Good Night and Good Luck should have won an Oscar a few years ago for David Strathairn’s powerfully controlled portrayal of Ed Murrow, the reporter who stood up to McCarthy. It was nominated for six. In the 1950’s the bogeyman was Communism. Today, it’s Islam and an insignificant little pastor in Florida is proposing to burn copies of the Qu’ran, presumably believing that the First Amendment offers him protection under the law.
I am not sure that it does, but I don’t suppose he cares very much.
‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’ In other words, Islam, along with worship of trees is permitted under the Constitution, but Congress offers no protection to those whose actions can be attributed to cause a breach of the peace. The prevailing media mood is one where it seeks to marginalise, distance itself and ridicule this man – who, it is clear – lacks, shall we say, political judgement. I wonder if this will be enough. The president has gone on record as saying that this destructive act will act as a ‘recruitment bonanza for Al-Qaeda’, which may be perfectly true, but it fails to address the morality of the bookburning.
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia’s leader, has written to Mr Obama asking him to personally intervene to stop irreparable damage to relations between the West and Muslims “threatening world peace”. He wrote that Indonesia and the US are building or bridging relations between the Western world and Islam. If the Koran burning occurs, then those efforts “will be useless,” said Teuku Faizasyah, the Indonesian leader’s spokesman.
The president is under pressure at home not to be seen to give in to the Muslims which puts him squarely between a rock and a hard place. If the FBI arrests Pastor Jones, civil liberties organisations will howl for Obama’s blood. If he doesn’t, Gen Petraeus’ grim prediction that US lives will be lost in consequence may well be proven correct.
The demonstrations are beginning. In the central Pakistani city of Multan, the protesters’ invariable “Down with America.” seemed to be the mantra du jour.
“If Koran is burned, it would be beginning of destruction of America,” read one English-language banner held up by the protesters. Promethean hubris, perhaps, but abroad, the US shooting itself in the foot would be received jubilantly in the markets of Karachi.
“This is a plan by Zionists to put the entire world into trouble, so it should be foiled,” said Tari Naeemullah, the head of the Joint Civic Front, a coalition of non-governmental organisations in Multan.
The First War began with a comparatively small spark. Let’s hope that reason prevails and Terry Jones himself will simply use the threat rather than the action to make his point and torching the books just because he can is not seen as sufficient justification. Good night, Mr Obama, and good luck..
Later..it seems that Jones has ‘backed down’ and will no longer burn the books, as long as the Ground Zero Mosque is relocated. An apparent promise that this would happen, extracted from the Floridian imam Muhammad Musri, was contradicted by the imam in charge of the NYC project Feisal Abdul Aruf and the saga will run on at least until tomorrow. I wonder if that was the pastor’s real agenda in the first place. The images are of street art after 9/11.