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Is burning holy books a legitimate form of expression?

Krupa Thakrar Padhy Krupa Thakrar Padhy | 13:30 UK time, Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Pastor Terry Jones has put Gainesville on the map. His Florida-based church has launched the 'burn a Koran' campaign that has got thousands protesting.

The Miami Herald call it the 'bonfire of hatred' and a mere publicity stunt.

But it's no longer about one church with anti-Muslim sentiment.

The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Petraeus, has said that the move could endanger the lives of troops in Afghanistan and protests have already kicked off in Jakarta and Kabul.

 According to the Miami Herald the church is also planning on burning the Talmud, a Jewish holy text

There are a few issues here:

- Is is ever okay to burn a book considered holy by any religion?

There have been plenty of other examples of burning or desecrating bibles.  This Baptist church in North Carolina cut up bibles last year, because they believe any version other than the King James is the 'work of the devil'.  (The church had originally planned on burning the bibles, but it rained -- their explanation is here)

Is this simply an expression of freedom of speech?  Or is there a difference between saying you diagree with or dislike a relgion, and actually burning their holy book?

- Secondly (and I would argue more interestingly) there is the issue of General Petraeus's comments.  He may well be right in arguing that the Qu'ran burning could endanger his troops through risk of reprisal attacks.  But is he right to caution against what some people consider an act of free expression because of its potential consequences?

Can the two acts be related?  After all, the Dove World Outreach Centre is not breaking any laws.  Does his warning infringe on the very rights that make America a country where people of all religions can practice freely?  That's what this blogger is thinking about. 

And The Political Jungle wonders why General Petraeus is getting involved at all.

'Why is the US Military getting involved in a civil issue? It's not a hate crime, it's freedom of speech. Petraeus may be right, but this is unusual at best.'

But some bloggers agree with General Petraeus speaking out. 

'If this God forbid this could happen, the reaction of Muslims around the world will effect all of us. I think the officials should keep their eyes on the aspects of this.'

Vicki Crawford from the Naples Daily Blog is more concerned about citizen safety than troops in Afghanistan.

'It's possible that this book burning could create a firestorm that could hit us here at home as well. While there is some concern about possible repercussions against our troops, I'm not too worried about them because they got their Kevlar and their weapons. From their training they know to be prepared, but there's a whole lot of civilians that aren't...Mr. Jones wants to burn a few Qurans. Perhaps someone will want to burn down a church in return. Or something worse.'

Chicago Ray writes,

'Readers and certainly my friends amongst that group know I'm a pretty hard right conservative but I don't advocate violence, and burning Korans, as good of an idea it might have seemed after a couple drinks, is simply provocative and will cause them to act out, and many already are.As much as I hate to say this, burning them is something they would do. It just IS.'

But the Stratton Post worries about double standards,

'...even though this pastor is lacking some serious moral judgement, it is no excuse for the 500 plus Muslim's who crowded downtown Kabul and chanted "Long live Islam" and "Long live the Quran" while burning an effigy of Terry Jones who is the senior pastor of Dove World Outreach Center in Florida who is planning the event. I know, the irony, the last way you reach out to someone is by burning something they hold dear. However that is beside the point. If Islam is supposed to be peaceful, should we allow others who disagree with us to be as long as they do not infringe on our personal rights?'

According to this tweet from Savo_heleta in Africa:

'So far, over 8,300 people on Facebook "Like" International Burn A Koran Day... '

Are you worried about the consequences if the burning goes ahead?

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