Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sharia in the U.K.: Man Arrested for Burning Qur'an

There are two separate issues here. First, should people burn books they do not agree with? Here I would answer "no." This is why I debated Pastor Terry Jones on his plans to engage in a public Qur'an burning. Nabeel and I made our position clear here:

The second issue is this: Should people be arrested for burning the Qur'an? Here I would again answer "no." There's often a massive difference between (a) doing something offensive, and (b) doing something illegal. British police (like Dearborn police) have now blurred the line, and it seems that anyone who speaks against Islam now runs the risk of being arrested on charges of "racially aggravated words or behavior." Remind me again, which race is Islam?

A man has been arrested after a Koran was allegedly burned during an anti-Islamic rant, police have said.

He was reported to have stood on a street in Carlisle city centre on Wednesday making pronouncements against the Muslim religion in front of a large crowd.

The man is then alleged to have set fire to the Koran he was holding before discarding it on the floor and hurrying away. Officers arrived at the scene a short time later and are now investigating.

A spokesman for Cumbria Constabulary confirmed that a 32-year-old man has been arrested.

He added: "Just after midday on Wednesday, police received reports that a Koran was being burned by a man in Carlisle city centre. Police have seized the remains of the book and a 32-year-old male has been arrested on suspicion of using racially aggravated threatening words or behaviour. The man remains in police custody where he is helping officers with their inquiries." (Source)

But at least things aren't as bad as they are in Dearborn, Michigan, where people are being arrested simply for having peaceful discussions with Muslims, or for holding cameras in public.


Anonymous said...

At university I am currently taking a sociologically oriented course on region. The class has just begun and we are currently setting a foundation to serve us the remainder of the course, and grappling with defining “religion.” Today we discussed the view that “society” is constructed by man. We accept this defined “social world” as objective reality similar to how we accept the “natural world,” physical laws, etc. We touched briefly on the assumed importance of maintaining the social order, or world, in which we live. The creation of a government, and laws, is one way social disorder, or chaos, is restrained and mitigated. A law (whether something is legal or illegal) can therefore be such things as sufficiently threaten social order to demand they be forbidden and punished.

With the above groundwork in mind, it seems possible that something that is offensive could legitimately become something that is illegal (forbidden by the governing forces of society) if it sufficiently threatens the establishment/maintenance of the accepted social order.

In other words, if offending Muslims (by Quran burning) will inevitably cause Muslims to react with other actions that threaten (to a greater degree) the stability of society, should the act of offending Muslims become illegal?

Or, can I be held responsible for other people’s reactions to what I do?

I was trying to think of an example that might be relevant. I first thought of reckless driving. I will get arrested for reckless driving because I’m using a car in a way that endangers other people’s lives.
Does this apply to “offending Muslims?” Could I be arrested for offending Muslims because I’m using Muslims in a way that endangers other people’s lives? My first response is… No, of course not. A car has no choice but to submit to the way I use it. Muslims, on the other hand, have free will and can choose to react or not react in a way that endangers other people’s lives.

It seems I have no case, and I cannot be held responsible for other people’s reactions to what I do.

But then I got to the end of the article where you, David, brought up the Dearborn incident again. I recall the arrest was made partly on the charges of “inciting a riot.” Yes?

So it seems, manipulating another person/group of people to the degree that they cause the loss of social order (as in the case of “inciting a riot”), is considered illegal.

So, burning a Quran (if you’re trying to, for example, incite a riot) threatens social order and should be illegal. But this begins to get into motive and purpose, which muddies the water.

Note: I’m not implying that the man in the article was trying to incite a riot; I don’t know what his motives are. I’m not really interested in that specific case. I am simply making some comments on “laws” and what could be “illegal” and why.

By the way, is burning a Quran forbidden in Islamic countries, under Sharia law? I would assume… yes it might be specifically forbidden, but I don’t know. The reasoning behind the legality of Quran burning in Islamic countries might be different from what I’ve talked about above.

A related topic to contemplate: burning American flags…

Tizita said...

Hay guys!

I have a question for David Wood or anyone else who will be willing to answer. I'm taking a philosophy class on ethics this semester....And one of the topics we will be discussing in that class starting in 2 weeks will be honor killings.

Now, i have a lot to say about that topic....But what i really want to know is, is honor killings justified by islam? is it just a cultural practice? is it taught by mohammed in the hadiths? If yes, then i would LOVE it if u guys can post some of the reverences that i can use for my class.

Sorry for going off topic...but i figured it will be a fun project for u guys :P

Haecceitas said...

Terry Jones was also banned from entering the UK. See BBC's news article.

Again, while I don't support Jones, banning him seems quite absurd.

Sophie said...

There is some interesting discussion on this blog about the preservation of the Qur'an, and Uthman's first Burn The Qur'an Day. As far as I can tell, with regards to the preservation of the Qur'an the Muslim defence here is that there are 7 different ahruf (modes) in which the Qur'an was revealed to Muhammad, so any variations that got burned by Uthman weren't meaningful differences. And since Muhammad didn't explain what ahruf was, it can cover virtually any differences that will ever be discovered. Which is convenient. Is that about right?

Sophie said...

...I think I also remember a Muslim commenting "but if Allah had wanted the verse of breastfeeding and stoning in the Qur'an, it would have made it into the Qur'an. These verses must have been abrogated so they didn't need to go in the Qur'an'.

But I thought that the Qur'an was meant to be a collection of all the revelations from Allah which Muhammad received over the years. Or am I wrong about that? What is the criteria for the revelations to make it into the Qur'an?

There are many revelations in the Qur'an which have been abrogated, yet they still made it into the text of the Qur'an which is used today. But these ones didn't. Maybe Allah just regretted the verses of stoning and breasftfeeding so much that he had a sheep rid the world of them? Or maybe that hadith is, like so many problematic hadith, unreliable?

If I'm correct that the Qur'an is supposedly all the revelations given to Muhammad from Allah without any missing, then we have to assume that Aisha made a mistake in believing the verses of stoning and breastfeeding to be part of the Qur'an. If even Aisha couldn't tell the difference between what was a revelation from Allah and what wasn't, then it follows that we can't trust the Qur'an because nobody could be fully trusted to know what were Allah's words and what weren't.

Maybe Muslims have made their peace with all this and can still say 'The Qur'an has been miraculously perfectly preserved', but for a non-Muslim looking in, there is no evidence of miraculous preservation there and several pieces of evidence to the contrary.