In the past two weeks, six British men were arrested for pouring fuel on a copy of the Quran and dropping a match on it. They were charged with idiotically starting a fire and inciting racial hatred.
OK, only the latter charge is true, but watch the clip of their anti-Islamic act and you’ll see that no jury would acquit them of the former charge. From the BBC:
In a joint statement, Northumbria Police and Gateshead Council said: “The kind of behaviour displayed in this video is not representative of our community as a whole.
“Our community is one of mutual respect and we continue to work together with community leaders, residents and people of all faiths and beliefs to maintain good community relations.”
I’m sure that’s all true. The act is certainly offensive and these men are, at best, not sentinels of tolerance. (That’s why the video of them almost setting themselves on fire is after the jump and not up front.) But I’m not sure that you can be arrested for just being a bigot or an idiot.
As I mentioned during the Terry Jones saga, burning the Quran in the United States is insane but it’s not illegal. If you can burn the American flag, then you can burn the Quran or any other book you don’t like. Though beware that Gainesville, Fla. may send you a hefty bill if your publicity-mongering drains their police resources.
Obviously British law is different than American law. And I’m only clear on the distinctions in common law. So I’ll let the British organization Media Watch Watch explain why book burning, even when that book lies at the heart of a religion, should’t be illegal:
They were arrested on suspicion of “inciting racial hatred”. Not only is Islam – represented here by its holy book – not a race, but the only hatred that such an act is likely to incite would be directed at themselves, and would come from a particular kind of Muslim.
The racial and religious hatred law, for all its faults, was not designed to prevent you from committing acts which make other people hate you. Otherwise every homosexual, fornicator, and abortionist would be under arrest for inciting the hatred of some religious loon.
There cannot be a law against burning books. There especially cannot be a law against burning one particular book. If these men are convicted, then such a law is exactly what we will have.
That all seems logical. Unfortunately, the very next statement that Media Watch Watch makes isn’t. The organization emphatically states that if these men are convicted, the only sensible response would be to have more people burn the Quran just to show it can be done.