Friday, 10 September 2010

Rights versus Responsibility

The declared intention of a Christian Pastor of a small and otherwise unremarkable congregation in Florida to burn copies of the Quran, strikes me as, first, an attempt to grab some publicity, and, second, as an exercise of a "right" without any regard for the consequences. This is something I have frequently observed in recent years, especially among American groups, but increasingly among 'pressure' groups in the UK.

"I have the right to..." is the cry, and they then proceed to take actions or make statements that inflame sensitive relations or disrupt and even destroy other lawful activities. Yes, we have many "rights" but every one of those also imposes a very important responsibility to exercise that "right" in a responsible manner. I may very well have a "right" to free speech and I frequently use it on this blog and elsewhere, but I also have a responibility to take cognisance of the impact I may have on others in doing so. I am not a sympathiser with Muslim ambitions or culture. The Quran, to me, is a book, based on the writings of the Gnostics and Christian Heretics, and Mohammad is the last great Gnostic. But I would no more consider burning a copy than I would burn a copy of Marx, whom I also consider to be wrong and misguided.

In recent years we have had our democracy undermined by the "rights" of dissenters, usually people who choose to push single issues or off the wall beliefs - one group I have encountered believed in a "heirarchy free society of peace and love" and were prepared to use violence to achieve it - without any regard to the wishes of the democratic majority, or the consequences of their actions. The Florida Pastor and his, now stalled, plan to burn the Quran, falls into this category. Mr Obama is not one of my favourite people, but he is right when he says that this stunt is the best recruiting action Al Qaeda and the Taliban could wish for.

Our "Rights" are vital to our society, but there has to be a balance between exercising them indescriminately, and exercising them after careful and due consideration of the consequences. Burning the Quran may be a "right" in America, but it is one no one should exercise precisely because it will do nothing except inflame the hatred already rampant in the Moslem world. Americans have a right to feel anger over the attack on the Twin Towers, they even have a right to feel angry over the manner in which they are portrayed routinely by the Islamic Press and the Imams. Perhaps they have a right to feel aggrieved over the building of a mosque at the site of an attrocity commited in the name of Islam, but there are other, less inflammatory and more effective ways of expressing this anger through many other "rights" available to them, than following this stupid and insulting stunt.

It is in the inappropriate abuse of our democratic "rights" that all of our "rights" are infringed and ultimately threatened.


  1. Allegedly he was tha pastor of a church in Germany for many years and was sacked by the church there for abusing his congregation and flouting German employment laws - anything on that in the German papers?

  2. Not yet, but I'm sure there will be soon!