Rev. Jones and the “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” Supporters: Explain the Difference, Please

Now that a mad Florida Pastor, Terry Jones, has taken the twisted logic of that addled demonstration to the next step, planing a Koran-burning to show “we will no longer be controlled and dominated by their fears and threats,” I’d like to hear how those who set out to stick a finger in the eye of Islam by drawing its prophet can justify condemning Jones, when he plans to stick in his whole thumb.

This was inevitable. It is the logical progression of the ethically-inert arguments that have been proliferating all year, asserting that because you have a right to do something disrespectful, rude and thoughtless (draw a cartoon of Muhammad..burn another faith’s holy book…build an Islamic Center near Ground Zero), you just have to do it, and anyone who suggests otherwise is restricting your rights. Rev. Jones’ foolish protest is a good bet to get Americans killed, but since that will be irrational on the killers’ parts, and because nobody should get that upset about an exercise of a First Amendment Right (kind of like, say, building a mosque), we should insult and upset them anyway. Or, as columnist Richard Cohen reasons, we have a duty to insult them.

Silly me: I’m still stuck in that ethical rut that holds that we should try not to be gratuitously disrespectful to the feelings and beliefs of others, even when the others may not be completely respectful of us. If there is a really good reason, that’s a different matter, and really good reasons can range from artistic expression to a search for truth to a really funny joke. Just doing it to annoy a group, or because we have a right to do it, or because we don’t understand why anyone should mind, are not good reasons.

But I’m sure all you self-righteous cartoonists out there can distinguish your stunt from what Rev. Jones wants to do, because he appears to be the kind of religious zealot they make fun of on The Daily Show, the Daily Show liked “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day,” and his protest is slam-dunk wrong and irresponsible, an act of bigotry, not protest. Yet his stated logic, purpose and motivation are identical to yours.


26 thoughts on “Rev. Jones and the “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” Supporters: Explain the Difference, Please

  1. I still think demonstrating that we wouldn’t be pushed around by threats qualifies as a ‘really good reason.’ And maybe it’s different because one is creation and the other is destruction… though I can’t quite think of why precisely that is.

    I cannot bring myself to reverse myself on this one, but I can’t quite fault what you say, either. I’m gonna have to come back to this when it’s not 1 in the morning.

    In a way, I’m glad we disagree on this one, since I find you quite cogent and hard to disagree with so often, it was sort of worrying that I didn’t have any opinions at all and I was just imprinting what you say.

    • Is it your assertion that all of Islam is “the enemy”? Because, you know, it isn’t. Burning the Koran insults American citizens—icluding members of the military—too. You do understand this, right?

      • You don’t consider Islam, or rather the Muslims, the enemies of America; others do.

        Normally I would say that we could debate that underlying point, but the tenor of your response indicates that such debate would be worthless due to your bias.

        Irrespective of that, are you claiming that insulting our enemies is unethical?

        • The “others” who do are either ignorant, or bigots. There is no factual basis to declare all Muslims, including U.S. Citizens, “enemies.” “Others” believe, do and say lots of dumb things—I don’t have to pretend they are smart or ethical when they do.

          There is usually no point in insulting anyone for the sake of the insult. It is both more ethical and wiser to respect one’s enemies. If the truth hurts, that’s not an insult (See: “evil Empire”).

          • What difference does it make if they’re U.S. Citizens? Are you actually trying to claim that everyone who holds U.S. Citizenship is de facto not an enemy of America? Please!

            As for – “If the truth hurts, that’s not an insult” – that could and should be applied to this case. If these Muslims turn to violence in response to the burning of their book, then they’ve proved the truth of what their enemies have always said.

            • You missed the point: Jack’s trying to say that making a blanket assumption that all Muslims are trying to destroy the West is like saying every Jew is part of an anti-gentile conspiracy.

              My problem with the burnings is that they seem designed to insult every Muslim, even those shooting at Taliban, and even those opposed to the mosque (and believe me, I know a few). It’s equivalent to me publicly burning Bibles just because I don’t like Pat Robertson.

              I will say, though, that some of the “Draw Muhammad Day” cartoons were pretty funny in their own right (the “This is Not A Pipe” parody, Muhammad attempting to take a picture of himself, abstract art Muhammad, “super-kawaii” Japanese-anime Muhammad, etc). I suppose context really is everything.

  2. Here is a comment I posted in my local paper:
    “” Terry Jones’ proposed book burning is a hate crime, pure and simple. That’s illegal and he should be arrested for it. The radical faction of Islam is such a miniscule portion of Muslim believers. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. There are fewer than 10,000 members of Al Queda. That makes .0000000625% of the world’s Muslim population are terrorists. That’s point-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-six-two-five percent. I am sure the percentage of violent, self-righteous Christians is higher (I am a Christian, by the way).

    To think that burning the prayer book of the other 99.99999938% of Muslims is a good idea is, frankly, disturbed and delusional, and pretty evil. This is what we believe is a great way to attack Al Queda? Um, yeah, that makes sense. If that’s all we can come up with, then we are a very sorry-ass nation, indeed. “

    • Of course, you can’t be arrested in this country for 1) burning a book or 2) hating a book or 3) hating a religion behind a book. And something that is otherwise legal can’t become illegal because it’s done in hate. So Jones isn’t committing a crime, or a hate crime. Other than that, I agree.

      • The law gets tricky here– if you make someone feel afraid or intimidated, and it’s a reasonable response, then it falls into the “illegal” category. It would depend on the DA, I should think.

        • Trust me on this. You can burn a cross, you can burn a flag, and you definitely can burn a book. Burning the book in front of a mosque comes closer to the threat you describe, but books have a sacred symbolism in America If you own a book, any book, you can burn it, and announce the fact. There is no chance anyone would be convicted of a crime for this, and for that reason, no competent prosecutor would try to win the case.

    • Bristol, it is so very much more complex than that. It isn’t a matter of Al Qaida being the “radical faction” and all the other Muslims being peaceful and good. There are many radical groups besides Al Qaida, and a continuum of degrees and shades of “radical” Islamic thought and behavior throughout the religion. Some exhibit radical religion-based political ideology without a propensity for terroristic violence. Some, like the Submitters, seem perfectly able to get along with just about anyone (but are considered heretics by the larger community). The Ummah is a very diverse group with many sects and a very complex structure. Also, “radicalism” is a very subjective classification. I suggest that you do a bit more research. You, too, Jack.

      • To what end? If only 5% of Muslims didn’t meet someone’s criteria of “radical,” they would still have right to have their faith respected. Someone can be as radical as they want until it threatens me, my country or people and values I care about. The trouble isn’t radicalism; it’s zealotry.

        • To what end? Perhaps some of the doctrines of Islam, and our general ignorance about them, *does* threaten you, your country, your people, and the values you care about. I believe it does. I also believe that all people deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, and to have their faith respected, or at least respectfully tolerated, until the practice of it infringes on the rights of others. I believe that, in the case of Islam, it’s quite possible that it eventually will, but maybe not. I hope not.

          • If a Muslim practice actively threatens me or the community, there are ways to address that. I see no reason to focus on Islam any more than any other subculture in the U.S. (a foreign culture outside the US can do what it wants, again until it threatens us and ours). Those who live in American should be encouraged in every way to to adapt to our culture, meaning that we should not downplay or minimize our cultural values, or make it easy for those from other cultures to ignore, deride, or reject them. The danger comes not from Muslims, but from those who would encourage the US to become a balkanized jumble of different ethical, moral and cultural standards. That’s the real crisis we may face, and I don’t need to research Islamic sects and practices to recognize it and oppose it.

            • Sigh. At least you’ve correctly identified the cultural trend that will primarily enable the disaster. I wish I could briefly explain the reasons why the education I recommend is so important, but I can’t. You wouldn’t believe me anyway. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have believed any of it myself. By the way, the reason the Allies didn’t rescue the Jews from Hitler before 6 million had already died was primarily because no one believed the reports. Even the German Jews themselves didn’t believe it.

              Your pieces are as interesting as ever.

              • I’d say that’s a bit of a simplification, and it also lets the Allies off the hook. We knew about the death camps well before the end of the war—indeed, bombing them was discussed as a way to stop the exterminations. And while many didn’t believe the reports, a lot more chose to disbelieve them, and quite a few believed them but couldn’t make the case that there was anything to do about it.

                • Perhaps so. I’m not an expert on WWII, but stand by the rest of my comment. I *have* spent thousands of hours studying Muslim writings, Islamic culture, history, doctrine, and every news article having anything to do with Muslims that I could find from all over the world for a few years. Bristol’s suggestion that Al-Qaida are the only religiously-driven “bad guys” in Islam (and I’m not convinced that group’s leadership is really driven by religion) was a gross oversimplification, and you seemed to accept it.
                  I’m out of this discussion. Not good for my health. It’s starting to make me feel like sawing my head off. 🙂

                  • Don’t do it…it hurts. I started when I thought the idiot preacher and the dim Imam had made a deal.

                    One clarification: I know that Osama’s gang is just the richest group of extremist Muslims out there, and did not mean to give the impression that I believed Al-Qaida was the only or even necessarily the worst. Heck, Salmon Rushdie isn’t being hounded by Al-Qaida. Iran and the Taliban aren’t Al Qaida/Qida whatever—they’re just easier to spell.

  3. I think this whole thing has become an ethics disaster. You have a pastor of a small church in Florida who says he is going to burn a Koran. Why is this even news? How many Bibles and flags are burned each week? But then it hits the news and governments, the Vatican, now even the UN are weighing in on it. Don’t these people have anything better to do? Why do they care so much more about Muslims than anyone else? As an exercise, try to figure out who you personally could insult that would result in a UN resolution.

    My votes on this:

    Terry Jones: unethical for causing an international outrage.

    The Press: unethical for giving this incident an unwarranted amount of publicity and speculating on the number of people Muslim’s will kill over this. Also unethical for making it seem as though this is common in Christian churches.

    Other Governments: Unethical for trying to stifle the freedoms of American citizens and for blowing an incident not worth mentioning out of proportion to increase anti-American and anti-Christian hatred.

  4. First of all, for any ideology including religion to be respected it better be respectable (better deserve it: we can’t reallly be expected to respect a religion because it is a religion). Second, if it were Mein Kampf that was to be burned noone would complain that this would insult the neo-Nazis. And finally, the fact that most Muslims are “peace loving” has to be first of all qualified (peace without any live infidels, idol-worshipers, atheists?) and does not ncecessarily mean that their idelogy (Islam) is: the fact that most Cathiolics use contraceptives does not mean teat Catholicism approves of it. Also, what if your prohibition on insulting you insults me? Grow up!

    • 1) I do not particularly respect the Muslim religion. Read the other posts on the topic.
      2) You cannot justify gratuitous insults and offenses on the basis you state. One still has a duty of civility to those one may not respect.
      3) You are arguing that it is ethical to insult all Muslims and offend all sects and versions of the religion for no purpose whatsoever, other than just to show contempt. That is grade school conduct. Don’t presume to tell me to grow up.
      4) You do not comprehend the difference between prohibiting something and a disapproving of something. I can’t prohibit you from acting like a jackass; I can only point out to you and others that it’s wrong. What if that insults you? I couldn’t care less. Again, read the blog before you shoot off your mouth. If an insult is incidental to a worthwhile and legitimate purpose (such as flagging bad behavior), the fact that some are “offended” by it is irrelevant.

      When I walk in on a discussion that has been going on a while, I know that it is both wise and good etiquette to know what I have missed before I start boring everyone by inadvertently rehashing what has gone before, or worse, making myself look stupid by responding to comments that can only be understood in context of the discussion I missed.

      • Sorry Jack, I didn’t mean to post my comment as a responce to yours. That was a misfire. But since you responded, I understand that you simply disapprove of insulting Islam, but Islam does not merely disapprove of insulting it, it forbids it on penalty of death and unfortunately often times the only way to bring it to the attention of those who are dillusional or naive about it and to make people open their eyes and see Islam for what it is and how messed up it is, is to actually draw the fire/ire on oneself by doing it (call it a provocation? fine, but sometimes it is the only way to prove a point, sadly). My point about the freedom of insulting was not to insult for the mere sake of insulting but to show that the reaction to it (violent or not) in the Muslim world only proves that THEY (those Muslims who react this way and chant “death to” entire nations even before the percieved insult has occured) engage in grade school conduct AND to also show that when they do, their actions are actually perfectly in tune with what Islam teaches its adherents: granted many may disregard the call to violence, but this would not mean that the call did not exist in the first place. Knowing that action X will be seen as an insult ought not to prevent me from exercising it. And I do not think that burning of the Koran will insult ALL the Muslims: the mere fact that Islam teaches that such an action is automatically an insult to ALL Muslims does not mean that all Muslims subscribe to it, just like not ALL Muslims actually believe that making friends with infidels is “haram” despite the fact that the Koran and Sharia specifically prohibit ALL Muslims from doing it (and not merely disapprove of it).

        • Kyle: My apologies for snapping at you. I’ve been getting a spate of comments from people skinning the posts, and I was cranky. I’m sorry. And I appreciate your thoughtful posts, even when I don’t agree with them.

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