Who is responsible for these injuries? Terry Jones? No — despite the best efforts of Barack Obama, General Petraeus and so many others to portray him as responsible for any violence in the Muslim world that may occur in response to his Qur’an-burning. Obama and Petraeus and the rest have forgotten, or want us to forget, that one’s response to someone else’s provocative action is entirely one’s own responsibility. If you do something that offends me, I am under no obligation to kill you, or injure you, or run to the United Nations to try to get laws passed that will silence you. I am free to ignore you, or laugh at you, or to respond with charity, or to respond with insult, or any number of reactions.
Obama and Petraeus ought to be saying, Yes, of course we disapprove of this Qur’an-burning, but in America we believe that freedom of expression is a fundamental bulwark against tyranny and hallmark of a truly free society, and it requires us to put up with things we don’t like without responding with violence. They could, in other words, be using this as a teaching moment to demonstrate why free societies are preferable to Sharia states. But they don’t dare do that, and instead are effectively reinforcing the principle that violent intimidation works: they know that some idiot is going to injure or kill someone in Afghanistan or somewhere because of this, and so they want to Terry Jones to stand down. Instead, they should be telling these Afghans to step back, take a deep breath, and realize that if someone burns a Qur’an in Florida, it doesn’t harm them, or the Qur’an, or Allah, or Muhammad, and that to respond with irrational violence against people who are not involved with the burning (or against the people who are involved with it) is just savagery.
All the politicians are busy condemning Terry Jones. Everyone in the world is busy condemning Terry Jones. Everyone seems to have forgotten about freedom of expression, and why it is so important to reinforce even when we find the expression detestable — indeed, especially in such cases. And so, if we continue down this path, one thing is certain: that which is not understood or valued will not be protected, and so it will be lost.
“11 Afghans injured in anti-Quran-burning protests,” by Amir Shah for Associated Press, September 10:
KABUL, Afghanistan – Thousands of Afghans are protesting a small American church’s plan to burn the Muslim holy book. At least 11 people have been injured.
Police in the northern province of Badakhshan say several hundred demonstrators ran toward a NATO compound where four attackers and five police were injured in clashes. Protesters also burned an American flag at a mosque after Friday prayers.
In western Farah province, police said two people were injured in another protest….