We didn’t start the fire April 3, 2011Posted by Ezra Resnick in Freedom, Religion.
In response to an American pastor burning a copy of the Koran, an Afghan mob attacked a local United Nations compound, killing fourteen people, two of whom were beheaded. Clearly, there is no room for even-handedness in our reaction — the blame for this senseless violence lies entirely on one side:
the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama), Staffan de Mistura, said during a visit to Mazar-e Sharif that the only person who could be blamed for the violence was the American pastor.
“I don’t think we should be blaming any Afghan. We should be blaming the person who produced the news — the one who burned the Koran. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from offending culture, religion, traditions.”
Wait, what!? First of all, as Ophelia Benson points out, the pastor didn’t burn the Koran, he burned a Koran: his own private copy of a mass-produced book of which there are millions of other copies. His motivation may have been nefarious and his action obnoxious, but he was within his rights. The blame here lies entirely on those people who believe such an action provides any justification whatsoever for violence — and on the worldview that underlies that belief. If you think the way to respond to this eruption of barbarism is to stop people from insulting Islam, then you are part of the problem. It is precisely because Islam legitimizes violence in response to any criticism that it is so important to continue criticizing Islam — and to protect people’s right to do so freely.
If freedom of speech doesn’t include the freedom to offend people’s culture or religion or tradition, then what the hell is it good for?