Book Burning

First, I condemn the killing of an Afghan protester in Faizabad, the capital of Badakhshan:

The Guardian reports an “attack” by protesters on a Nato base, but refers only to stones being thrown. That some members of a crowd throw stones is never a justification for troops opening fire with live rounds.

Solidarity with all those who, taking to the streets, find themselves being shot at and murdered.

Second, I condemn those who have issued “condemnations” of Pastor whatever-his-name. I condemn them because I find their condemnation more insulting to islamic people than this book burning, when you consider the logic used. Thus, we have Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defence Minister Peter MacKay, General Patraeus and even Obama himself claiming that the Qur’an burning will “enrage” muslims across the world and act as a “recruitment bonanza” for al-Qaeda. ~ Obama:

“And as a very practical matter, I just want him to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women who are in uniform,” the president said.

“Look, this is a recruitment bonanza for al-Qaeda. You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan. This could increase the recruitment of individuals who’d be willing to blow themselves up in American cities, or European cities.”

Several things to note:

1) How islamophobic can you get? Who knows how a very different and (politically, geographically, reliously, ethnically, economically) diverse people will react to this “news”? Certainly it is rather suspect to suppose that (as Pakistan President, Asif Ali Zardari put it) the burning will “inflame sentiments among Muslims throughout the world”.

2) On the one hand this is a generalisation about muslims that equates islam with terrorism; on the other it is a very politically suspect reduction of the causes of terrorism to religion. By this latter I mean, for example, how little will the religious insult of burning a few copies of the Qur’an by some bloke in Gainesville “inflame” a people, by comparison with (just to list a few examples) the military invasion, continued occupation, and economic exploitation of Afghanistan and Iraq? How little will this register compared to the continued support by the US of Israel’s policy and actions with regard to Palestine? How little will it effect a people compared to the possibility of further invasions; or, indeed, the criminalisation of whole populations?

3) This separation of  religion from the military and the economic leads to some severe distortions – ironically, to the very sort of distortions that inform Pastor Jones’ “Islam is Evil” and, indeed, the rhetoric of the “English Defence League” (EDL), Geert Wilders, etc. But, politicians and journalists and, indeed, all “liberal” commentators (including and especially church leaders) seem to have missed this fatal irony. Worse, in an act of quite incredible amnesia, they come out with such utterly ridiculous statements as:

“Book burning can lead to war. It is not the answer.”

Even Obama’s talk of this potentially leading to “severe violence in places like Pakistan” hints at the possibility of war, and certainly of increased terrorism, being directly caused by this Pastor’s act.

4) This party line from the Whitehouse, then, is certainly a remarkably sophisticated bit of PR. On the one hand it draws in both liberals (with its, don’t offend people of difference line) and conservatives (with its rally around the flag, don’t be careless about our troops’ lives line). On the other, it both displaces blame for violence in Afghanistan and Iraq, Pakistan and the US, onto religion and religious “extremists” (on the one hand the generalised figure of “the islamic world”; on the other, the “isolated nutcase” figure of Pastor Handle-bar). Moreover, it creates uncertainty and fear about the “security situation”, further consolidating both the image of the fearful other, Islam, and the power the US and other governments derive from this.

This takes us back to that man who got shot today by UN forces: don’t try to pin this death, or your wars, on a lone Pastor – or on islamic extremists (which is to try to claim that he murdered himself). Whilst the basis of the State is violence and its business economic exploitation, these events remain, not cases of “isolated insanity”, but systematic. This is not a question of whether or not book burning should or should not be allowed; it is the question of whether or not capitalism must be overturned. In fact, there is no question, the answer is clear: socialism or barbarism.



~ by Wit on September 10, 2010.

2 Responses to “Book Burning”

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