Burning Question

Does anyone else find it drolly ironic that the goofball Florida pastor who wants to burn the Qur’an has the same name as a member of Monty Python? When I hear that Terry Jones says he will burn a Qur’an , I expect it to be a skit with a Terry Gilliam cartoon and some ersatz cardinals intoning “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!” Maybe the best way to handle this whole imbroglio would be with ridicule and satire. Maybe somebody should organize an alternative event in which copies of Going Rogue are incinerated.

Naturally, private citizens, religious groups, and government officials have spoken out against the book burning. However, the tone of these critics has been so urgent and emphatic–occasionally almost hysterical–that I find myself wondering if they do not protest too much. Why give so much attention to the moronic stunt of a few dozen Florida peckerwoods whose cumulative I.Q.’s would barely reach room temperature?
Of course, the planned burning is odious, but I wonder if the tone and volume of the condemnation do not also indicate a degree of intimidation. Are we afraid of what Muslims might do in reaction? There have already been anti-American demonstrations in Kabul and Indonesia in anticipation of the event. Are people so insistent that the Qur’an burning not take place out of fear of Muslim outrage? If so, we need to make absolutely clear what we consider sacred: Freedom of speech, even when it is odious, and even when it is the speech of a bigot or a halfwit. We need to make very clear to the “Muslim world” that we hold sacred the principle that we might disagree strongly with everything someone is saying, but defend to the death his right to say it. Shame on us if we let threats frighten us into retreating from that principle.