Religion Versus Free Speech: Koran Burning Re-Ignites Demands For Prohibitions On Koran Burning

Dr. Terry Jones is back with his lighter fluid and Korans. In what he called a worldwide campaign of Koran burning, Jones torched the Islamic holy book and a picture of Muhammad in the name of fighting religious intolerance. He and his supporters claim that they are only trying to help Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani who was convicted of apostasy in Iran, a case that we have been following. Of course, the action will only harden the demand to put Youcef Nadarkhani to death by irate Muslims in Iran and other countries. But, few people believe that Youcef Nadarkhani is anything more than an excuse to engage in such hateful demonstrations.


My greatest concern is that this hateful lunacy of Jones and his followers is the renewed calls to criminalize anti-religious speech — a trend in the West. Most people find Jones’ actions to be disgraceful and contemptible. However, it remains a protected act under the first amendment like burning a flag. The great burden of civil libertarians is that our causes are often better than our clients. We must defend people like Jones not over the content of his speech but his right to speak. As people call for criminalization of Koran burning this week, we are again seeing religious sentiments trump free speech values.

Of course, the irony is that Jones and his followers have far more in common than they wish to admit with violent Muslims who kill and burn in the name of religious tolerance. They should not be the catalyst for rolling back on speech rights. The best protection for freedom of religion is the freedom of speech. The civil liberties community should not shy away from defending the speech rights in this controversy while condemning the message (and messenger).

Notably, Iran has demanded an apology from the United States for failing to stop the burning. The Administration has drawn a dangerously line with Muslim countries in first supporting the concept of an international blasphemy standard. As I have mentioned before, the efforts of the Obama Administration to work with countries like Egypt on an international blasphemy standard is a threat to free speech around the world. After first supporting an international blasphemy standard, the Administration sought to get Egypt and other countries to adopt the Brandenburg standard as the basis for such prosecutions. These cases show the mentality of countries pushing for a “balance” between free speech and religion. It also shows why the use of the Brandenburg standard is so dangerous in the hands of such officials who view free speech as the cause of imminent violence. Because any joke or image of the Prophet can trigger violence, the standard is immediately satisfied in countries like Egypt, which can then claim some legal legitimacy under the standard created with the United States. Free speech is under attack around the world and I view this effort as facilitating, rather than curtailing, such crackdowns on dissidents and intellectuals.

This act by Jones will likely trigger violence and confirm the use Brandenburg to criminalize speech in other countries. Indeed, it is likely to fuel the call for such prosecutions in this country.

35 thoughts on “Religion Versus Free Speech: Koran Burning Re-Ignites Demands For Prohibitions On Koran Burning”

  1. What, Polygamy? Very few Mormons practice polygamy. While you can argue the morality of both polygamy and same-sex marriage, I doubt anyone can justify prepubescent marriage. To set the record straight, it was not Fatima but Aisha who was married to Muhammed, and not at the age of nine but at six YOA. As recorded in the Hadith, the traditions of Muhammad, they married when she was six and at nine he called to her while she was playing on a swing with her friends. He called to consumate their marriage. Gee what a model to follow.

    To follow up earlier posts ready sura 9-29: The ninth century Islamic scholor interprets this Koranic passage to instill the worst sort of humiliation on Christians, making them come on their knees with their heads bowed to pay the

    “9:29 Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute (jizya) readily, being brought low.
    9:30 And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths. They imitate the saying of those who disbelieved of old. Allah (Himself) fighteth against them. How perverse are they!”

    Oh and see Sura 4:3 for instructions on taking sex slaves

    4:3 And if ye fear that ye will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess. Thus it is more likely that ye will not do injustice.

  2. I will certainly cite the suras, but not at the moment. I must leave for work. Infidels having to pay the jizura tax unless they convert to Islam, beating your wife, and the belief that Jews are descended from pigs is all in the Koran. While taking a 9 year old girl for a wife is not in the Koran, it is in the Hadith, which is practically inseparable from the teachings in the Koran. Since Muhammad’s behavior is modeled by Muslims, his marrying his favorite, Fatima, at 9 yoa is an Islamic license for pedafilla, and polygamy.

  3. If you read what was in the Koran, you’d burn it to, that is unless you agree that you should as an infidel pay a tax and subjugated to Muslims. Maybe you agree with Islamic teaching that allows 40 year old men to mary prepubescent girls or that women should be beaten for disobeying their husbands.

    1. Jim, please cite to the relevant suras in the Qur’an. And meanwhile, I am going to go and re-read Leviticus…

  4. Come on, it leads to subjugation, oppression physically, emotionally, sprititually, torture, sacrifice of life in various ceremonies, an endless hell for all but the exploiters.
    But OK, Plato’s cave will have to do as one of thousands of labels. Good as mine, MM.

  5. “Old ideas give way slowly; for they are more than abstract logical forms and categories. They are habits, predispositions, deeply ingrained attitudes of aversion and preference. Moreover, the conviction persists, though history shows it to be a hallucination, that all the questions that the human mind has asked are questions that can be answered in terms of the alternatives that the questions themselves present. But in fact intellectual progress usually occurs through sheer abandonment of questions together with both of the alternatives they assume, an abandonment that results from their decreasing vitality and a change of current interests. We do not solve them: we get over them. Old questions are solved by disappearing, evaporating, while new questions corresponding to the changed attitude of endeavor and preference take their place. Doubtless the greatest dissolvent in contemporary thought of old questions, the greatest precipitant of new methods, new intentions, new problems, is the one effected by the scientific revolution that found its climax in the Origin of Species.” John Dewey, The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy (1910)

    Religion provides ready-made “answers” regardless of the “questions” asked. Science formulates hypotheses in terms of the operations that could conceivably verify or refute them, a process that leads to ever better and more productive questions. If we ask of religion what we ask of science: namely, that it produce testable hypotheses and not insoluble-by-design controversy, then perhaps we can move on to join the rest of modern humanity. Religion leads nowhere but back to Plato’s cave

  6. “Roger,

    It’s easy to pick and choose among scripture.”

    It certainly is. The Bible is so incoherent on most subjects that there are usually at least two contradictory statements to be found. How does that bolster your argument and not mine? You argue for the lovely messages, evidently without acknowledging the despicable ones.

    “How you can read the Gospels and see Jesus as an advocate of violence perplexes me, unless you are more into “Revelations”, not Jesus words, because it plays to your own thirst for blood”.

    Did you just refer to my thirst for blood? My thirst? Where in the world did you find that?

    Are you seriously arguing that the message of Yahweh and Jesus is not monstrously evil? God slaughters everyone on Earth except for Noah and his family, because he wasn’t pleased with them. In case you have forgotten, that god is the same god in trinity with Jesus. The Old Testament is still part of the Bible, you know.

    Let’s talk about the New testament, then. The idea that man will, and should, suffer unremittingly because of a lack of reverence for the same god who would demand such a punishment is likely the most pernicious idea in the history of man. It is the quintessence of evil, and it was Jesus who justifies it. Or do you deny that Hell and damnation is part of the message of Jesus?

    “How often humans cast God in their own image to suit their own petty needs is an example of why you can lead a horse to water, but not make it drink.”

    So, the fact that I point out the despicable aspects of your god, means, according to your logic, that I must be a despicable person? Jeezum Crowbar!

    It is not my image, it is your own bloody account – the Bible. Read it honestly and weep.

  7. One mans blasphemy is another man’s religion. So also for culture.

    Do I approve of violence or hate speech or persecution, or the other damnations? No. Do I approve footsie with dictators and religious maniacs as our government has done all through the decades? No.

    When was the last time you talked with an arab?
    Today, a new friend, 20, sitting on a bench, Ali by name. I ended up giving career advice. His parents fled Saddam. His friend with Chilean parents came on the bus. We talked more. Uncle and his nephews parted happily. Try it, you’ll like it.

    I also talked with three others of my age, so I don’t prey on kids. My blessings are evenly dispersed.
    One concerned forsythia bushes, a magnolia, and a hybrid hawthorn. Peaceful subjects.

    With all our talk of free speech, who dares to use it. Some retribution is always risked. Or????

  8. I’ll do what I did last time this guy did it – I’ll burn a Holy Bible.

  9. Jonathan Hughes 1, May 1, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    The Muslims themselves must do whatever burning, and no one else. That is biblical. A book that insights humans to kill kids because of a hair cut or wants to stone a human that says what they worship is not holy not shining light like Gos who alone is holy has a book that is dangerous to others, and to the soul of the one that bows to it. The preachers hypnotize the listeners to know only one name focusing only on one name, and that does not save the soul. That creates humans that will riot at the slightest provocation thinking they are doing a good thing.
    ===========================================
    Could you send me the address of where you buy your stuff?

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