Burning Qurans and Ground Zero mosques: when is it reasonable to take offence?

Pastor Jones was too handsomely rewarded for his threats


Phil Sandlin/AP

For one mad moment, it seemed as if the standoff over the burning Qurans and the controversy over the Ground Zero mosque would both be settled at one go—with a trade. Terry Jones, the deranged Florida pastor threatening to burn 200 Qurans to protest Islam’s responsibility, as he sees it, for the Sept. 11 attacks, announced to a waiting world he would call off the bonfire, in return for a promise by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the slightly saner cleric behind the proposal to build a mosque in downtown Manhattan, near the site of the attacks, to move it further uptown.

It soon emerged that the deal existed only in the pastor’s crowded head. And a good thing, too: such an exchange would not only have rewarded Jones for his threats, but implies a false equivalence between the two events, the one involving the destruction of a religious symbol, the other the construction of one. Yet for all their differences, both raise essentially the same question: when is it reasonable to take offence, and when to give it? A civil society, it is often forgotten, imposes mutual obligations: not to give offence needlessly, certainly, but also not to take offence too easily.

The fevered political climate in America, post-Sept. 11, has offered plenty of examples of both. Worse, they seem to feed off of each other, an excess of sensitivity leading to a deliberate outrage and thus to still further overreactions until, in the case of the pyromaniacal pastor, we reach the level of opera bouffe: a telephone call from the U.S. defence secretary, pleading with him not to go ahead with the protest for fear of the mayhem and violence it would set off around the world.

Of all the reasons why the pastor might have been persuaded to call off his protest, this is surely the worst. If Jones has been altogether too handsomely rewarded, in the form of media attention, for his own threats, it is still more grotesque to reward those who threaten violence in response. Indeed, it excuses the latter for responsibility for their actions, in a way that almost seems to endorse Jones’s point: that Islam is inherently violent.

I rather doubt we would be having this discussion were someone proposing to burn a Bible. That the government of the mightiest nation on earth would stoop to pleading with so fringe a character is a sign, not of sensitivity, but fear. The proper response of any political leader, asked about the pastor’s activities, is to say: “I do not comment on the ravings of every street-corner lunatic.”

But back to my main point. It is true that the pastor has a legal right to burn the Quran, as the imam has a right to build his mosque. It is also true, as has been said in both cases, that just because you have a right to do something does not make it right to do so.

But this does not get us very far. We can no more say an action is wrong, simply because others are offended, than we can say it is right, merely because we have the right to be offensive. Rather, it depends: is it reasonable to take offence? Was it necessary to give it?

Most people would find it reasonable for Muslims to take offence at the burning of their holy book, if only because the pastor had to go so far out of his way to offend them: book-burning is hardly an everyday activity. By contrast, consider that radical sect of Islam that regards any form of statuary as blasphemous. This so intrudes upon the norms of Western society that we would be far less sympathetic to expressions of outrage on these grounds, however sincerely felt.

This helps, I think, to sort out the issues surrouding the so-called Ground Zero mosque. Up to a point, we should be sympathetic to those, particularly the victims’ families, who would find it offensive to see a Muslim shrine on the very site where so many died in the name of Islam (even a perverted version of it). Up to what point? If the mosque were actually proposed to be built right on the site: again, if only because the offending parties had to go so far out of their way to cause offence. Of all the places in the United States to build a mosque, we might ask, did they really have to choose that exact spot? Was that reasonable?

But the mosque is not to be built at Ground Zero, but two blocks away. The further you get from the site, the more the mosque itself and not the location becomes the issue, the more we are obliged to ask: is it reasonable to take offence? Does it not imply that all Muslims are to blame for the sins of a few? That Islam itself is offensive? At which point, a civil society must surely say: no, you have forfeited our sympathy.

As for the loony Rev. Jones, I can’t say I had much sympathy for him to begin with. But it’s pretty clear he’s lost it.


Burning Qurans and Ground Zero mosques: when is it reasonable to take offence?

  1. Park 51 remains *still* not a Mosque. It's a community center with space for prayer. It's no more a Mosque than a YMCA is a cathedral.

    • Do I need to get Wells over here to explain why this is a stupid line of argument?

      • Explain please

      • I give up.

        • Don't.

    • At the YMCA, "people" do not go about recruiting potential killers. That is the basic difference between Park 51 and YMCA. A cathedral is a place where people pray to God to protect them from people who will be going to Park 51. I am an athiest so I have no problem with of them. I have a problem with the ideology going behind Park 51. As always the truth is obfuscated with nice words (to the public, and of course, accusations like racism, bigotry and prosecution), syntax and laws. For once, just ONCE, if they could speak the truth (wistful thinking), there might be some resolution in the distant horizon!!

      • Uh, don't want to speak for Wells, but that wouldn't be why Park 51 is a mosque. Do you think Timothy McVeighs are recruited from your local Methodist chapel? Mosque ≠ radical. Are Muslims more likely to be radical? Yes. Does that mean all mosques are radical recruitment centres? No.

      • So are you saying that you believe any Muslim who would go to this centre is a potential terrorist?

  2. I don't think I've ever agreed with something you've written as fully and completely as I do this. Good stuff.

    • Seconded.

  3. "If Jones has been altogether too handsomely rewarded, in the form of media attention, for his own threats, it is still more grotesque to reward those who threaten violence in response. Indeed, it excuses the latter for responsibility for their actions, in a way that almost seems to endorse Jones's point: that Islam is inherently violent."

    Absolutely! We need to draw Mohammed cartoons and burn korans until muslims stop reacting hysterically. We are not, and should not be, hostages to sharia.

    • Hostages to Sharia?

      Come on, Canada just got over being hostages to Roman Catholicism. How else do you describe aboriginal residential schools?

      Or do you consider Egyptian cotton sheets to be part of the mulsim takeover of the west?

      • We are enslaved to thread counts!

      • Im not referring to Canada specifically, Im referring to the west generally. Also, you're confusing protestantism with catholicism. And its not because we were slaves to christianity that we must now become slaves to islam.

        Im referring to south park episodes censored because of images of mohammed.

        Im referring to Ezra Levant having to defend his magazine's printing of cartoons.

        Im referring to this magazine's and Steyn's affair with human rights commissions for having offended muslims.

        Im referring to Theo Van Ghogh being killed over a movie criticial of islam's treatment of women.

        Im referring to the many killed around the world following the riots caused by freaking cartoons.

        Or the riots caused by the pope's criticism of islam.

        Im referring to Molly Norris being forced into hiding because she suggested 'everybody draw mohammed' day.

        Im rererring to Ayan Hirsi Ali needing body guards because she's an 'apostate'.

        Im referring to Geert Wilders being prosecuted and needing body guards for making a movie which offends muslims.

        Im referring to Burger King's changing of a logo on a milkshake which apparently looked like the arabic word for 'allah' (as silly as this may sound, this is true, google it).

        I could go on but i think i made the point.

        • So you have essentially no idea about what you speak? just so we're clear, then.

          • Aflanerd made references to 10 true events; you made one lame attempt at an insult in an "effort" to discredit him. Alfanerd 10, Mike T love.

        • The west "generally" includes us. Anyway: Catholicism. Read up on Quebec.

          As to your list? Don't confuse slef-censorship with actual censorship. Different beasts entirely.
          Ezra, and Steyn, and Macleans defended themselves. Our lovely western system of (non-sharia) laws allows us to do that, no? They all won, as I recall. Ta da!

          The rest? Equating the actions of the extremists with the religion as a whole. The loony who killed Geert has no more claim to Islam than does the unabomber have with urban planners.

          Would you like an equally spurious list of lynchings carried out in the deep south in the past century in the name of their interpretation of Christianity? Or of the various transit authorities refusing to carry bus ads that that said "There 's probably no god" .

          • "Ezra, and Steyn, and Macleans defended themselves. Our lovely western system of (non-sharia) laws allows us to do that, no? They all won, as I recall. Ta da!"

            That's an idiotic response – they had to spend six figures in a "legal" process that has no legitimacy against ridiculous claims – "defending" themselves for using their right to free speech. It should never have happened. The fact that they "won" is meaningless; the process itself served as a punishment for their daring to use their freedom of expression.

          • If indeed they spent that much (in the case of Ezra, I doubt it very very much and would put $ on it – care to call me, Ez?) they overspent. tragically.

          • And, happily, under Canadian civil law, they are able to launch lawsuits of their own to convince a court to order their accusers to pay their costs, at least reasonable costs. But courts don't generally pay the bill from the publicist..

          • Ah, but that's exactly it. A human rights commission isn't a proper court – so it doesn't order costs. Someone lodges a complaint, and the state does the rest. Which is part of the problem. Amazing how "happily" you can dismiss such facism.

          • There are lots of tribuanals and investigative panels and many operate this way. Funny how there's no public outrage over the fact you don't have to pay if you make a good faith but unsuccessful case before, say, the Privacy Commissioner or the Employment Standards Tribunal.

          • First, there's nothing "good faith" about the complaints we're talking about here. Second, the Privacy Commissioner's mandate to investigate complaints doesn't involved hauling private individuals to a kangaroo court, it involves making sure the federal government and private sector institutions adhere to the Privacy Act and PIPEDA.

          • I said "civil" law, people. I was simply saying these if these folks like, they can sue for out-of-pocket costs in civil court.. Doesn't matter where the case took place, they can sue in civil court.

          • the bar is pretty high and they likely wouldn't meet it. It would have to be an abuse of process type claim, and that didn't happen in the Maclean's case.

            Which is actually a good thing. Traditionally minorities are less advantaged than many more mainstream Canadians

          • …and the threat of paying costs could be a disincentive to even bringing legitimate claims. And since the commission has control over which cases it will go ahead with, (much like the Crown can decide whther to lay charges or not) it seems unfair to burden the intial complainant with a determination the commission could have stopped.

          • Talking is easy if you are not a recepient of spurious litigations. Wait until you experience paying the cost and time of having to defend yourself before you could really say, you know what you are talking about. As I have noticed, this court has been abused by many who just wish to discredit someone who does not agree with their way of thinking.

          • There are people in this world who lack the ability to put themselves in the shoes of other people. Any thinking, feeling person would feel empathy for a person being prosecuted — and persecuted — for expressing their opinions. This is called free speech and forcing defendants to pay exorbitant legal costs, regardless of there being any avenue to countersue at its completion, skips over the part where regular Joes have to scrape together thousand dollar retainers to hire lawyers all because some idiot felt offended.

          • I agree with the previous two comments. SLAPP lawsuits are a growing problem, and are a threat to our democracy. Just take a look at how many lawsuits are going on in Toronto's Ward 32, and what the impact is on the democratic process (or lack thereof):

            1) Councillor Bussin suing a constituent who published a newsletter criticizing her relationship with local developers – the lawsuit paid for with taxpayer dollars approved by Toronto City council.
            2) Councillor Bussin suing one of the local candidates contesting her seat.
            3) A supporter of Councillor Bussin threatening to sue Mayoral Candidate Rob Ford.

            I hope Macleans will consider doing an article on the growing use of SLAPP lawsuits.

          • B.S. I'm a minority — I'm as advantaged as any other Canadian. Life is what you make it in this great nation, and if you disbelieve that you're a closet racist. (Not really, I just wanted to try out playing the race card like squibby liberals tend to do on first draw).

          • And how does the privacy commissioner do this? An invasive investigation! Why, you don't even get a hearing to defend yourself before they issue they're conclusions – IT'S A TRAVESTY!! IT'S A MOCKERY OF JUSTICE!!!!

            And the complaints were a weak case (hence the easy win for Macleans) but there is nothing to suggest they were in bad faith. I imagine it's quite easy for a muslim to feel an idiot like Steyn is engaged in hate speech. They may have been wrong, but they weren't abusing the system.

          • no. not in an hrc. and in a regular court, you dont 'launch a lawsuit' to get costs. costs are always awarded one way or another in a real court. and its never a complete compensation either.

          • costs are OFTEN awarded one way or the other and it's ALMOST never complete compensation.

            But on the other hand, you don't pay $5,000 if you pull a fire alarm and it turns out there's no fire, as long as you thought there was.

          • Yeah, Bob, you see we won World War II so it doesn't matter that six million Jews were slaughtered! That's how the system works! Ta da!

          • i'd include those bus ads on the list. they were opposed by various christian and muslim groups if i recall.

            self-censorship which comes about because of the violent reactions of a bunch of lunatics is probably worse than government censorship, as the latter is more obviously wrong and the former can happen without anyone knowing.

            im not equating the actions of extremists with the religion as a whole. im saying that we shouldnt have to respect the tenets of sharia for fear of what the few extremists might do. we should make damn sure we violate as many tenets of sharia as possible to tell these few extremists that they dont get to tell us what to do.

            Geert didnt die – Theo did. And the guy who killed him was a muslim who claims he did it because Theo insulted islam.

            Molly Norris is now in hiding because some yemeni imam issued a fatwa on her. is that also non-islamic? like the fatwa issued against salman rushdie by ayatollah komeini? do you think the ayatollah is non-islamic because he's a big meanie too?

            it's circular reasoning to say that islamic terrorists are not islamic because they're terrorists. it makes as much sense to argue that all those christians who did bad things were not really christian so there's nothing wrong with christianity – i.e., none at all.

          • Fatwa is a wholly Islamic concept, as are jihad, jizya, and sharia. It's not "extremist" or representative of a small portion of the Muslim population either. It is a tenet as highly regarded by any practicing Muslim as "Thou shall not kill" is regarded by Catholics. The Muslim world, as Obama calls it, issued its on fatwa on Terry Jones and Obama, et al, essentially condoned and legitimized it. I'm far more concerned with the fact that being offended leads to massacres in the Middle East than any Westerner's philosophical contemplations about the right to offend or be offended. It puts Muslims in the category of subhuman, animalistic in nature and psychopathic when provoked. Sad that world leaders are very easily accepting the homicidal behaviour of offended Muslims as the norm.

          • "Sad that world leaders are very easily accepting the homicidal behaviour of offended Muslims as the norm."

            Sadly, it IS the norm. "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" – Edmund Burke. The radicals rule the roost in many Islamic countries; in far too many mosques. Christianity has had its dark periods; I would argue that this is one of Islam's. As long as the moderates sit on their hands and do nothing to stop the radicals in their midst; as long as they let the radicals take over the leadership roles; then the west is in danger. It's only the radicals that are the problem – but how do WE distinguish good from bad if their fellow muslims support them with their silence?

          • It is the norm in the sense that it occurs so frequently, but I dislike the fact that people who should know better aren't holding Muslims to the same standard we hold each other. This is what I mean by subhuman. Also, in my experience in criminal courts, criminals are most apt to reoffend when the system convinces them that they are the victims (of the system, natch) and cannot be held to blame for their actions. Who or what is to blame? Alcoholism, absentee father, mean teacher, etc. Westerners seen Muslims acting like maniacs, but out of "respect" for their "faith" or a disregard for their humanity and the innate gift of choice that goes along with it, they do not address the behaviour.

            Also, you contradicted yourself in your last sentence. Muslims who keep silent are aiding and abetting the fundamentalists. Therefore, the radicals and the silent Muslims are part of the same problem. However, Muslims keep silent because jihadis are in keeping with their faith. Until the West decides we can have an open dialogue about the horrors of true Islam, we will continue to be held captive by sharia.

          • I agreed with you up until the last paragraph of this last post. We have no way of knowing what percentage of those "Muslims who keep silent" (like those Germans under Hitler, or those Russians under Stalin, or those Chinese under Mao, or …) are silent because of complicity, or silent because of fear. An important distinction, don't you think? And one worthy of a bit of patience on our side to determine before we act unjudiciously?

            Regardless, I agree with your last statement: "Until the West decides we can have an open dialogue about the horrors of true Islam, we will continue to be held captive by sharia."

          • Well, I think we can draw an inference from the Islamic stance on apostates. If jihad is an Islamic tenet (and it is) then those who oppose it openly are in disagreement with the Koran, which is an immutable document because it was transcribed from Mohommad's words. Mohammad is believed to be the Prophet and emissary of Allah's words, and as such the Koran cannot be changed, neither can it be criticized (see: Danish cartoons of Mohammad). So Muslims who voice their disagreement with world jihad are subject to an apostate's punishment: death. However, there are those Islamic theologians who practice taqiyya, the custom of openly lying to infidels to further Islam's goals. This is also an Islamic tenet, so the imams and theologians who say terrorism is not Islam to kaffirs are practicing taqiyya. Dar al-Harb (where you are right now) is not called the House of War for nothing.

          • "Ezra, and Steyn, and Macleans defended themselves. Our lovely western system of (non-sharia) laws allows us to do that, no?"
            The very fact that they HAD to defend themselves inspite of that thing called "freedom of speech" is the problem. The whole concept of 'freedom" is fast becoming an illusion, and these "you-know-who"s are responsible in a major way for this downfall!
            There is no need for the culprits to have any claim to the religion. They invoked the name of the deity and that is enough to show a willingness to believe in the message, twisted or not. Calling up other names and examples is not going to change the fact that the majority of "perpetrators" calls on that one Name which committing theit heinous acts!

          • correction… which committing theit heinous acts!
            that is supposed to be,"while committing their heinous acts!"

          • The "religion as a whole" is extremist. As you so sneeringly spat at Alfanerd, read up on Koran.

      • Cotton? It's a muslin takeover!

  4. Although a more rational discussion than most, Coyne has still allowed the terrorists to place themselves as representatives to an entire faith. The KKK considers itself a Christian organization. Would this mean that Christian churches should be discouraged from setting up shop near any of the hundreds of sites where blacks were slaughtered by the Klan? Of course not, indeed many in the black community are also Christian and they would recognize that a moderate Christian Church might well be the ideal symbol to spite the goals of white supremacists.

    Of course, there are well over 2 million, upstanding, law abiding Muslims in the US who feel that the terrorists have horribly absconded with their faith and identity. Many attack this group by seizing upon the fact that they do not uniformly hold US foreign policy blameless for the radicalization of Islam; therefore they must be at a minimum be terrorist sympathizers. By analogy, this would make every social conservative, or libertarian would objects to affirmative action as a method to achieve racial equality a supporter of the KKK.

    • your analogy is terribly flawed. 'not holding US foreign policy blameless for the radicalization of Islam' is a nice little euphemism for suggesting that these 'moderate' muslims hold at least a portion of the same goals as the radicals.

      supporting racial equality (i.e., opposing affirmative action) is the absolute antithesis of what the KKK stood for.

      • It wasn't really much of a euphemism, it was a statement of fact. There are moderate Muslims who hold that the foreign policy of the US has been a detriment to eliminating terrorism. To some extent, the terrorists want to see some of the same changes to US foreign policy. It is simply logically wrong to infer that shared objectives imply any level of support or sympathy. If you are a moderate muslim in the US, sending your (identifiable) kids off to school, you have a very strong motivation for wanting to see all terrorism associated with the Islamic faith eliminated. If you think that the strategy adopted by your country is counterproductive to that goal you oppose it. You may disagree with their assessment of strategy and think US foreign policy is fine as it is, but that is completely irrelevant to the point at hand.

        The KKK would like to see affirmative action eliminated. So do you. I don't think that means you support the KKK, you just happen to share one objective. You want to eliminate racial inequality, the KKK seeks to perpetuate racial inequality yet undeniably you share a common objective in your two disparate pursuits.

        • To say that the KKK want to see affirmative action eliminated is disingenuous at best. They want to subjugate, if not eliminate, non-whites. They would not replace affirmative action with a race-neutral admission policy, they would prevent people from being admitted based on race. Opposing affirmative action because it is itself a racist policy is completely incompatible with anything the KKK actually promotes.

          But opposing Israel, invasion of Iraq/Afghanistan, rationalizing away 9/11, (all positions which Im sure are prevalent amongst 'moderate' muslims, as well as most leftists) these are entirely compatible with what al-qaeda promotes, even if they do not necessarily indicate a sympathy towards al-qaeda.

          • Your last paragraph is simply wrong in terms of its assumptions.

          • I thought I was just stating in explicit terms what you meant by 'they do not uniformly hold US foreign policy blameless for the radicalization of Islam.' Perhaps you would like to spell out exactly what you meant by that.

          • Many commentators on the right, would also point at specific acts taken by the US which in retrospect have proven to have assisted in the recruitment of terrorists. Perhaps the word blame should not be applied to such unintended consequences. Also lots of Muslims in the US do not object to Israel. (I have assumed that objecting to Israel is wrt its existence.) They may well strongly object to its policies as many others do. Your statement about leftists and Israel is indeed unsubstantiated since my understanding is that about 65% of Canadians meet your criteria of leftist.

          • "opposing Israel, invasion of Iraq/Afghanistan, rationalizing away 9/11"

            are these now controversial positions on the left and amongst moderate muslims? if so, im very happy. but i seriously doubt it. you may have more nuanced positions and consider yourself of the left, but if that is so you'll soon realize that you're not actually in sync with your fellow lefty travellers.

          • What do you mean by oppose Israel? Are you talking about its right to exist, or its policies?

            Do you differentiate between the invasion of Iraq & Afghanistan?

            Do you differentiate between the original invasion of Afghanistan and the debate over any possible ongoing mission there?

            When you say rationalizing away, are you really taking about those that believe it was a US plot? Alternatively are you talking about those that would say that actions by the US and its allies before the attack might have resulted in 9/11 never taking place or being thwarted. This last group would include many across the entire spectrum, because clearly there were both socio-political forces at work and a massive failure in security and intelligence. My own opinion is that the linkages between the two are significant.

          • oppose israel: i mean to be against israel as a matter of course, whatever the issue is. not necessarily opposing its existence, but never admitting any nuance in condemnation of israel.

            iraq/afghanistan: yes I do, but I supported (and still support) both. i understand opposition to iraq more than i do opposition to afghanistan. opposition to war in afghanistan is usually a big indicator that someone shares more than a few affinities with terrorists.

            rationalizing away 9/11: i mean those who say that the US had it coming.

            now i've answered your questions, please answer mine:

            Please spell out what you meant by: "they do not uniformly hold US foreign policy blameless for the radicalization of Islam"


            Do you consider the above positions as:
            a) wide spread on the left and amongst moderate muslims
            b) fringe positions on the left and amongst moderate muslims
            c) wide spread on the left but fringe amongst moderate muslims
            d) fringe on the left but widespread amongst moderate muslims

          • As you have stated them, largely b)
            with the proviso that virtually any Muslim would have issues with the supporters of the military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq who view those actions as campaigns against the Muslim religion. While this language is not used by political leaders, it is common on sites such as this, and to an increasing extent by political commentators. (The usual trick is to only ever use Islam as the second half of Radical Islam; I think it is suppose to make it politically correct even if the inference is clearly there that all Islam is radical.)

            There have been some who claim that the US "had it coming". There are many more that believe that 911 might never have happened if US foreign policy had been different. Bty, I am not sure that I agree with this, but I take it to be a rational possibility. As I stated, some of these believe the US should have anticipated the attack and thwarted it. Others believe that the US should have de-escalated the tensions that lead to the wide spread support for the attacks from some populations.

            My personal view is that following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US got sloppy about justifying its role in the world. It became focused on specific outcomes and ignored process. It continued its coldwar policy of supported selected despots. Virtually everyone in the world could tune into American political debates where the only real consideration was American interests, not international conventions, not right or wrong but strictly American interests. That is fine, if you are Switzerland and you are willing to follow international rules. If you are the biggest, baddest country and you dictate the rules on a regular basis it breeds resentment. So in my view, even while it continues to be a remarkably positive influence overall, the US style of foreign policy has served to stimulate intense resentment and opposition in several quarters.

          • Now now, that's the joy of assumptions. You can make them without any accuracy at all.

        • very nicely put, sir! very nicely indeed!

    • Bad analogy. There does not exist within the Bible any phrase which captures the KKK's modus operandi, that is that blacks are lesser beings than whites. There is, however, plenty of references to non-Muslims (infidels, kaffirs, unbelievers) as being lesser humans than Muslims. Take your pick, you won't have to venture — err, Google — very far.

  5. It was ridiculous that a group of 50 people led by a man with such a 'stach (circa 1800s) could garner so much attention in the first place. Imagine if they had instead organized a peaceful one-day rally, it would have (maybe) gotten some local coverage and that's about it. The amount of media fervor around this can only encourage every crackpot out there that all you need is a flamboyant hook and the press will gladly lend you a soapbox.

  6. Where is Mark Steyn on this one?

    • Off to the right and on the fringe, no doubt.

  7. Personally I think people reacted so strongly to the pastor because he's supposed to be "one of us" and his planned actions don't fit our politically correct sense of self.

    The hypersensitive Muslim's abroad however are like the homeless man in a greasy spoon: Everyone wants to avoid setting him off, not because they're afraid of him, but because it would be uncomfortable to deal with him directly. You know, because he stinks of urine and booze, while talking to himself and his imaginary friend. We want no more to do with him than the unwashed masses of third world Muslims. We want to avoid any interaction with them at all in fact.

    So frankly I think that for once Coyne is completely off base, but then he has plenty of company on that one. I mean christ, look at Mark Steyn's article:

    Kind of makes the point. All this hand wringing about appeasing Muslims is downright silly. Quite the opposite is happening in fact: We don't consider them on our level, and when of "our own" embarasses us by taking them seriously and acting just a kooky, we're all aghast.

    • What I took from Steyn's article is anyone who doesn't want to kill Muslims as bad as radical Muslims want to kill us is gay.

      "nancy boys at Bluehost"
      "gutless pussies of The Seattle Weekly"
      Obama as "craven squish"

      At least he supports Christine O'Donnell's witchy ways. What strange bedfellows. Too bad she isn't a Democrat, imagine the clever blog post he would spin out of that.

    • So in deference to "the homeless man in a greasy spoon: Everyone wants to avoid setting him off, not because they're afraid of him, but because it would be uncomfortable to deal with him directly," we just walk the other way or run and hide while he (they) do their ranting? But what if he burned the place down while I were hiding. Or worse yet, killed some of my customers who didn't get out of his way or didn't know he was a 'crazy' man to be avoided at all costs? Would I be held responsible for his actions since this was my "greasy spoon" and I was supposed to "watch out" for my customers? And if we all did get out of his way for a day or a week, I will lose some of my livelyhood for that period of time. At some point I imagine I would have to draw the line or go out of business.

  8. When considering if it is reasonable to take offence, perhaps one should consider the motivations of the actor.

    Obviously nothing more needs to be said about the Florida Pastor on this topic.

    But lets move on to the mosque. What is the intent of the people building it at that location? Is it really to foster peace and outreach as they claim? Or is it deliberately meant as a provocation?

    You say that the mosque isn't at Ground Zero…but in a way, it is. The site they purchased was a Burlington Coat Factory building which was damaged by one of the 9/11 aircraft, and the leaders of the project are on the record as choosing that location because of that fact. So to say it is not at Ground Zero is not quite right.

    Furthermore, as time goes on, more and more disturbing information is coming to light about the Imam at the center of the controversy. He is on the record as supporting a one-state solution (Palestine) to the Middle East peace process. He is on the record as suggesting US foreign policy was partly responsible for 9/11. The site is already being used as a temporary mosque and one of the imams already preaching there, Faiz Khan, turns out to be a 9/11 truther who believes that 9/11 was an inside job.

    Is it reasonable to take offense that such a person is the lead on this project and allows 9/11 truthers to preach there? I'd say so.

    • You say that the mosque isn't at Ground Zero…but in a way, it is.


      In a "way" which is stupid and inaccurate, yes.

      They stated they chose the land because it was CHEAPER because it was damaged by 9/11, NOT to make a political point.

      I have noticed the disturbing tendency in your posts to tell outright frabrications and lies. it does not sit well with me.

      • Really Mike T?

        Here is what Imam Rauf's wife Daisy Khan had to say about it:

        I think the building came to us, which goes to show that there is a symbolism there, and that there's a divine hand in it. That it's so close to the tragedy, that its close proximity is very symbolic for the fact that we really want to reverse what happened on 9/11.

        Nowhere does she mention the cost. But she spends a fair bit of time on the symbolism. Care to provide a source to back up your claim? Or are you now the one telling outright lies and fabrications?

        • So this sinister's Imam's wife says they "want to reverse what happened on 9/11"… scary stuff!

          • The fact is that nothing except for a time machine and sending back a crack team of commandos to target the hijackers in advance could ever "reverse what happened on 9/11", as the imam's wife so confusedly states.
            What can be changed is what happens from here on in. And since this planned mosque within the debris field of the 9/11 attacks so obviously frustrates, offends and angers Americans, the developers of it have a real chance to do the right thing and find another site.

        • Still you.

          Amazingly enough (not).

  9. The question should not be "when is it reasonable to take offense" but rather "what is a reasonable and justifiable response to a precieved offense"? Being offended is an entirely personal state; only you can decide if you are offended or not. No one has the right to freedom from offense but everyone has the right to own private property (either a copy of the Koran or a property in downtown NY), to freedom of opinion and belief and the right to express their options about appropriateness of behaviour so long as this expression does not violate legal rights.

  10. I hate "rights " based controversies. You always end up having to speak up for the rights of people who don't understand that with rights comes responsabilities.

    Book burning – even garbage books (like the Left Behind series) is wrong and all religions need to be held accountable for the actions of their extremists, which rarely if ever, they condemn.

    When both fundamentalist christians and fundamentalist muslims are forced to realize that we live in a secular society and that their religion should be a private thing, the better off we will be.

    Personally I believe that if not for religion, we would be colonising Alpha Centauri by now.

    • As far as I am aware, Christianity has always been aware of its place in society ("render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar's, etc.,"). Totalitarianism has been the policy of Athiesm, Fascism, and Communism and appears to be part and parcel of Islam. Usually with willing enablers on the left such as Mark.
      Christianity has its warts but still it revives and survives, and 2000 years on it is still here. So called scandals like the pedophiliac priests will always happen but will be more closely guarded against. In the meantime the teaching profession throughout the world is under attack by deviants yielding quadruple the assault statistics of that of the churches. Of course the mainstream media ignore this scandal. Teachers have strong unions and unions are a major part of the left

    • "Book burning – even garbage books (like the Left Behind series) is wrong"
      Why is it wrong?

      You realize that a book is just a piece of processed wood product with letters printed on. If someone decides (for whatever reason) to burn a piece of their own personal property, why should anyone tell them otherwise?

      • Greenhouse gases. Global warming. The end of the world. That's why. Bet you got a chiminea & a barbecue, don't ya?

        (If you haven't guessed, tongue firmly in cheek)

  11. I'll confess to being a little disappointed. I was expecting a formula.

  12. Does Coyne really think that government representatives asked the pastor not to book burn out of real fear of muslim extremists, or that they didn't want to deal with the political issue at home? This administration has been quite wishy-washy on not standing up and telling its citizens some straightforward facts about what it means to live in the first world, and giving the bizarre right a full head of steam.

    If it's the former, I think maybe he should retire from this journalism stint.

    • Did you bother reading the post? His point was that government reps shouldn't have bothered talking about it at all…

      • Sure, but still….

  13. The pastor disaster, was media driven .Sometimes, I really hate the media.

  14. To say that Pastor Terry Jones is deranged or a lunatic is a bit much, fearful and naive might be more appropriate. Is he not simply expressing the fear of the American people, which you refer to in your article? Do Americans, or Canadians for that matter, have a reason to fear Islam? I will not answer that question, but may I suggest that the answer can be found by reading: a) the Koran, b) a biography of Muhammad, c) at least an outline of the history of Islamic conquests over the last 13 centuries.
    P.S. Perhaps Pastor Jones is the child in Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, The Emperor's New Suit, who innocently said what no one else dared to say, that the Emperor had no clothes on!? I.I.

    • Reading books gets nowhere when interpretation is open to the individual. The koran is supposed to be unchangable. Only a very small number of people have any authority to change interpretation of that book. ANY unauthorized changes/interpretations are punishable by death. And yet, some muslims say it is peaceful, others demonstrate otherwise. At least one of them is a misinterpretation, and therefore, punishable by death. And yet both are doing what both are doing and we are getting beaten on the head from ALL sides.
      Pastor Terry did not think his action through. He was hoping to get media attention. He got it, but not exactly what he was hoping for. The Mullahs are getting all the attention and they are playing the media like a mullah-tuned harp! And once again, WE are getting beaten on the head from ALL sides.

  15. Thank you Mullah Coyne. However, building a mosque (a place to worship allah) next to the buildings destroyed in the name of allah, might be considered a bit 'provocative' to those poor, american souls who have not been educated in the Eastern Canadian way of 'thinking'. Not every provocation can or should be dismissed with a Trudeauian shoulder shrug…some people actually have a spine and some self-respect. Two traits not well bred in the typical Eastern Canadian…

  16. what is so hard about IT IS NOT A MOSQUE!?!?!?!?

    • Hey s&m…..
      Ummmm, OK, it is not a mosque…..is it then a building that contains a mosque?

      • hey phil

        the proposed community centre is modeled after NYC's Jewish Community Centers and the 92nd St Y (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/92nd_Street_Y). I understand it is to have an area where folks can pray, but it is not a mosque in the same way that the above mentioned models are not synagogues. Further, there are a number of other buildings have dedicated prayer spots as well, including in the former actual ground zero.

        on a technical level my ubnderstanding is it not permitted to be a mosque as it contains other non-mosque entities like a resteraunt and entertainment facilities.

        I apologize for the all caps treatment but i think the misrepresentation, that media seems quite uninterested in ending (which i see as symptomatic of bigger problems here, partly addressed by Andrew) and heightens the nature of the discussion unnecessarily.

          • CR, i agree with Paul's point that not using the term mosque does risk surrendering ground that ought not be surrendering – in orders words the same principles that plly to park 51 ought to apply if it is a mosque or not. but, i am also a fan of accurate reporting, and CR it just happens to not be a mosque. nor more than we call the 92nd st y a synagogue.

          • I guess you and Paul Wells will have to agree to disagree:

            Paul Wells: It's a mosque. The "it's not a mosque" defence is easily the most vapid I've seen. It's a mosque and I have no problem with it. I have pretty substantial problems with people who hope to hide the mosque behind the stairmasters and the daycare.

          • well Paul and I have disagreed in the past and i am sure we will disagree in the future. a question though, my good lad: pearson international airport has a catholic and and interdenominational chaplaincy on site. is it now a church?

          • btw CR do you know if there is a way to gather one's history on here in to a single document. and, also, i still need to send you those photos of VE day. I just need to set up a annon email account to match yours first! cheers

          • There is an easy way you can do this using archiving freeware, and I can show you how. I can even email you your complete archive in a zip file.

            I look forward to those Netherlands VE day photos.

            s_n_m, not you too!!! I'm really going to miss you…

          • Well it us not the first time he and I have disagreed and suspect it won't be the last, but think I will go with those with a tad more expertise on what a mosque is and isn't. Cheers!Sent from my iPhone

        • I feel your pain, so to speak….

          On the one hand we should always strive to use accurate words and terms when we are describing things or ideas. So from this perspective I can accept that the proposed Park 51 developemnt is not a mosque in that, if I understand your clarification, Muslim practices do not allow the use of that name since the facility provides or includes those other functions. So, inded, it is NOT a mosque.

          OTOH, I gather that those who oppose the development primarily oppose it on the basis that:
          – the facility will include areas that are set aside for Muslim religious activities
          – those activites will including praying
          – that it is also possible that some of the imans that preach (is that the right word for what an iman does?) there could easily be more extremist than others
          – that in some circumstances you might actually hear some praise for the 9/11 nutbars
          – or that in some circumstances there might actually be some recruiting happening for similar future activities.

        • The finale….

          So rather than use that longwinded explanation of why they oppose the development, opponents have adopted the shortcut terminology of calling the development a mosque – not technically accurate, but a quick and dirty way of summing up their concerns. Of course quick and dirty has the disadvantage of being easily interpreted as an attack against all Muslims and all of Islam. That might be true of some or many opponents, but I doubt that it is true of all opponents.

          Btw, I agree with Wells if and when folks are using the "not a mosque" arguement in an effort to downplay or at worst hide the religious aspect of the proposed development. But if, like you seem to be, they are just trying to be technically correct, I have quite a bit more "sympathy" for them.

          • this is exactly the point as i see it Phil! while, as per above I agree with Paul that if it was a mosque we ought to not hide that away to try to gain favour, i just think thta fact that we also ought not to hide that some of the outspoken critics are railing against something that does not even exist and that gives me pause about their broader motivations.

          • phil you got an email i can send you a note at?

  17. It actually changes from its inception to now. Before they said, it is a mosque, then muslim community center, as the pressure gets tougher, it then becomes and inter faith prayer center, who knows once it is done what it will become (I hope not a target practice center)?

  18. The subtitle of the article says Terry Jones was "rewarded." Did you purposefully omit the consequences of Jones' unfulfilled promise to burn Korans on 9/11? That being, in Steyn's words, "this obscure church's website has been shut down, its insurance policy has been canceled, its mortgage has been called in by its bankers." So Jones offends Muslims, Muslims kill a bunch of other Muslims in Afghanistan, Indonesia, and India, and Americans respond by essentially redrafting Jones as a "non-person" at the behest of homicidal maniacs cutting throats out of personal offence, and the PERTINENT question is when is it reasonable to take offence?

    I take offence at your characterization of Jones as "deranged" for backing out of a promise to do something silly at best, but utter silence on the fallout that occurred in the Muslim world upon its non-event. Is it not deranged to kill living, breathing human beings because of a weak threat to burn a book? Why is Jones a lunatic and the Westerners who bowed to sharia law — do nothing but revere the Koran — simply defined as misguided? It's all madness, is it not?

  19. A silly argument. People are free to take offense at anything they like. What they cannot be allowed to do is threaten others (a crime); what the State cannot do is make being offensive a crime.
    An individual burning a book or slandering the name of Mohammad may be objectionable to some, but it should not be a crime nor should threats of violence against that individual be tolerated.
    "Marc" and others equate being offensive (burning a Koran) with threatening to kill someone who burns a Koran.

  20. "I rather doubt we would be having this discussion were someone proposing to burn a Bible."

    Ah, but even certain American Christians choose to burn certain Bibles. Here's an article that shows us how religious zealotry can affect intra-Christian behaviour as well. This particular church chooses to burn non-King James Version Bibles because they are seen to be inferior.


  21. "Rather, it depends: is it reasonable to take offence? Was it necessary to give it?" No, Andrew has it wrong.

    In a free society, Pastor Jones can do whatever he likes on his property, so long as he doesn't infringe on the property of others.

    The issue here isn't religious freedom: it's property rights. Neither a Muslim nor a Christian has the 'right' to preach on an atheist's property.

  22. Speaking of "reasonably taking offence", I'd like to know what Mr. Coyne thinks of last night's CP24 Toronto Mayoral debate? Nice shot of him over Joe Pantalone's left shoulder – looking a little uncomfortable being caught on camera like that.

    If that wasn't him, he has a doppelganger in Toronto who follows municipal politics.

  23. Didn't the Soviet Empire label it's dissidents mentally ill & consign them to lunatic asylums under forced drugging until they could think for themselves no longer? Nothing that Pastor has done on this matter is in any way insane. Labelling him so borders on that though, if you truly believe your own words& are not simply slinging abuse. Banning free actions is the beginning of burning books. Books are manifested thoughts & opinions too.

  24. Great post, especially: Does it not imply that all Muslims are to blame for the sins of a few?

    That is how the rest of the world views it.

  25. i have been to the middle east and have observed mosques built on old christian sites and old jewish sites and old battle sites of the crusades. In india the muslims built a mosque over a recognized brahmin site 600 years ago and there has been serious fighting over this ever since. they (muslims) seem to pick these sites on purpose. it makes one wonder ……..

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