Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Leading Lambs to Slaughter

In one of today's Op-Ed columns in the New York Times, Roger Cohen denounces Pastor Terry Jones for burning a Koran, which led to the murder of a Swedish employee at a U.N. Mission in Afghanistan. This is the same Terry Jones who threatened to burn a Koran back when the issue was the creeping threat of the Islamic Center near Ground Zero.

It's a brave and passionate article at a time when rational thinking is in short supply. For example, the budget debate, filled with absolutism (granted, not First Amendment absolutism) and annihilation of public funds for social programs that the private sector would never institute because they would not bring a profit.

But Roger Cohen may be wrong about condoning Jones' action under First Amendment absolutism. If Pastor Jones knew he would incite murderous retaliation, he should be considered an accomplice. Certainly, there is an exception in First Amendment law for provoking threatening or murderous behavior. It's called "shouting 'Fire!' in a crowded theater." You can be prosecuted for putting lives at risk with your actions. I think burning the Koran qualifies.

Cohen suggests that Muslims have "work to do":

Muslims have work to do. They should have the courage to denounce unequivocally the Mazar murder. Jihadists have too often deformed a great religion with insufficient rebuke. From Egypt to Pakistan, it must be understood that Islam cannot at once be a political force and above criticism. Once you enter the democratic political arena on a religious platform, your beliefs are no longer a private matter but up for legitimate attack. Pakistan’s violence-inducing blasphemy laws are an affront to this principle.

There are political groups in America, like Operation Rescue, that utilize religious motifs to stir up their followers, often to murder abortion providers. He who is without sin can cast the first stone.

Inciting a mob to murderous rage, as was done in Afghanistan, is appalling and hideous. Let's not move to atavistic primitivism during desperate times. This is when we need cool heads the most.

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