Publicity-hungry crackpot pastor Terry Jones (not the Monty Python guy) in Florida creates a media flurry by burning a Koran at a small Florida church. The incident made it to the news, and then Karzai put it to use for his own purposes (emphasis added),
Both Afghan and international news media had initially played down or ignored the action of Mr. Jones, the Florida pastor. This Thursday, however, President Hamid Karzai made a speech and issued statements condemning the Koran burning and calling for the arrest of Mr. Jones for his actions. On Friday that theme was picked up in mosques throughout Afghanistan.
Gee, thanks, Hamid!
There is no provision in American law for arresting anyone for burning a Koran, or for that matter a Bible, which the courts would consider protected free speech.
“Karzai brought this issue back to life, and he has to take some responsibility for starting this up,” said a prominent Afghan businessman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of concern over retribution if he was publicly critical of the president.
“Karzai’s speech itself provoked people to take such actions,” said Qayum Baabak, a political analyst in Mazar-i-Sarif. “Karzai should have called on people to be patient rather than making people more angry.”
Officials in Mazar-i-Sharif blamed Taliban agitators from other provinces for stirring up violence in the Friday protests there. Zemarai Bashary, the spokesman for the Ministry of Interior in Kabul, said a high-level delegation had been sent to Mazar-i-Sharif to investigate the cause of the attack, including whether Taliban were involved and why police were not able to prevent the bloodshed inside the U.N. compound.
A spokesman for the Taliban, however, denied that the insurgents had any role in the disturbances in either Mazar or Kandahar. “This was the reaction of the people of Afghanistan,” said Zabiullah Mujahid.
Also on Saturday, a team of suicide bombers attempted to breach the front gate at an American military base in Kabul, Camp Phoenix, according to Mohammed Zahir, chief of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Kabul Police. Two of them were disguised as women, wearing full-length burqas, and two others were carrying small arms, he said. One of the burqa-clad bombers blew up at the gate of the camp, and the other managed to get about five yards inside the gate before also detonating. The other two attackers were shot and killed by guards before they could enter, he said.
Now the Guardian is asking, Is the Florida pastor who burnt the Qur’an morally responsible for the deaths of UN staff in protests in Afghanistan? The short answer is no; the murders were perpetrated by a fanatical group of men. They and their leaders are responsible. Richard Fernandez puts the Guardian’s question in perspective,
The Guardian poll is a story within a story within a story. Terry Jones burns a Koran. Some people in Afghanistan kill and behead UN workers who had nothing to do with Terry Jones. The Guardian sits in judgment — not on the killers in Afghanistan, but of Terry Jones, but not because they care whit for any of the first two stories but because they want to create some kind of talking point upon which to sit moral judgment of a fourth party, as yet unnamed though you can guess who it might be.
The West should stand for freedom of expression. If we allow the possible reaction of the most dogmatic, evil people who might hear the message to govern our expression, we don’t have freedom at all.
Reader DavidK sent link to Reid, Graham: Maybe it’s time for congressional action on Koran-burning
Whatever happened to free speech?