Dan Hodges has blogged you-know-where what sounds like tough, no-nonsense stuff about Quran burning, and why it should be a crime carrying a custodial sentence.
I disagree, and I think Dan’s post amounts to a dismal capitulation to the worst excesses of terrorist thuggery and an insult to most Muslims. It pits the videoing of two nihilistic and idiotic stunts – the burning of a book, and the murder of innocent and unrelated UN workers by decapitation - against each other, and finds the former to be the real and root problem.
It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that in doing so, without even discussing the latter, he is tacitly endorsing it as an inevitable ”Muslim” response to the burning of the Quran.
So let’s be clear: the only reason there is a ‘debate’ about banning book burning is because some people – claiming without authority or recognition within their own community to be “true” Muslims – believe they have divine license to kill people. And not the book burners themselves, mind, but some people chosen for maximum publicity and intimidation, people acting for the benefit of the international community.
And what Dan is saying is: ok murderous jihadis, I agree, and I’ll do what you want to avoid more of the same. It would be difficult to concoct a finer example of moral cowardice.
This spineless attitude of appeasement fails to recognise that people willing to behead others over the burning of a book are people who are unreasonable and unlikely to ever be happy. And that, given their unending dual capacity for affording themselves a nauseating cocktail of infinite offence and infinite license, are not people whose behaviour should be encouraged.
A thought experiment: Imagine that what Dan says goes, but that more UN personnel are kidnapped and beheaded, and their beheadings are broadcast online. The problem this time, say the foul jihadis, is that there are gay S&M clubs in the UK.
Now, I don’t think I’d enjoy a visit to a gay S&M club. I can’t see the benefit in it, and as such it would make no odds to my life if they were banned by criminal law. But that doesn’t mean I’d be indifferent to such a ban. There are many people in the UK who find gay S&M clubs immoral, maybe sufficiently so as to be worthy of criminalising them. But their ardour on the issue shouldn’t trump the fact that it’s not something I want to do, and when it becomes mired in violence and blackmail I shouldn’t accept that and oppress others for the sake of a quiet life.
Like with book burning, as a society we’ve agreed not to make a value judgment here. The state is agnostic about whether a book burned – whatever the intent – is by Jane Austen or an apostle of Jesus Christ. Yet taking Dan’s attitude, we would again capitulate before violence or the threat of violence, because we are to be the slaves of the extremity of offence and its expression in expressed somewhere else. Where does this end?
The murders were not an expression of religious offence (though such a thought is sufficiently noxious as to fatally undermine Dan’s position). The aim was not to appease their god or curry favour in the next life, but to bring about some very definite changes in this one.
The Muslims doing the beheading have no greater claim to the knowledge of the mind of their god as the millions of muslims all over the world distinctly unconcerned about the fate of a copy of one of their holy texts, or who do not feel obliged and entitled to register their disapproval by way of kidnap and televised murder. Dan Hodges takes no account of this.
Instead of being about piety or the privileged status of things deemed holy, such murder, rioting and intimidation is instead chiefly political. More than that, it was - and the continuing threat of repetition is – in a very real sense, terrorism.
To tell it another way: would the people sufficiently morally warped to decapitate a wholly innocent person over the burning of a book be encouraged or discouraged by Dan Hodges’s article? And are we to welcome this response?