3 April 2011
Burning a book in public is a symbolic act by small minded, ignorant, intolerant, bigots. If we look at the history of such events it has happened since time began, with perhaps the first recorded example taking place in China around the 3rd Century BC. Sometimes there are far reaching circumstances from the act, like the Spanish Conquistadors burning the Mayan libraries, thus leaving us now very little written knowledge of this ancient civilisation. At other times they may serve as a warning of worse things to come, such as the NAZI book burning in the 1930s and 1940s. The Bible too, has been burnt on occasions and then by Catholics, Tyndale's English translation of the New Testament was burned in 1526 as was the Luther translation in Germany in 1624.
Fahrenheit 451 as you may know, is a novel about the future where books are banned and burnt as they may contain critical thought. The Pastor and his tiny congregation that arranged the burning of the Quran in Florida would fit well into this sad future. Not only have these Occidentals demonstrated their ignorance of the true nature of the Quran, but they have demonstrated their bigotry and ignorance of the Oriental mind. The Oriental will sadly not fully understand that the laws of America allow such freedom of expression, but instead will be quick to take offence.
When I transited the Suez canal I thoughtlessly offended my Egyptian Pilot. The incident in question occurred because I wished to stop and dive my boat as I thought I had something around the propeller. The Pilot required me to write out my request and to ensure I put the ship's stamp on the piece of paper. I did this and gave him the document. Later he required that I add another statement to the piece of paper and asked that I put the ship's stamp on it a second time! Not quite under my breath I made the flippant remark, "Oh! You crazy Egyptians!" and though I did as he requested he heard what I had said and was ready to offer me physical harm as well as abandoning my transit of the canal for insulting him and his country! I was genuinely surprised by his violent and vociferous reaction. I virtually had to go down on my bended knee to offer my apology before he calmed down and we could proceed.
How much more of an insult is it to a Muslim to burn his Quran? While learning Arabic in Cairo Hanna and I were invited to attend a meeting of intellectual middle class young Muslims who were studying the Quran. This was a great honour and we learnt much. During the meeting I had taken my copy of the Quran to follow the readings and discussions. When I no longer needed to follow the passages I closed the book and dropped it on the floor next to my chair. I was immediately chastised for not treating the Quran in a reverent manner. The Quran was a holy book and must be treated as such. Reading it on the toilet for example was not permitted. Any discussion on how come a bit of paper and cardboard could be Holy was pointless. It was the word of God and so must be treated accordingly. Little did they know that I used to read the Bible on the toilet!
Are we surprised therefore that Muslims in Afghanistan have demonstrated violently against the desecration of their Holy Book? I am not, but I do note that the major demonstrations were in Afghanistan and not in those Arab countries now trying to obtain free and fair elections. Here I feel they may have understood that the laws of America are designed to protect freedom of speech and the freedom of the individual in his pursuit of happiness, which is just what they have demonstrated for. I do not think the Muslim will realise, however, how little has been made of the event in the Occidental press. The majority of the media do not want to give this bigot the publicity he seeks, and I applaud this attitude. But sadly as the deaths related to this event have shown it is not just a storm in a tea cup and alls of us must do what we can to plead for tolerance and understanding.