Qur’an burning threat by pastor irresponsible

The recent controversy over the potential burning of 200 Qur’an on Sept. 11 by a Florida pastor has sparked a flurry of rage around the world. Like the debate surrounding the Park 51 Islamic cultural centre in south Manhattan it pits societal values of freedom of speech against a desire for a degree of sensitivity, cultural or otherwise.

It is also clear that the burning of the Qur’an will spark violence overseas, which would endanger the lives of innocent Americans both in the military and civilians. Even the threat of the demonstration has led to deaths in Afghanistan.

Pastor Burns and his followers have a right to burn the Qur’an if they so choose, just as Imam Rauf has the right to build the Park 51 Islamic Cultural Centre close to Ground Zero. They are not breaking the law and their right to freedom of expression are enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The arm of the state cannot be used to prevent individuals from practicing their rights.

It is clear, however, that with freedom comes responsibility. The proposed actions of the pastor are grossly insensitive towards the vast majority of Muslims around the globe. Furthermore, the burning of the Qur’an exposes a profound degree of ignorance and bigotry that infects certain sectors of American society, and harms America’s reputation abroad.

This stunt played into the hands of Islamic extremists by creating a false perception of a “Holy War” between the West and Islam. The orchestrated outrage that would have followed would have no doubt endangered the lives of American soldiers in Afghanistan, Iraq and at embassies across the Middle East.

Before embarking on stunts like burning sacred religious texts, Pastor Burns should seriously take a look at the implications of his actions. Thankfully, reason prevailed and the pastor backed down in this instance, but the damage was already done.