Well, it looks like Reverend Terry Jones has scored. In light of his (empty) threat to burn Korans, Muslims engaged in the traditional Islamic Expression Of Righteous Indignation… and killed at least 15 people. Oh, and another rumor of a burned Koran in Michigan led to the entirely-predictable burning of a Christian church in India.
Here we see the actual dynamics of the principle I outlined on Sunday: “Don’t piss off the crazy dangerous people.”
It has become an axiom: if you do something that a large percentage of Muslims find an insult to their faith, or even propagate a rumor that such occurred, you will get people killed.
In order to demonstrate their freedom of the press, a Danish newspaper commissioned and published cartoons of Mohammed. Some were actually respectful; others insulting; all of them quite well done. The riots that followed killed over a hundred people.
Newsweek published a story that at Guantanamo Bay, a Koran had been flushed down a toilet. Before anyone could say “hey, how hell could a book as big as a Koran fit down a toilet?,” riots erupted around the world and more people were killed.
A nobody minister in Florida announces “Burn A Koran Day,” but in the end doesn’t actually set fire to any Korans. Muslims riot anyway, over a dozen killed.
CAIR in Michigan alleges that a Koran is burned and left at the front door of a mosque. No actual singed book is found, but Muslims still go on a rampage and burn down an entire church in India.
In each case, the cause and effect relationship is clear: do something “blasphemous” to Islam, and there will be blood. People will die, buildings will be destroyed, all sorts of violence will follow.
But does that mean that the violence, since it’s so predictable, is the responsibility of those who committed or propagated the initial offense against Islam?
I’d say no.
We like to say that we are responsible for the consequences of our actions. But there’s an often-overlooked corollary to that principle: we are only responsible for the reasonable consequences of our actions.
In this case, if I were to do something that was insulting to Islam, then I would be responsible for Muslims not liking me, not respecting me, and people judging me to be an offensive and disrespectful person.
But I would not be responsible for any unreasonable responses to my actions.
No, in that case, the responsibility would lie strictly on the shoulders of the unreasonable people. Those who riot and burn and kill to express their outrage own 100% of their deeds. The blood they spill is entirely on their own hands.
In fact, the cynical, cold-blooded part of me suggests that this could be a successful tactic in prompting the long-overdue and critically-needed reformation of Islam. Keep poking at the crazies, then stand back and watch them go crazy over and over again. Sooner or later, they’ll kill each other off, or they’ll kill enough non-crazies that the non-crazies will wake up and realize the danger the crazies pose and deal with them, or the crazies will finally realize that what they’re doing isn’t helping.
A brutal, savage solution, and a hell of costly long shot, but I haven’t seen any other proposals for getting Islam to grow the hell up and join the ranks of mature, civilized religions.
Update: As Sheik Yur Bouty notes, Dafydd ab Hugh of Big Lizards had pretty much the same idea…