Back in the day in America, we lived in a free country. In America, you could, if you wanted to, rake up a bunch of leaves and burn them, if you felt like it. Or you could burn trash and garbage in your very own trash barrel. You could fire up a chain saw and cut down a tree on your property if you had the urge to. You could shoot a bird or a squirrel with a gun; you could buy fireworks, or other dangerous chemicals, and blow things up in the yard, at your leisure.
So you might well imagine when the press reported that on May 9th, an American soldier took a Quran— the “Holy Bible” of the Muslim religion— to a shooting range and used it for target practice, that many Americans just yawned. Or laughed. Or muttered self righteously, “Fuck yeah”— echoing the two words found written in English on the Quran that was used for target practice. After all, wasn’t that U.S. soldier just exercising his freedumb to do whatever the hell he pleased? Uh, no.
And that was not the public reaction of President George Bush. In a regularly scheduled phone conversation with Prime minister Niouri al-Malaki, Bush quickly apologized for the incident.
One Sunni Arab lawmaker said: “It is a dangerous case. We had been silent and accepted the killing of our sons, the destruction of our homes and the theft of our money, but we do not accept insults to the holy Quran,” he said at a news conference.
And there it is. It is one thing for the Iraqis to be understandably insulted, humiliated, and angered by such a stunt; but why is it more outrageous than all the senseless slaughter of innocent Iraqi men, women, and children during the seven year invasion and occupation of Iraq?
Perhaps their culture places more value on the Holy Quran than Americans might on the Holy Bible, if the circumstances were reversed. But ask yourself: what kind of man recognizes and apologizes for the childish insult against the Quran a little more than ten days after it happens, but has yet to say a public word about the deaths of untold hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings killed by our military and mercenary forces in Iraq??
There are good reasons why we as free Americans have evolved in our understanding of what constitutes the exercise of moral and ethically sound freedom. Communities recognized that the freedom of every citizen to burn plastic and other garbage would produce enough toxic smoke and air pollution to quickly make their little slice of heaven uninhabitable. So too, the freedom to discharge a firearm whenever you wanted to get rid of a rodent in the yard, or let your child blow their hands off with dangerous fireworks.
Sound morals and ethics are essential to the responsible exercise of freedom— freedom that respects the rights of every human being. But the sacredness of every single human life cannot compare with the ignorant and thoughtless destruction of a religious symbol, even if it contains the revelatory word of God. Our Creator wants each of us to LIVE the truth; not treat it as a sacred symbol that is more important than the gift of life itself.