Jewish World Review Sept. 20, 2010 / 12 Tishrei, 5771
A Convenient Excuse
By Jonah Goldberg
Let's think it through.
As I explained at length in an earlier column, I believe that the
Even if you don't buy that Bloomberg could have nipped this noxious weed in the bud,
Enter storefront pastor
So, should we put Bloomberg in the dock? Recall him from office? Drop him, bound and gagged, into downtown
Alas, no. While we should criticize him for his thumbless grasp of church-state issues and his megalomaniacal incompetence, he's not to blame for the actions of others. And it isn't fair to hold people legally accountable for the evil or misguided deeds of others.
And the same basically goes for Jones. His plan to burn the Koran was stupid, irresponsible and repugnant, but it's not his fault that there are a significant number of Muslim men who are not only ready but eager to riot and kill in response to insults to Islam.
If you deny this, you are basically denying the humanity of Muslims. We take it as a given in this country that not only are all men created equal, but that each individual is responsible for his own actions. Each man and woman is a captain of his or her own self.
To say that Muslims have no choice in the matter, that they must act like animals, is to say that they are animals. If you tease a bear and he kills you, your stupidity is to blame. If you tease a man and he kills you, the murderer is to blame.
Again, I think burning the Koran is reprehensible. And I could live with a local law that banned Koran-burning (and flag-burning, Bible-burning, Torah-burning, etc.) because I think communities should be able to set standards of decency. But that hardly settles things. It's easy to condemn Koran-burning. What about those Danish cartoons of Mohammed (that
There are a number of grave problems with the crowded-theater cliche. First, you can -- even must -- yell "fire" in a crowded theater. It just has to be the truth.
But more to the point, fires are not human beings. Fire has no choice but to burn because that is what fire does. Humans have choices. Yet in this formulation (from which Breyer has somewhat retreated), Muslims are akin to soulless, unthinking flames. Taken seriously, this comparison suggests rational people have every reason to fear Muslims in much the same way they fear fire.
There are complex issues here. But the simple truth is the Islamist extremists who behead and riot do have a choice. They want to murder. What they want is an excuse, and they'll find one no matter what.
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