Sunday, April 10, 2011

Book Burnings Don’t Kill People, Friday Prayers Do

According to Joe Klein at Time Magazine, the murders in Afghanistan that indirectly resulted from Terry Jones’s Qur’an-burning are to be laid directly at the doorstep of Terry Jones:
“[T]here should be no confusion about this: Jones's act was murderous as any suicide bomber's. If there is a hell, he's just guaranteed himself an afterlifetime membership.”
For someone who doesn’t know if there’s a hell or not, Klein sounds awfully positive about who’s going there. Anyhow, lots of liberals agree that Jones is directly responsible for the deaths of the Mazar-e-Sharif riot victims. And in at least one way, this reaction is perfectly understandable. When heinous outbursts of Islamic violence take place, someone has to be blamed. And when you’ve already forbidden yourselves from blaming any of the misdeeds of Islam on Muslims, who else is left?

The foggy ideas behind all this are various. One is that Jones is morally responsible for the clearly foreseeable end results of his action, since he must certainly know that burning a Qur’an is a provocative act guaranteed to lead to murderous reprisals by Islamists against Westerners. If you own a vicious dog and you release it into the neighborhood, isn’t it pretty much your fault when someone gets mauled? If your friend tells you he’s caught his wife cheating on him and needs your gun to go get some justice, you won’t be innocent if you lend it to him. Of course, the Terry Jones case isn’t quite the same. Jones obviously didn’t do anything to facilitate the Mazar-e-Sharif murderers. He wasn’t even there. Muslims have been murdering people who’ve upset them since, well, as long as there’ve been Muslims. Jones neither facilitated the Mazar-e-Sharif murderers nor offered encouragement to their bloodthirsty rioting. They almost certainly hadn’t even heard of Jones until the day of the rampages, “after being,” as Andy McCarthy notes, “whipped into the familiar frenzy at Friday prayers.”
In fact, it is not even accurate to say that Jones incited the Afghans. His Koran-torching stunt took place on March 20. The murderous riot did not occur until nearly two weeks later — only after the natives were whipped up not just by the fire-breathing Friday imams but by the inflammatory rhetoric of Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

Where Klein and Lindsey Graham and their other fogbound friends almost have a point is in the idea, an idea they haven’t bothered to examine too closely, that the Mazar-e-Sharif rampage, or some other similar rampage, was foreseeable. According to this idea, Terry Jones knew that if he burned his Qur’an it would incite Muslim mass rage, a predictable deadly eruption, reliably as Old Faithful, manifesting in a spree of Islamic murders, (e.g., “Cartoon Rage, Pope Rage, Fitna Rage, Teddy Bear Rage....”).

Actually, I happen to agree, at least that the Mazar-e-Sharif rampage, or some other similar rampage, was foreseeable to Jones. It was also foreseeable to me. In fact, I foresaw that I’d be hearing about Islamic violence somewhere on the planet where Islam predominates, regardless of whether Terry Jones did anything or not. All you need to foresee things like this is to walk around with your eyes open at least a few hours a day. Then Jones had the extra advantage of last September’s public lectures from no less than the President of the United States, the Secretary of State, and General David Petraeus on on the subject of how his Constitutionally-protected act might be taken in the Ummah. As Ann Coulter observed at the time:
Gen. Petraeus objected to the Quran-burning protest on the grounds that it could be used by radical jihadists to recruit Muslims to attack Americans. . . . If the general's main objective is to hamper jihadist recruiting, may I respectfully suggest unconditional surrender? Because on his theory, you know what would really kill the terrorists' recruiting ability? If we adopted Sharia law!

Last fall The Daily Mail reported Petraeus’s warning that, if Jones went ahead with his original Quran-burning on September 11, ‘It will spark war against all Christians’. As we now know, Jones backed off his Quran-burning last September, denying Islam the casus belli against all Christians. And as we also now know, Jones’s forbearance led to a dramatic reduction in terrorist recruiting, a drop in jihadist attacks worldwide, and a continuation of the centuries-long peace with all Christians -- oh, no, wait! Never mind. I can’t find any documentation for that! Sorry. Naturally, Gen. Petraeus’s objection abut sparking a war overlooks the reality that Islam is already at war with all Christians, and has been, lo these many centuries.

As I see it, just because Jones, or any of us, found the Mazar-e-Sharif rampage foreseeable doesn’t mean that what Jones did caused it. If something is already in motion, and has been for a long time, nothing I do now can be said to be its cause. Jones no more caused the frenzy of Muslims looking for Westerners to behead than Churchill caused the Blitz when he declared Britain would never surrender to Nazi rule. In both cases the aggressor was already on the march. The war was on. The jihadi sword, long since unsheathed, only needs to be directed to its next victim.

That’s why for Karzai and the imams, or for any other arch-jihadists looking for an excuse for bloodshed, Terry Jones’s Quran-burning didn’t cause them to do what they did: all it did was provide a pretext. Jones and Klein and Graham, and for that matter, I and most of you, find this type of Muslim violence utterly foreseeable from knowledge of the simple fact that they’re already at war with us, and have been commanded to be so by the very terms of the book Gen. Petraeus insists on referring to as “the Holy Quran.”

I believe this was Jones’s whole point when he came up with his idea in the first place. “We must take a serious, serious look at Islam. It's a violent religion that promotes acts of violence.” Nor is the point of disagreement between people like Jones on one side and people like Lindsey Graham on the other that Jones knows that Islam is a violent religion and Graham doesn’t. Graham appreciates the violence in Islam, and Gen. Petraeus does, too, as well as anyone, and better than most. How couldn’t he, having presided over the defeat of the savages of al Qaeda in Iraq? No, the difference isn’t that Jones knows and they don’t, but that Jones knows and is free to say what he knows, and Graham and Gen. Petraeus are not free, for whatever reason, to say what they know. And perhaps not even free to think what they know. That’s what a contradiction can do to your head.

I don’t really consider all this an argument about either free speech or how best to prevent outbreaks of Islamic violence. It’s about the American mind forced to attempt the impossible: grasping two contradictory, mutually exclusive ideas at once, and the unbearable tension that results. I think we’re about at the end of a long period of national muddledom, stretching back to the first the first weeks after 9/11, and since which the majority of America’s public thinkers have felt obliged to propose the peacefulness of Islam as a fact, while at the same time having to witness a procession of graphic instances, far as the eye can see, of how Islam, as Terry Jones set out to show, is “a violent religion that promotes acts of violence.”

Lindsey Graham’s blather is the perfect example of what results. Take his remark on Face the Nation last week, when he said that,“During World War II, you had limits on what you could say if it would inspire the enemy.” Never mind for now what he said about free speech, and never mind either about what form censorship did or didn’t take during World War II. We all know about Popeye punching out a Japanese submarine and Daffy Duck ridiculing Mein Kampf withour FDR lecturing Walt Disney. What strikes me in Graham’s mostly incoherent response was what he reveals when he mentions “the enemy.” Remember how the context is Graham blaming Jones for “inspiring the enemy” by burning the Qur’an. If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a million times, that Islam is not the enemy. But it wasn’t the Taliban or al Qaeda (as far as I know) that committed the Mazar-e-Sharif murders. Joe Klein makes a point of this:
The first thing that you need to know about the massacre of 12 people that took place in Afghanistan today is that Mazar-e-Sharif is not a particularly radical town. It is not Pashtun, it is not Taliban. It is so quiet that NATO dispatched the near-pacifist Germans to keep the peace there.
And yet, according to Lindsey Graham, these very people were “the enemy” who were inspired to murder by what Jones did. And according to Klein, this “massacre” (which he also calls a “protest”), “. . . may be only a taste of what we're going to see when the real religious fanatics get ginned up.”

In other words, these killers aren’t even the real fanatics. They aren’t even the fringe “unIslamic” extremists of unknown motivation, the “hijackers of a great religion” against whom we’ve been battling for ten years. They’re not Taliban, not Pashtun, just ordinary villagers, your everyday peace-loving Muslims being babysat by German peace soldiers and attending Friday prayers. Probably all they have in common with Ayman al-Zawahiri is mosque attendance!

And if they ended up beheading UN workers later that day, that’s Terry Jones’s fault. Why? Because it was foreseeable. Because Jones had to know that these pacific villagers, or other pacific villagers like them in some other pacific Islamic village, were going to cut infidel heads off when they found out what he’d done to their holy book. Because Islamic violence is as predictable as sunup and sundown. Jones is vilified as morally culpable for lack of due regard for the foreseeable violence crouching in the breasts of the people of the Qur’an, and at the same time is vilified by the same people for drawing attention to the danger. Remember when O’Reilly said Muslims killed us on 9/11? “You can’t say that!” commanded Whoopi Goldberg.

This is exactly what I mean when I say we can’t hold this contradiction together any longer. Jones says Islam is violent and is condemned for it by America’s highest officials. But the gist of what Graham says is that Islam is a powder keg so unstable a feather can set it off, so we should curtail free speech to prevent that. Klein sentences Jones to hell because deliberately angering even Islam’s most peaceful, nonfanatical adherents is so dependably going to lead to a river of blood that it makes him an accessory to their massacres, an act “murderous as any suicide bomber's”: And just how murderous is that? The suicide bomber knows that if all he does is press the detonator the dynamite will explode and the ball bearings will fly out and kill, and maim, and destroy. Klein views Islam as a suicide belt designed to explode and kill and maim, and that all it needs for detonation is to be maligned by an infidel’s free speech.

Where exactly is the disagreement amongst these people about the violent nature if Islam?

I really believe now that it’s not that Graham and Klein and Petraeus and the rest of these guys don’t know Islam is violent. It’s just that they’re so dishonest about it, at least intellectually dishonest. They’re desperately trying to hold that contradiction together, inside which a peaceful, humanitarian religion can be set off into violent bloodshed by a word, an action, a gesture. And the result of their pretzel logic is their incomprehensible, irrational, and silly statements about Terry Jones and the “Holy Qur’an.” This is what the contradiction is doing to their heads.

They’re not going to be able to hold that contradiction together much longer.

None of us is.

And that’s a good thing.



Well written article! Glad to see it.
Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and an excellent point that lil Lindsey admitted that we have an enemy! and your identification
of the killers who reacted to news of Jones' koran destruction.