With 9/11 approaching, it is hardly surprising that there has been an increase in anti-Muslim sentiments. In some cases, specific events have been planned to express this view. As one example, a pastor in Florida has been considering burning Qurans. As one might expect, the government and the military are encouraging people to not engage in such activities. After all, these incidents seem to provide groups like the Taliban with propaganda gold and can lead directly to an upswing in violence against American troops.
Obviously enough, people have the legal and moral right to express their dislike of Islam and Muslims, provided that such expressions do not extend to actual violence. As such, the pastor is well within his rights to burn Qurans. He can even BBQ pork over the burning books, should he so desire. Likewise, people who dislike Christianity have the right to burn bibles.
Of course, having the right to do something does not entail that it should be done. It even does not entail that the action is morally right. For example, a person has the right to say mean things to other people. However, this does not entail that we should say mean things nor does it entail that it is morally right.
As the government and military spokespeople have pointed out, these sort of incidents do not help our relations with Muslims and do put American soldiers in greater danger. As such, people who intend to take such actions should consider the practical consequences as well as the moral implications. Since it seems that no real good can come from burning Qurans, it seems reasonable to think that people should not do this, even though they have the right to do so.
There is also the matter of treating others as we would like to be treated, as per the Golden Rule. I infer that the pastor would not be pleased with people burning bibles on the anniversaries of various misdeeds committed in the name of Christianity. As such, he should consider how Muslims will feel and what they will think when they hear that their holy book is being burned.
It might be replied that as Americans we should not be held hostage by how people in other countries will react. For example, the fact that American women are allowed to go around with their skin exposed and are allowed to drive and go to school no doubt upsets and angers some people. However, it hardly follows that we should change our behavior to suit them-even if this means that we are at greater risk of attack.
That is, of course, a reasonable reply. However, there seems to be an important distinction between these sorts of cases. To expect us to oppress our women to appease certain people is to expect us to engage in immoral actions. To expect us to not burn Qurans is simply to expect us to show a reasonable degree of respect to the religion and hardly seems to be too much to ask.
But, someone might reply, those people who will be angry about Americans lighting up the Quran probably include people who burn American flags. So, we should burn their book.
The obvious reply is that two wrongs do not make a right. If burning our flag is wrong, then it would seem that burning their book would be wrong as well. Also, of course, there are American Muslims-so we would be burning our own book. In any case, burning things that are important to people hardly seems to be an effective way of making the world a better place.
My overall view is that people have the right to burn Qurans (or bibles). However, they should consider the consequences of their actions and also consider what they would think about someone burning something important to them.