Amazon.com's Koran Desecration Problem
Why Islam is Disrespected
As the Koran-flushing-in-Cuba episode becomes old news, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) has helpfully found a way to keep Koran desecration in the public eye. It does so – and I draw on MPAC's two press releases (here and here), plus reports from the Associated Press and Los Angeles Times – by promoting the story of one Azza Basarudin bought a copy of the Koran, Oxford University Press edition.
A doctoral candidate at the
I dropped the book because I didn't know what to do. I was paralyzed after 9/11 — I couldn't leave my house for a couple of weeks — and I realized that fear was coming back. I couldn't even go near this book for a couple of days. I feel like I'm being violated all over again because I'm a Muslim.
Basarudin asked MPAC,
Amazon at first only apologized for "distress caused by incident," so MPAC turned up the heat by holding a press conference on May 18 (at the Islamic Center of Southern California, no less).
The publicity worked. Patty Smith, director of corporate communications for Amazon, responded by calling the matter "appalling" and distanced her company from it. She noted that the Koran was purchased from Bellwether Books, not Amazon itself. She explained, "This was not our inventory, it was nowhere in our order or fulfillment process. It was a used book purchased through a third party." Still, she apologized, offered Basarudin reimbursement, a gift certificate, and promised to fire an employee who defaces Korans. She also – the kicker – indefinitely suspended Bellwether from selling Korans through Amazon and said that if the problem recurred, Bellwether would be banished from Amazon.
That meant Richard Roberts, owner of Bellwether, had to respond, and he did, denying that his employees defaced the book and pointing out that used books frequently have markings. He explained how the staff gives a cursory check to the four hundred books it sends out each day without closely inspecting them. He apologized to Basarudin, said any employees found desecrating the Koran would be fired, and offered to replace the book. He also promised to assign, in the Los Angeles Times's wording, "a quality-control officer to rigorously check incoming and outgoing books."
The head of MPAC responded unenthusiastically to these concessions: "We are gratified to learn that Amazon.com has suspended its relationship with Bellwether, but they have a responsibility to loudly condemn such hateful rhetoric and take pro-active measures to enhance educational programs that foster religious tolerance." MPAC instructed its acolytes to contact Amazon and urge it decisively "to resolve this case and ensure it is not repeated." That meant:
1. Publicly condemn such desecration of a sacred text with hateful speech targeting Muslims,
2. Terminate relations with Bellwether Books …,
3. Support and fund educational programs that foster religious tolerance.
Comments: This incident, far quieter than the Newsweek flap, is in its own way no less instructive or important.
(1) MPAC did not mention that the customer in question, Azza Basarudin, 30, is an Islamist affiliated at one time with the Islamic Institute of Human Rights, headed by Wissam Nasr. (Nasr now heads the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) office in New York.) For an example of her thinking, note above, how she presents 9/11 not as an occasion when Muslims violated Americans but when Americans violated Muslims. In other words, this is no average customer.
(2) MPAC also neglected to mention that Basarudin bought a used Koran, not a new one. Used books buyers do not normally expect vendors to clean their purchases of markings by former owners.
(3) Is it pure coincidence that this Koran episode is so perfectly times to follow the Newsweek and Guantánamo controversy? One can't but wonder if Basarudin, like at least seven other U.S. Muslims, is faking her own persecution. Or if, like its colleague CAIR, MPAC stokes anti-Muslim hate even where it does not exist.
(4) If Muslims succeed in requiring that Korans undergo inspection for impurities before being sold, booksellers might well cease handling Korans.
(5) The idea that a Muslim has the right, without proof, to accuse a non-Muslim of blasphemy, as Basarudin and MPAC have done, brings to mind the notorious anti-blasphemy laws in force in Pakistan. There, as the World Council of Churches explained in 2000, those laws "have become a major tool in the hands of extremists to settle personal scores against members of the religious minorities particularly Christians." In the
(6) That Amazon suspended Bellwether from selling Korans via Amazon is a symbolic punishment rather than a substantive one, but it matters nonetheless. Can one imagine any other book's defacement leading to such a penalty?
(7) This episode is yet another instance of Islamist organizations relentlessly seeking special privileges for Islam. At a time when American Catholics must endure "art" that consists of the crucifix in urine and a Virgin Mary made in part of elephant dung, why should American Muslims be indulged in their exquisite sensibilities? As Stephen Schwartz keeps repeating, if Islam is to flourish in
(8) Amazon should answer MPAC firmly in the negative, reinstituting Bellwether's right to sell Korans at Amazon, making no public condemnations, and not giving money to MPAC. If you agree with this conclusion, let Patty Smith at Amazon (email@example.com) know your thoughts.
MIM: This article by Jeff Jacoby provides examples of how other faiths have dealt with 'insults' to their religious beliefs and the barbaric murders of their co religionists. Among the examples Jacoby cites is the destruction of one of Judaism's holiest shrines, Joseph's Tomb, by a Muslim mob, and the murder of a rabbi who tried to save the Torah scrolls. He recalls the beheading of Daniel Pearl, who was killed after being made to declare he was a Jew. Muslims who think that they can resort to murder and mayhem in order to have people show 'respect' for Islam, should know that they have acheived the opposite. The idea that Islam is a backward, primitive and cruel religion has only been strengthened in the public conciousness, and those who fail to condemn the Muslims themselves and blame Newsweek, have missed the real story.
Why Islam is disrespected
By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Columnist | May 19, 2005
IT WAS front-page news this week when Newsweek retracted a report claiming that a US interrogator in Guantanamo had flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet. Everywhere it was noted that Newsweek's story had sparked widespread Muslim rioting, in which at least 17 people were killed. But there was no mention of deadly protests triggered in recent years by comparable acts of desecration against other religions.
No one recalled, for example, that American Catholics lashed out in violent rampages in 1989, after photographer Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ" -- a photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine -- was included in an exhibition subsidized by the National Endowment for the Arts. Or that they rioted in 1992 when singer Sinead O'Connor, appearing on "Saturday Night Live," ripped up a photograph of Pope John Paul II.
There was no reminder that Jewish communities erupted in lethal violence in 2000, after Arabs demolished Joseph's Tomb, torching the ancient shrine and murdering a young rabbi who tried to save a Torah. And nobody noted that Buddhists went on a killing spree in 2001 in response to the destruction of two priceless, 1,500-year-old statues of Buddha by the Taliban government in Afghanistan.
Of course, there was a good reason all these bloody protests went unremembered in the coverage of the Newsweek affair: They never occurred.
Christians, Jews, and Buddhists don't lash out in homicidal rage when their religion is insulted. They don't call for holy war and riot in the streets. It would be unthinkable for a mainstream priest, rabbi, or lama to demand that a blasphemer be slain. But when Reuters reported what Mohammad Hanif, the imam of a Muslim seminary in Pakistan, said about the alleged Koran-flushers -- "They should be hung. They should be killed in public so that no one can dare to insult Islam and its sacred symbols" -- was any reader surprised?
The Muslim riots should have been met by outrage and condemnation. From every part of the civilized world should have come denunciations of those who would react to the supposed destruction of a book with brutal threats and the slaughter of 17 innocent people. But the chorus of condemnation was directed not at the killers and the fanatics who incited them, but at Newsweek.
From the White House down, the magazine was slammed -- for running an item it should have known might prove incendiary, for relying on a shaky source, for its animus toward the military and the war. Over and over, Newsweek was blamed for the riots' death toll. Conservative pundits in particular piled on. "Newsweek lied, people died" was the headline on Michelle Malkin's popular website. At NationalReview.com, Paul Marshall of Freedom House fumed: "What planet do these [Newsweek] people live on? . . . Anybody with a little knowledge could have told them it was likely that people would die as a result of the article." All of Marshall's choler was reserved for Newsweek; he had no criticism at all for the marauders in the Muslim street.
Then there was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who announced at a Senate hearing that she had a message for "Muslims in America and throughout the world." And what was that message? That decent people do not resort to murder just because someone has offended their religious sensibilities? That the primitive bloodlust raging in Afghanistan and Pakistan was evidence of the Muslim world's dysfunctional political culture?
No: Her message was that "disrespect for the Holy Koran is not now, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be, tolerated by the United States."
Granted, Rice spoke while the rioting was still taking place and her goal was to reduce the anti-American fever. But what "Muslims in America and throughout the world" most need to hear is not pandering sweet-talk. What they need is a blunt reminder that the real desecration of Islam is not what some interrogator in Guantanamo might have done to the Koran. It is what totalitarian Muslim zealots have been doing to innocent human beings in the name of Islam. It is 9/11 and Beslan and Bali and Daniel Pearl and the USS Cole. It is trains in Madrid and schoolbuses in Israel and an "insurgency" in Iraq that slaughters Muslims as they pray and vote and line up for work. It is Hamas and Al Qaeda and sermons filled with infidel-hatred and exhortations to "martyrdom."
But what disgraces Islam above all is the vast majority of the planet's Muslims saying nothing and doing nothing about the jihadist cancer eating away at their religion. It is Free Muslims Against Terrorism, a pro-democracy organization, calling on Muslims and Middle Easterners to "converge on our nation's capital for a rally against terrorism" -- and having only 50 people show up.
Yes, Islam is disrespected. That will only change when throngs of passionate Muslims show up for rallies against terrorism, and when rabble-rousers trying to gin up a riot over a defiled Koran can't get the time of day.
Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
MIM: Muslims sue Orianna Fallaci for telling the truth about Islamhttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4576663.stm Trial over Italian 'Islam' insult Controversial Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci is to face trial for allegedly insulting the Muslim faith in her latest book, a court in Italy says.
Ms Fallaci is being sued by the head of the Muslim Union of Italy, who says The Force of Reason is defamatory.
The journalist caused an uproar with The Rage and the Pride, published two weeks after the 11 September attacks.
In it, she said Western culture was superior to Islam and Muslim immigrants in the West had "multiplied like rats".
Her lawyers have defended her right to express controversial opinions.
"At the heart of her thinking is the following reasoning: the fight against Islamic terrorism is made more difficult by intellectual terrorism cloaked in anti-racism," Gilles Goldhagen, said in 2002, when a French judge was hearing a case to ban The Rage and the Pride.
'No good Islam'
The Force of Reason is said to have gone to print about 24 hours after the 11 March 2004 train bombings in Spain.
In it, Ms Fallaci argues that Europe is turning into "an Islamic province, an Islamic colony" and that "to believe that a good Islam and a bad Islam exist goes against all reason".
Italian preliminary investigative judge Armando Grasso ordered the formulation of charges against the author, saying the book had expressions which were "unequivocally offensive to Islam".
Adel Smith, president of the Muslim Union of Italy, sued the writer on 8 April 2004. He says Ms Fallaci has been advocating and spreading hate against Islam and Muslims, sometimes by allegedly distorting real historical facts and inventing others.
The case is being tried in the northern town of Bergamo, where the book was published. The prosecution has 10 days to come up with a charge.
Ms Fallaci, who lives in New York, was a Resistance fighter in World War II and a former war correspondent.