Burning books is the pastime of tyrants and children. But it is also the right of free people.
The news is bursting at the seams with stories about relations between the Western and Muslim worlds.
Reports of riots over rumors in Afghanistan are pouring in to U.S. newspapers, suggesting that Muslims are feeling increasingly at odds with western governments, traditions, and policies.
Yet, what makes this particular wave of protests unique, is that they have been prompted by an unknown Florida pastor, who suggested he would burn Korans on September 11. It seems that the Middle East is still as irrational as ever.
The Koran, or any other book for that matter, should never be set on fire. I think Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who started all the raucous, is simply trying to take advantage of a media that is looking for new and interesting faces to plaster all over the front pages of newspapers.
At a time when U.S. troops are still in harms way in Muslim countries, it seems advisable that anything done domestically that could increase anti-American sentiment in the Middle East should be avoided.
Having said that, it is only fair that Mr. Jones should have the right to burn the Koran, since he is a citizen of a free country that allows even the most heinous and absurd expression to take place. Perhaps he'll even consider burning Adolf Hitler's book Mein Kampf while he's at it.
It seems in our society that we too often mix up a person's ability to do something with the goodness of the act itself. Society often turns to making the things it disagrees with illegal, to ensure no one thinks it condones such behavior.
It should be understood, however, that just because you're able to do something, doesn't mean that it's a good idea to do it.
Everyone is able to stick their finger in a light-socket, but it doesn't make it a good idea. Similarly, everyone is able to burn books, or flags, or other paraphernalia in protest, but that doesn't mean it's wise or beneficent to do so.
Besides, there are far too many radical elements in the world that have been waiting for events like "Burn a Koran Day" to incite violence.
Take, for instance, the threats South Park producers received after running an episode of the show featuring the Muslim prophet Muhammad, who is not supposed to be seen according to Muslim religious law. Imagine how much worse things could get if we started burning the book where Muslims get this law.
We should all be vigilant about offending different cultures, especially those with whom we involve ourselves. Regardless of the risk of offending others, though, we should never lose site of the importance of freedom of speech and expression.