew to rethink their plan

    I’ve stayed away from the Petraeus appeal because I DON’T think it’s the strongest reason not to burn Korans. The strongest reason is that it’s not a Christian act. The next strongest is that it goes against the civilizing wisdom of the West. It has no positive purpose. It was stupid for Dove to put us in the position of being challenged on it.

    We should only pull when we intend to shoot, and only shoot at targets that matter. That’s how you wield force and inflict destruction — not casually, irresponsibly, or symbolically.

    Islamist boobs blow themselves up for no purpose. They burn things, and riot when things are burned. We, by contrast, live life happy and free. Occasionally, we have to regime-change someone.

    • “We should never do something that has no useful PURPOSE, just for the sake of stating afterward that we weren’t deterred by the threats of Muslim hysterics. I’ve stayed away from the Petraeus appeal because I DON’T think it’s the strongest reason not to burn Korans. The strongest reason is that it’s not a Christian act. The next strongest is that it goes against the civilizing wisdom of the West. It has no positive purpose.”

      Burning the Qur’an (Koran) is a symbolic act, yes? Though I quite agree that burning the Qur’an is an ‘unchristian’ act that “goes against the civilizing wisdom of the West” I cannot agree that it has no positive purpose.

      What might that positive purpose be? Identification and confrontation with the fundamental source of ALL Muslim animosity towards the West…

      Which is not to state that a better way should not be sought for confronting the Qur’an but does assert that the Qur’an must be theologically confronted and its followers confronted outside theological venues.


      Islam cannot reform itself because it’s core theological tenets make reform impossible. To reform, Islam must accept that the Qur’an is not the direct word of God and that Mohammad is therefore not the final prophet.

      Reform is simply not possible while those beliefs remain accepted but since those are the foundational theological beliefs of Islam, to renounce them, effectively destroys the religion.

      No amount of moderate Muslim ‘good will’, can change that reality, moderates know this and that is why they remain silent and essentially condone the violence. For to do otherwise is to effectively renounce their own religion.

      Which is the choice every moderate Muslim is faced with and that almost all refuse to face. Sooner or later, we’re going to have to confront them with that choice because the radicals will force it upon us.

      We are in a war and the only ‘peace’ that Islam will accept is the destruction of the West’s culture. That is the ONLY acceptable ‘peace’ because that is what the Qur’an proclaims and Muslims believe that the Qur’an is God’s direct words…

      People are going to continue to die, the only question is who and how many.

      Petraeus is right, burning the Qur’an would be used by the Taliban as a recruiting tool. But anything we do will be used to recruit, in fact we need ‘do’ nothing at all, as our very existence is all that is needed for recruitment.

      Our abhorrent, to Muslim sensibilities, ‘actions’ are merely the ‘icing’ on the ‘cake’ of Islam’s abhorrence of our cultures very existence.

      That is what the Qur’an unequivocally proclaims.

      Furthermore, the Qur’an, (which every Muslim, to BE Muslim, MUST accept as the DIRECT word of God) emphatically states that jihad, both by stealth and physical is, the absolute duty of every Muslim to engage in against any and all non-Muslim countries.

      The Qur’an declares that any non-Muslim country is properly categorized as residing in the dar al Harb, THE ‘HOUSE’ OF WAR.

      Which leads to the Qur’an, which is, by far the main factor in the murderous aggression of Islamists against the culture of the West.

      Since the Qur’an is the foundational source of ALL Muslim animosity toward the west, exactly how can one resist that aggression without contending against the Qur’an itself?

      And if challenging the Qur’an itself is the inevitable end game…what more direct way to declare our opposition to its tenets than by burning it? That said, an idea and the Qur’an is, an idea that rests upon a premise, is best fought with exposure, not burning.

      Islam’s core theological tenets absolutely and fundamentally do not permit change, of any kind or to any degree (the Qur’an is GOD’s own words) and, because of that theological premise, moderates have no theological basis upon which to propose reform.

      And upon the Qur’an’s premises rests the entire theological foundation of Islam.

      After the fighting started, we didn’t fight the Nazi’s with clever repartee or reasoned discussion, we just did our level best to utterly defeat them.

      The fighting started on 9/11 but for liberal Americans, the fighting won’t start, if ever, until after a nuclear terrorist attack.

      After which, many of whom will be ready to surrender because moral cowardice lies at the heart of all their rationalizations, which is why they deny that 9/11 was the actual start of the War with Islam.

    • I’m not sure whether and how much I disagree with you–my point is that, whatever we think about this situation, we should step back and notice how crazy it is that the commanding general would feel a need to get involved in this way. Could you imagine during WWII a general in the Pacific or in Europe saying that some town in America shouldn’t have some activity that mocked Japanese or Germans, perhaps in unwarranted, even racist ways? As fellow citizens we might remonstrate with them, and say that we Americans are fighting enemies not demonizing entire peoples, etc. (I’m not sure I would be among the remonstrators–has anyone ever tried fighting a war, at least a long war, without some hatred that would be unacceptable in normal times?) But it’s unimaginable that anyone might think something along those lines would endanger our troops. So my question is simply whether a war in which we must twist ourselves in knots in this way is one we can think about “winning” in any meaningful sense. I know that’s probably a bit off topic.

      • I hadn’t realized that we were fighting a war against Korans.

        I suppose that when we were fighting the Germans burning the New Testament would have been borderline acceptable.

      • If I thought burning Korans would save the lives of our troops and help us destroy radical Islam, I’d support it–I’d be in favor of impeaching any President who refused to do so for “higher” reasons. Nor do I exclude the possibility that it will come to that–I think it’s possible that almost all of us have been getting this wrong.

    • “We should only pull when we intend to shoot, and only shoot at targets that matter. That’s how you wield force and inflict destruction — not casually, irresponsibly, or symbolically.”

      It is a bit odd to align “symbolically” with “casually” and “irresponsibility,” as if war doesn’t have a significant symbolic dimension as well. I would actually like to see a lot more responsible and sustained symbolic violence against our enemies–that, of course, is not to say that what this congregation is planning is an example of that.

  6. hey, if you thought that burning copies of the New Testament would save the lives of our troops, would you be all for that as well?

    If burning them would destroy radical christianity, would that help you along?

    • Of course–I would burn any book for such a purpose. But since there is no radical Christianity that I would like to destroy (on the contrary, there was ways in which I would like to see Christianity radicalize), and since the New Testament is for many soldiers the basis of their will to fight (aside from being a beautiful book containing some of the most important anthropological revelations we have) the point is moot. Everything is not the same–for many of those striving to kill us, the Koran is a war manual; if I thought showing the book disrespect would demoralize them, I’d be all for it. And those Muslims who would like to ensure the Koran will be very different from a war manual should really understand (as I believe genuinely anti-Nazi civilians during WWII understood that we had to put their lives at risk as well to destroy Nazism).

  7. If nothing else then, these crazy Christians are begging the too often unasked question. Is Islam at war with us and, if so, are they counting on our own liberalism to help them destroy us?

    Thank you Geoffrey Britain.

  8. Does any one know if Petraeus actually wanted US troops to read Seven Pillars of Wisdom or whatever that British dude called his book or hopefully that’s just internet incorrect hear say?

  9. We need to make a distinction between Islam and Islamism. The former is a religion. The latter is
    a radical ideology that posits that Islam is both a religion and a political system — a theocracy — that must impose its religious beliefs and its law — its sharia — on all, both believers and non-believers.

    It is Islamism that is at war with the West and we obviously need to defeat its effort to destroy Western civilization, or at least to prevent it from taking over, or making any significant inroads into, our society.

    The burning of the Koran makes no sense. We may not like Islam (given the fact that it is stuck in the 9th century), but if people want to practice it, so be it. But I agree with Optimistic that it is morally wrong to burn, or in any way attack, a symbol of a religion — even if that symbol is often misused/abused by Islamists.

    Equally important, the burning will just feed into Obama’s and the Left’s misguided protection of all things Islam, when in fact we and they should be united in our unwavering and absolute opposition to Islamism.

    • I’ve reluctantly reached the conclusion that the distinction you make is a false one. That was the distinction that Bush made and would that it were so but the facts compellingly dispute that assertion, facts both theological and pragmatic.

      I contend that the Qur’an’s theological precepts and tenets make reform impossible. In my opinion, JEM is accurate when he observes that the only difference between adherents of what you label ‘Islamism’ and ‘moderate’ Muslims is a willingness to truly follow the precepts of their holy scripture.

      Consider the empirical evidence; little to no protests by moderates against the more than 13,000 Islamic terrorist attacks, against non-Muslims of every nationality, just since 9/11. More than 12,000 passages in just the Qur’an (many more in the hadiths and suras) that call for aggression against non-believers. The Qur’an’s dividing the world into two camps, dar al Islam and dar al Harb (the ‘house’ of war). Mohammad’s life of murder, rape, pedophilia, pillage, terror, forced conversions and imposed slavery upon captive peoples, which is held up by virtually all modern-day Muslims as the perfect life to emulate…

      When the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979, one of his first legal reforms was to reduce the marriageable age of girls to nine years old, exactly in line with the example of the Prophet, announcing: “It is a blessing for a family to have a daughter out of the house before her first blood.” [that ‘reform’ is still in effect in Iran today]

      “Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all!…Islam says: Kill the [ non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. … Islam says: Kill in the service of Allah those who may want to kill you! … Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to paradise, which can be opened only for holy warriors!

      There are hundreds of other [Koranic] psalms and hadiths [sayings of the prophet] urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all that mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.” Ayatollah Khomeini, 1942

      “There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun [or] joy in whatever is serious.” Ayatollah Khomeini

      Just the words of an extremist wackjob? That might be so, were it not for one little fact; not one major school of Islamic thought disagrees with a single word the ‘good’ Khomieni uttered.

      So the facts simply don’t support the dichotomy you seek to establish…

      Of course most Muslims no more want to risk death than any other people, so they favor the Ground Zero Mosque Rauf’s approach. And the proof of that assertion is the poll results, which show that the great majority of Muslims support the institution and implementation of Shariah law, which even if only imposed upon Muslims is completely antithetical to Western freedoms and premises.

      Under Shariah law, a Muslim only has a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” consistent with Islamic laws…

  10. Let’s see: Killing folks who convert from Islam. Stoning young women who have been raped. Beheading infidels in the most gruesome manner. Burning Korans.

    Yep. Some of us Westerners are really insensitive.

    Having established the context, I should note that I, too, am opposed to the Florida church’s plan to burn Korans, because I don’t see it accomplishing a good purpose. But I won’t say categorically that such an act should never be done. As in the case of the Danish cartoons of the Prophet, there could be a salutary purpose: to let Muslims know that a basic principle of Western society is free speech; that people may criticize the things you hold most dear; that they may mock your religion; and that you have to suck it up and not go all medieval on everybody who disagrees with your religious beliefs. Occasionally that reminder might be in order both for Muslims and for the liberal Westerners who forget their own political, religious and philosophical heritage.

    But I don’t see even that purpose being advanced in this case, and it is not listed as one of the church’s reasons.

    If the Muslims own the land and comply with all the zoning laws, they have a right to have a mosque at Ground Zero. If they had any consideration for others, they would not do it.

    If the church owns the Korans and complies with local laws on open burning, they may burn the Muslim scriptures. If they had any consideration for others, they would not do it.

  11. Lots of good stuff – but with respect to the post of Darkness – I think you are incorrect.

    Increasingly, I see little difference between Islam and Islamism. In fact, they are the same. The difference is the willingness of Islam’s adherents to truly follow their holy scripture. To be Muslim and in good standing appears to mean Islamism.

    How do we facilitate a reformation of the Muslim faith? Without it, many people are going to die, unfortunately. I would prefer those many people are not U.S. citizens.

    What the church is doing is not actually a very Christian act, so it suggests a need by them to re-examine their faith. On that, I with The Optimist all the way. The good general however, was mistaken to go public. And he has pretty much guarenteed the church will go through with the act. The need for Muslims in this country and thoughout the world to demonstrate some spine about the shots all religions must endure almost requires the buring take place. Thanks general.

  12. The central point of this is that one wacko pastor with fifty, or maybe only thirty followers can announce an intention to burn some books and cause one of our top generals and many learned commentators to warn that the action may radicalize a substantial number of the followers of the “religion of peace.”

    If the general is right I suggest that he reassess his premise that we can ever trust adherents of Islam without completely surrendering both freedom of speech and of religion.

  13. Rather than burning the Koran, sections of it should be published daily in newspapers across the country and commentary on it should be heard in the electronic media. People should know more of what Islam actually believes. At the same time, just as there is no dogma encompassing all of Christian belief, the interpretation of the Koran is not uniform across the Muslim world. There is no Muslim “pope” or college of Muslim cardinals. As for it not being Christian to engage in burning the Koran, that’s strictly a commentary on contemporary Christianity. There’s certainly been times in the past when ostensibly devout Christians would have burned not only the Koran, but also those carrying it about.

    Ultimately, the world is engaged in a multi-faceted battle between East and West, in the sense that it has been since the days of Alexander. There’s a tendency to lump these various conflicts into a larger one by participants and observers scattered across the spectrum in an attempt to legitimize their cause. For instance, the Iraq war, over for seven years now, has been used ever since by the Islamists, especially the Shia, to rally their own forces, when, in fact, they were overjoyed to have the oppression of Hussein removed, something they were never able to accomplish themselves. Al Queda and the Taliban are using the Muslim faith as a base for their own grasp for power. There’s really no relationship between the Shia quest for stature in the Islamic world and the Israeli-Palestinian situation or the domestic opposition to the Saudi royal family or the changing political and social climate in Turkey or the Muslim resurgence in the Balkans or the growing Muslim unrest at the Russian and Chinese periphery. Each of these phenomenon has to be analyzed in its own context. That’s why the term “war on terror” is so inappropriate.

    • You focus on the clash of civilizations. Some imagine three, Western (us & Europe), Eastern (China), and Islam. This can be helpful as far as it goes. It starts getting complicated when considering Latin America and Africa, where China leapfrogs a self absorbed and elderly Japan. Russian Civilization teaches us that civilization itself remains a dream. The heart of Russian Civilization can be found in Grozny.

      • Do you mean to assert that the example of Russian civilization, defines all civilizations?

        Scientific Socialist… an interesting confluence of terms.

        How do you address the bottom line of socialism?

        Succinctly summarized by Churchill and Thatcher’s observations,

        “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money to spend” Thatcher

        “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” Churchill

  14. This treats Moslems like little children, like some emotionally retarded, hair triggered hornets who we musn’t stir up.

    Methinks Imam 0bama needs to apply some of his magic smoke to the situation.

  15. Great debate going, folks. I do want to respond to chuck martel on whether burning the Koran is a Christian act. I understand the point that Christians have burned books in the past, and done it in the name of Jesus too. But that doesn’t make it a doctrinally Christian thing to do, any more than a Christian committing adultery or theft, or a Christian insisting the sun revolves around the earth, makes these acts “Christian.”

    There is no syllogism between Islam and Christianity in this regard. I agree with Darkness that there is a distinction to be made between Islam and Islamism, and that the latter form of radicalism is not a guide to the intentions of the millions of Muslims who live ordinary lives and don’t go around blowing up other people’s children. But there is too often a tendency among Western secularists to impute that same dynamic to Christianity, and it’s an invalid analogy.

    Islam does, in fact, have passages of the Koran that directly order the faithful to kill infidels and that imply that Allah is pleased when Jews are plucked out from the rocks they hide behind and done away with. Many Muslim clerics balance these passages with others that direct the umma to treat dhimmis in their midst benevolently, and in particular to show respect to “people of the Book” (Jews and Christians). Other clerics emphasize the homicidal passages.

    The difference with Christianity is that no balancing interpretation is required. The New Testament makes it very clear that the ways of the Old Testament — theocratic law, punishment — do not apply in the “age of grace.” The Bible is simply not the vague, ambiguous document the Koran is. I urge you not to take my word for this, but to read both of them and compare. The Bible is explicit and consistent about how we are to treat others, where the Koran is not.

    Human patterns all tend in one direction: toward symbolic, emotional displays like book-burning. Left to our own devices, we’d all burn books. It’s easy to cherry-pick from religious texts and make them “say” that books ought to be burned.

    But it takes a heap of theologizing and civilizing to get us to reflexively reject book-burning on principle. What’s notable is that Christianity and Judaism, while retaining their central theological precepts, have both been not just fully compatible with, but in the forefront of, the rejection of book-burning, whereas Islam, to date, has not.

    None of this means the Koran tells Muslims to burn books. If it does, I’m not aware of it. But Christians and Jews have rushed overwhelmingly this week to decry the planned Koran-burning in Florida, which is something no one can imagine Muslims doing in such numbers if their fellow Muslims proposed to burn Bibles or Torahs.

    • It’s certainly true that “millions of Muslims who live ordinary lives and don’t go around blowing up other people’s children” to then link that to, “Many Muslim clerics balance these passages with others that direct the umma to treat dhimmis in their midst benevolently, and in particular to show respect to “people of the Book” (Jews and Christians).” which is also true… while leaving out that by long established, and universally accepted Islamic jurisprudence, the later violent passages take precedence over the earlier peaceful passages, which is the key factor in why the moderates don’t theologically challenge the “Other clerics [who] emphasize the homicidal passages.” is to use part of the data to support a point of view, while leaving out relevant facts which, at the least, call into question that view’s accuracy.

      Moderate Muslims, (the majority) undoubtedly wish to just live their lives like everyone else but their silence, in the face of violence done in the name of their religion, confers culpability upon them because they, in effect are condoning the violence.

      They condone the violence because they know the ‘Islamists’ are on the firmer theological ground and that they have no theological basis for challenging the ‘radicals’.

      Every day and most especially every time a terrorist attack occurs, (13,000+ and counting) moderate Muslims are confronted with their choice to remain committed to what they know to be a religion of violence, which has committed incalculable atrocities at the behest of their ‘prophet’ and his ‘God’.

      So, after 13,000 attacks in less than a decade, how is this any different than a German remaining loyal to Hitler after they knew of the death camps? To continue to look away, once you know is to effectively support that activity.

      Just how many innocents have to die before willful denial becomes accountable?

      It’s time to call a spade a spade before we lose New York, Washington DC, Chicago and/or LA…or is that what it will take before we awaken to the reality of the threat? If so, we haven’t that long to wait, Iran’s about to get the bomb and nuclear proliferation is about to go up exponentially.

      We’re very close to the cliff’s edge and though Wrethchard’s “Three Conjectures” may still be a decade or two away, moderate Muslim denial and western refusal to face the facts will inevitably intersect with fanatical religious hatred and, the ‘Islamists’ will call the tune to which we shall all dance.

      • GB — the hazard of trying to be precise is often having one’s comments mistaken for being less than categorical. But I do think it’s important to be precise in this case.

        I don’t say at any point that the Koran depicts an Islam of peace or moderation, or that we should take it to the bank that this fictional religion is “really” what Islam is. I don’t say that for a reason: because I don’t think it would be accurate.

        What I’ve said, instead, is that different clerics, and Muslims in different estates in life, have interpreted the Koran differently on some fundamental points, like whether coexistence with infidels is possible and what it should look like. That’s accurate, as is the assertion that the great majority of Muslims are not engaged, and have no disposition to be engaged, in homicidal jihad. And THAT assertion is just what it is: a narrow, factual assertion. It doesn’t mean Islam is a religion of peace.

        For me, one of the most important reasons to be very, very accurate is to preserve the meaningful distinctions between Islam as a religion, and Christianity and Judaism as religions. The faults we find in Islam are not faults of “religion” that are shared by other religions (although I know our colleague George Jochnowitz disagrees on this point). That false analysis can be refuted point by point — but only if we evaluate Islam, in its various manifestations, accurately.

        Another important reason to be accurate is that we won’t develop effective policy if we approach the problem inaccurately. It’s hard enough to do when we ARE assessing the target problem accurately. The fact that there are so many people who actually think there’s some operational value in symbolically destroying copes of the Koran testifies to that. I find that amazing. It helps NOTHING, it changes NOTHING, to torch the Koran. Yet people want to do it, and are claiming (not here, but over at Hot Air) that doing it would be more “effective,” somehow, than the other things we’ve been doing.

        This is a hard road to hoe, and to me, it’s essential to define the problem correctly. I actually think domesticated Islam is something we need to worry about more than radical jihadism, because it’s domesticated Islam that has produced the dhimmified enclaves of Europe. It starts out superficially law-abiding and doesn’t work through incendiary acts and beheadings, but through “peaceful” demands for representation in the public square and for accommodation to its peculiar requirements. Western societies bend over backward to make the accommodations, and next thing they know, they have “no-go” neighborhoods where their own national ethnic majority is in peril; they have honor killings in their back yards and streets that are unsafe for unveiled women; and they have a rising tide of ugly, often violent anti-Semitism.

        Burning Korans will do absolutely nothing to stem that tide. What we need is not repudiation of Islamic culture but affirmation of our own. We need to do things that are much harder than burning Korans. The truth is, Western liberty cannot survive the creeping invasion of the veil for women, and we have to come to grips with that. We can’t just let Muslims be what they’re going to be and live among us, nor can we draw dividing lines and separate ourselves geographically. Consigning whole segments of the globe to Islam won’t work any better than consigning whole segments of it to Communism did.

        Islam has to change by adjusting itself to the West. The West cannot adjust to Islam and leave us with the liberties we have a right to. THAT is the problem before us. I bet fewer than half of any American audience I addressed with that statement would even accept the proposition today, but we can’t accept less than Islam giving in and agreeing to live with what WE prize. If we do accept less than that, we will lose everything.

        And burning Korans, whether literally or as a metaphor for our overall approach, is utterly ineffective for that requirement. We need to be both unyielding and persuasive, in the best sense of encouragement, dialogue, and example. I don’t want to have to make war on Muslim countries or eject Muslims from our midst. But I WILL walk unveiled, I WILL be eligible to own property and vote and have an education and make my own decisions in life, and I will NOT be driven out of parts of my country, or parts of the larger world, or see Jews persecuted, or see the liberties we are all entitled to denied to our children. Those are my requirements. Islam had better not get in my way.

      • You’re right.

  16. I think burning Korans is a terrible idea, although I will surely be told that the people doing this have their reasons and their rights and that I´m being Unamerican.

    Sarcasm aside, the message it sends is: You cannot be on our side and remain a Muslim.

    I´m as suspicious of Islam as the next sensible man, but we know that there are good muslims who are on our side, meaning pro-western – some chafing under the oppression of their respective governments, others being loyal American citizens, even serving in uniform. I know they are often silent about muslim atrocities and I seriously doubt that they are the “vast majority” we are being told about, but they exist. And they deserve our respect especially because they are not a majority.

    When it comes to what is essentially a piece of political communication, it is always necessary to ask yourself who your audience is, what your target group is. Who counts, who can be influenced and how will they perceive you?

    Now, the millions of indoctrinated fools in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan and the monsters who guide them – they don´t matter. We can kill them, discourage them, but not change them. Talking to them is fruitless. That is not true of those other muslims. I can look them in the eye and tell them why I don´t want a mosque near Ground Zero or any burkas in my country, or why we should use profiling in going after terrorists. IF they are on side, we can probably agree about that. But I cannot tell them that they have to give up their faith entirely. That is just a bridge too far.

  17. yeah, I’ll tell you that if those idiots want to burn Korans, forcibly preventing them is unAmerican.

    aside from that, I thought I would take the somewhat rare opportunity to offer agreement with your comment.

  18. I don’t know that adherents of the “Islam increasingly looks like the Islamists” opinion are suggesting they give up their religion; but rather are suggesting that they must suscribe to a more modern interpretation of their holy book. That at least was my thought on a Muslim reformation. The problem – there is no countervailing book of love as prescribed by Jesus, to balance some of the more brutal aspects of the old testament.

    Children they are not – it is time we start to treat them as such. That is why the general’s comments to me are so unwelcome.

  19. I often hear that Ayan Hirsi Ali and the relatively few others who speak out in public are furtively approached and furtively encouraged by Moslems in attendance, far too afraid to speak out themselves.

    At best, it seems they will be shunned, and at worst murdered. Are we making room for this kind of intimidation? Are we too accepting, too understanding? Should we be tolerant of a subculture of sharia in our midst which enforces mute conformity and fear?

    Are we unable to confront the brutality of our sworn enemy because of some mistaken notion of polite comity?

  20. The reason this has become an issue is because no one really believes that public opinion in Muslim communities is strongly against the use of violence in addressing “insults” to Islam. No one would think burning a Bible, setting up a swastika, even burning a cross on private property with a few followers would ever constitute a public safety issue. This is blindingly obvious. Maybe we’re all wrong. Maybe if were to let the Dove people burn their Koran, without condemning them or paying any attention at all, nothing would happen. In the end, that would be the best approach.

    • I think that´s right. Paying no attention is best, but also sadly impossible. The next step in empowering fanatics is already inevitable: In quite a few muslim countries, Christians and people of other faiths are frequently murdered by fanatics. In most years, our hypocritical media manage to ignore this. Next time it happens, we will be told the Dove guys are to blame. I´d take that with a grain of salt.

  21. no one really believes that public opinion in Muslim communities is strongly against the use of violence in addressing “insults” to Islam.

    it’s sorta one reason to prefer our system.
    not going out of our way to stupidly and gratuitously offer insult is another. when we get around to closing public demonstrations with shouts of “death to Iran”, it’ll mean nothing good is happening.

    • It is a good reason to prefer our system, and also, therefore, not to change our system by getting into the habit of warning our fellow citizens not to do things because they will enrage the congenitally violent. A better habit is not to tolerate that violence, nor any justification or excuse for it.

      • adam, we don’t tolerate the congenitally violent, but telling people not to burn the Koran isn’t any change to our system.
        during the Vietnam war, Americans were burning flags or using them as handkerchiefs or such. not only were they told not to do so, some doing so were violently set upon by other Americans.

      • Burning flags, among other gags,
        Led to rage, but isn’t it time,
        To turn the page, and face the fact,
        That threatening books, while not sublime,
        If it leads to mayhem in the souks,
        And other Muslim neighborhoods,
        Against uninvolved folks, Yeeow! Gadzooks!,
        Demonstrates that the claim is hollow,
        That peaceful is the faith they follow,
        By the same logic which you have so often chimed,
        That all Christianity is forever slimed,
        By the doings of those old white guys in hoods.

  22. It’s Constitutional, so they have a right to do it. Me too, I am agin it as well — but I won’t quote on the wisdom.

  23. The Supreme Commander of our forces pressuring a private citizen not to carry out a legal act because it would endanger the troops is not, it is true, a change in our system; but it is, along with other major political, entertainment and media figures likewise weighing in, in the context of a war strategy apparently predicated on not transgressing some ridiculously low threshold of outrage to the other, is the beginning of such a change–really, part of a larger “beginning,” including the refusal on the part of the American media not to publish the Danish Mohammed cartoons and other incidents too numerous to mention. The thing about changes like this is that by the time they are complete, it’s too late–they need to stopped early on.

    • adam, I agree Obama has basically covered himself with shame by doing nothing more than regurgitating Petraeus’ concern (and embellishing it with fears about jihadist recruitment). See my latest post “Korans in Flames.”

  24. thx, Sully.

  25. J.E.,

    I agree with Chuck Martel, you are right, though on one part I would say your point is incomplete, because it doesn’t mention the inverse, which I’ve concluded is also true: “Islam has to change by adjusting itself to the West. The West cannot adjust to Islam and leave us with the liberties we have a right to. THAT is the problem before us. I bet fewer than half of any American audience I addressed with that statement would even accept the proposition today, but we can’t accept less than Islam giving in and agreeing to live with what WE prize. If we do accept less than that, we will lose everything.”

    The inverse of that statement is; Islam cannot adjust to the West, leave us with the liberties we have a right to… and remain true to Islam’s theological precepts.

    Indeed that is why Islamic radicalism exists.

    The West’s freedoms, which are the foundational factors responsible for its culture are accurately perceived by Islamists as a mortal threat to Islam. Prior to the modern age, say after WWII and accelerating since perhaps the 70’s, Western culture has become inescapable, no matter how remote the country. That inescapable cultural contact has created an existential crisis for Islam.

    Islam cannot survive extended contact with our culture, no more than the native American tribal cultures could survive intact, once the European cultures established full time residence upon the American continents.

    The American revolution was simply the last nail in native American cultures coffin.

    And if what I’m saying is correct, then the REAL problem is a fundamental incompatibility that no amount of dialog and nuance can resolve.

    Reduced to the most basic level, you must wear the veil/burqa, give up this blog, etc., etc. or Islam cannot, in the long run, survive.

    Either you have individual rights; to life (as you wish to live it), liberty (the freedom and right to possess all the attributes of self-autonomy) and the pursuit of happiness (live your life as you determine will maximize your individual idea of happiness) or you do not.

    Islam proclaims that Allah has decided and emphatically made known, that you do not have those rights. In fact, were we both Muslim, Islam unequivocally states that you have less rights than I, merely because you are a woman.

    And Islam cannot reform because to do so is to effectively declare that the Qur’an is not the word of God, necessary for how can any man’s understanding transcend God’s?

    And, if the Qur’an is not the direct word of God, then Mohammad was at best mistaken, which in any case decisively makes him at most, just another prophet…

    The problem for Islam is that removing those theological foundational premises… inevitably results in the collapse of the entire theological edifice. Just exactly like the twin towers collapsing, but in this case, a collapse Islam cannot survive.

    And that, in my view is the real problem we face.

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