Friday, 10 September 2010

Littlejohn's bonfire inanities

Oh dear. Richard Littlejohn has decided to tackle the thorny issue of "International Burn a Koran Day". He seems to start off rather well, calling pastor Terry Jones "crass". But he's a man who knows what his readers think, so once he's done just enough mild condemnation to avoid being accused of agreeing with Jones, he reverts to type and launches into yet another attack on Islam.

"the last time anyone looked evangelical Christians from Gainesville weren’t flying hijacked airliners into skyscrapers and blowing themselves up on crowded railway trains."
True. But Christians have killed plenty of people in terrorist attacks - just look at the murders of abortion doctors, the bombings carried out by Eric Rudolph in the USA, the wholesale relgious violence of Northern Ireland, the actions of the National Liberation Front of Tripura in India and, worst of all, the actions of The Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. However, as I'm not an complete idiot I'm able to recognise that none of the actions of these individuals or groups can be used to "prove" that most Christians are homicidal maniacs.

"The other part of the conundrum is the fact that the tolerance America and Christians throughout the West extend to other religions is not reflected back. For instance, there are no Christian churches or symbols allowed in Saudi Arabia, where possession of a Bible is a criminal offence. Bibles are confiscated, shredded and, yes, burned by the Saudi authorities."
I've never understood this argument. It's wrong that the brutal totalitarian regime in Saudi Arabia does not allow religious diversity and to show how wrong it is we should do the same? It's some kind of intellectual lowest common denominator, like saying "they have vigilante justice in backward third-world countries, so we should have it here, too". Although actually the Mail is pretty cool with that.
"Across parts of the Muslim world, every day is Burn-A-Bible Day."
Really? Any examples to prove that rather wild claim? Any evidence? Any detail, even, of which these "parts of the world" are? No? And even if it were true, is Littlejohn saying that this is wrong (in which case burning a Koran must be wrong also) or is fine with the idea (in which case he's a bit of a twunt)? I guess we'll never know, because the Mail's noted theological scholar is taking the rhetoric a step further:
"Under the more extreme interpretations of Islam, the punishment for any Muslim who converts to Christianity is death."
Under the more extreme interpretations of pretty much anything you can come up with similar stuff. That's what makes it an extreme interpretation, you see. The clue's in the word "extreme". It doesn't mean "normal," or "mainstream". To demonstrate, have a think about extreme interpretations of the following Bible passages:
"But for the cowardly and UNBELIEVING and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
Revelation 21:8

"He who is not believing the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God doth remain upon him."
John 3:36

"The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Matthew 13:49

"His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
Matthew 13:12

But because Littlejohn's narrative is that Muslims are somehow asking to be treated like shit, he doesn't note that extreme interpretations of Christianity (or some pretty literal ones, based on John 3:36) can lead to conclusion that non-believers should be put to death or, at the very least, face eternity burning in hell. Back to Littlejohn's rantings:
"If a rural vicar tried burning an effigy of Osama Bin Laden on ­Bonfire Night in Britain, he’d be banged up for incitement to ­religious hatred."
Except they wouldn't. In November 2001 the people of Lewes burned an effigy of the al-Qaeda leader, but mass arrests did not follow. In fact, I've done a bit of research and can find no media reports of anyone ever being arrested for burning an effigy of the world's most-wanted mass murderer. Perhaps everyone's just too scared of the consequences if they do.

In any case, what does Osama Bin Laden have to do with this? The equivalent in this country would surely be a rural vicar burning a pile of Korans, but that wouldn't let Littlejohn to both trot out his tired "political correctness gone mad" line - "You can't even say you hate Osama Bin Laden without Harriet Harman arresting your for being anti-Muslim!" - and draw an implicit link between Islam and terrorism.

The whole column underlines the Mail's consistent approach to Muslims, the idea that there's one rule for "them" and one for "us". "They" get treated differently, "they" get offended at everything "we" do... There's never any evidence given for this, never any proof. Counter-arguments can be safely brushed under the carpet as "political correctness".

Right at the very end of the column, Littlejohn writes:
"In a perfect world, everyone would have written off Pastor Terry as a crank and ignored him."
I'd suggest that Dicky do everyone a favour and ignore Jones himself. But then, in a perfect world, there would be no Littlejohn, either.

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