Spencer’s weak argument against Koran burning
In response to Terry Jones’s planned Koran burning last September and to his actual Koran burning in March, Robert Spencer has kept using the same formula: that he prefers that people read the Koran rather than burn it. The remark implies that the two acts are mutually exclusive. It’s as though, when Spencer hears the phrase, “Koran-burning,” what he visualizes, in his mid-twentieth century-style liberal imagination (that same mid-twentieth century liberalism that propels Spencer repeatedly to invoke “the equal dignity of all human beings” as his guiding political ideal), is a gigantic, Nazi-style bonfire in which every copy of the Koran in the Western world is burned, so that no copies remain and no one can read the Koran any more. In reality, of course, to burn one or a few individual copies of the Koran does not eliminate the Koran from the world, and people can go on reading it and studying it to their heart’s content. Indeed, Terry Jones’s mock trial of the Koran involved reading and discussing the Koran, followed by the burning of one copy of the Koran. Other copies remained unburned.
So Spencer’s argument fails. If he wants to show why it is wrong to burn the Koran, he’s going to have to show why the act itself is wrong, and not go on pretending that burning the Koran prevents people from reading it.