Blue: Burn a Koran, go to jail; at least in Britain


Courtesy Photo: Thinkstock

Koran burning can land you behind bars in the U.K.

Brandon Blue

I wrote April 3 about Terry Jones — can’t call him “Pastor,” that would be far too respectful — burning a copy of the Koran at the Dove World Outreach Center, and the Westboro Baptist Church burning one on Sept. 11 of last year.

Now it seems the trend has hopped the pond.

A former soldier, 32-year-old Andrew Ryan, stole a copy of the Koran from a library and set it on fire in the town center of Carlisle in the U.K., in full view of pedestrians, some of whom were children.

The BBC reported:

Carlisle Magistrates’ Court sentenced Ryan to 70 days in prison for his crime.” It was deemed “theatrical bigotry” by the court, which claimed that Ryan “went out to cause maximum publicity and to cause distress.”

Now I understand that Britain’s laws aren’t quite the same as ours, but honestly? Theatrical bigotry? Seventy days in prison?

You fine people for destroying a library book, or you make them replace it, or both. You don’t waste time and money putting them in jail. What Ryan did is simply not a criminal offense. Would he still have gone to jail for two and a half months if he’d just lost the Koran instead of burnt it? What if he’d stolen a Bible and burnt that?

I appreciate and support the freedom of speech, even speech which is at times unsavory, e.g. that of the Westboro Baptist Church. In this sense, I believe that if anyone, Muslim or otherwise persuaded, wants to interrupt a moment of silence to make his or her points in the most immature ways possible, that person is entitled to it.

At the same time, I don’t know if I support Ryan in his outburst, either. Burning a Koran does little to fix a situation. This is an ethical opinion, of course; I feel the right to a freedom of speech should transcend a nation’s constitution.

The fact that men have mouths is, to me, enough that they deserve the right to use them.

As he was pulled from the courtroom in handcuffs, the BBC reports that Ryan did use his, screaming, “What about my country? What about burning poppies?”

New York Daily News reports that Ryan was referring to Emdadur Choudhury, a Muslim extremist fined in March for having lit a poppy on fire on Armistice Day 2010.

Why did Choudhury receive a fine while Ryan was sentenced to jail time? Is the only difference between them that Ryan stole and destroyed a library book? Make sure to return your library books if you ever go there, I guess.

And what about Ryan’s country? At Armistice Day 2010, Muslim extremists also held signs that said, “British soldiers burn in hell!” and “Allah is our protector and you have no protectors.” The irony of the last sign is likely not lost on Ryan, whose protectors turned on him.

At the least, here in the U.S., the media and important figures noticed and condemned the slaying of U.N. personnel “in response” to Jones’ Koran burning. They begrudgingly accepted that Jones was within his rights after dragging him through the mud, instead of ignoring him. A stone’s throw over the water and they’ll haul you to court for speaking your mind and demonstrating.

One other thing; while the red of the poppies is often noted as an ironic contrast to the red blood spilt in the fields of France and everywhere else since, I’d like to note another ironic contrast: that of the extremism.

While no one appreciates a moment of silence for millions of war dead broken by knuckleheads, I find it fitting that those whose memory they mock died to let them do so; died to let them prove in no uncertain terms the depth of their inanity.

That’s freedom of speech at its finest.