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Koran Burning

Symbolic gesture and easy offence

12th May

Updated: Freedom of Speech Retained in France...

Court finds that burning the Koran as a critique of terrorism was lawful

A French court has acquitted a blogger of a charge of provoking discrimination related to burning a copy of the Qur'an in an internet broadcast and urinating on the book.

The court in the north-eastern city of Strasbourg found that Ernesto Rojas Abbate had been acting within the boundaries of freedom of expression when he used the Qur'an as a prop in a simulation of the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks on New York.

Filming himself with a webcam on October 2, Abbate made a paper aircraft with pages from the Qur'an and launched it at two glasses representing the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre. He then burnt the aircraft and the book and urinated on them, to quench the flames .

The Mosque of Strasbourg and a local anti-racism organisation had pressed charges against the man. But the court ruled the video was aimed at terrorist acts and not the wider Muslim community, which could not be assimilated with the terrorist acts .

Update: ...BUT...

12th May 2011. See  article from

The European Parliament has stripped parliamentary immunity from French far-right MEP Bruno Gollnisch, to enable a complaint of incitement to racial hatred to be investigated.

French authorities will now interview Gollnisch after asking for the move, following a complaint over an October 2008 press release issued by Rhone-Alpes regional authorities near Lyon, which Gollnisch led, that cited the invasion of our land and the destruction of our culture and values by Islam.

The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism launched the complaint, and the European Parliament decided that, as the case related to Gollnisch's activities as a regional councillor, applying parliamentary immunity to such a situation 'would constitute an undue extension of those rules', a statement said.


23rd April

Update: Free Speech Case to be Proud Of...

New Jersey Koran burner wins settlement from employer who ignored his constitutional right to free speech and sacked him

A New Jersey Transit worker who was fired after burning pages of a Koran during a demonstration in Manhattan in September last year has been reinstated, reimbursed for lost wages and benefits, and awarded $25,000 in compensation for the pain and suffering caused by his dismissal.

The reinstatement of the worker was announced by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, which sued the transportation corporation on his behalf, arguing that his actions were protected by the First Amendment.

The reinstatement was part of a settlement agreement, filed this week in Federal District Court in Newark, in which the man dropped his suit in exchange for getting his job back.

In America, we have the right to burn all kinds of things --- letters, flags, books, Bibles and Korans, Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the New Jersey group, said.

Jacobs said the case should serve as a reminder to our leaders that they can't punish and censor political expression based on their own emotional reactions or sense of morality.

The man was fired two days after the demonstration, accused of violating New Jersey Transit's employee code of ethics by tearing pages from a copy of the Koran and igniting them with a cigarette lighter to protest plans for building a Muslim community center and mosque two blocks north of ground zero. He was participating in a protest staged by about 2,000 people near the proposed site of the center, 51 Park Place, during a day of memorial and prayer services marking the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.


16th April

Updated: A Burning Challenge to Democracy...

Election candidate gets Koran burning charges dropped

A British National Party election candidate accused of publicly burning a copy of the Koran has been freed after the charge against him was unexpectedly dropped. He had uploaded a video of his burning a Koran in a private garage saying : I am burning the Holy Koran and I hope that you Muslims are watching.

Sion Owens was arrested and charged at the weekend under Section 29 (probably meant Section 4A) of the the much abused Public Order Act. The BNP candidate in next month's Welsh Assembly elections spent the weekend in custody.

He has been warned that police are continuing to investigate the alleged incident and to expect further action. It is understood that his release was due to a technicality regarding the Act under which he was arrested and charged.

Offsite Update: Koran burning was on a private video and was not made public

16th April 2011. Based on article from by Patrick Hayes

Something very odd happened at the weekend. A 40-year-old member of the far-right British National Party (BNP) was arrested for burning a copy of the Koran in his own back garden. Yes, it is apparently now a crime to express your disdain for a certain religious faith in the privacy of your own home. But that's not the end of it. What makes this case especially odd is that the man in question - Sion Owens - was reported to the police by a broadsheet newspaper that claims to be liberal: the Observer. Since when has it been the job of the respectable, left-leaning press to grass people up to the cops for alleged speech crimes?

When spiked looked into this strange story, we discovered that there are some major disagreements at the Observer in relation to it. The crime correspondent defended the Observer's actions, but one of the paper's top columnists questioned the wisdom of reporting a private expression of ideas to the authorities.

Owens, a senior member of the BNP who lives in south Wales, does seem to be an odd individual. Going into his garden, placing a Koran in a metal Quality Street box, dousing it with flammable liquid and then setting it alight while a colleague filmed him - it was a stupid and childish act. However, it was done in a private garden. So regardless of the fact that it was videoed, this was a form of private expression, and therefore none of the state's business.

...Read the full article


5th April

Update: Burning Censorship...

Now US considers a defamation of religion law

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says congressional lawmakers are discussing taking some action in response to the Koran burnings of a Tennessee pastor that led to killings at the U.N. facility in Afghanistan and sparked protests across the Middle East, Politico reports.

Ten to 20 people have been killed, Reid said Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation : We'll take a look at this of course. As to whether we need hearings or not, I don't know.

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Congress might need to explore the need to limit some forms of freedom of speech, in light of Tennessee pastor Terry Jones' Quran burning, and how such actions result in enabling U.S. enemies.

I wish we could find a way to hold people accountable. Free speech is a great idea, but we're in a war, Graham told CBS' Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation Sunday.


22nd January

Updated: Gateshead Dinner Party...

Koran burners not prosecuted as there was no evidence that anyone was actually upset by the stunt

Seven men accused of burning a copy of the Koran in a Gateshead pub car park will face no further action.

The men were detained in September after a video appeared on the internet.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said there was not sufficient evidence for a realistic chance of conviction.

It said it had looked at a number of areas for possible prosecution but there was insufficient evidence.

The CPS said it could not identify who had recorded and posted the video online, there was no evidence threatening behaviour was used and there was no evidence anyone present was upset by what they saw.


26th November

Update: New Blasphemy...

British police arrest 15 year old girl for Koran burning

A 15-year-old girl has been arrested on suspicion of inciting religious hatred after allegedly burning an English-language version of the Qur'an – and then posting video footage of the act on Facebook.

The teenager, from the Sandwell district of Birmingham, was filmed on her school premises burning the book. Police have confirmed the incident was reported to the school and the video has since been removed.

It is believed the girl was allegedly filmed setting the book alight while other pupils looked on. Two Facebook profiles have also been removed from the site.

It is understood that the group who published the version of the Qur'an that was set alight has visited the school to 'talk' to pupils.

Speaking about the latest incident in Birmingham, a spokesperson for West Midlands police said: A 15-year-old girl was arrested on Friday 19 November on suspicion of inciting religious hatred. She has been bailed pending further enquiries.


9th November

Update: Burning Issues...

ACLU to sue company denying free speech to Koran burning employee

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing NJ Transit for firing an 11-year employee after he burned a Koran in a Ground Zero mosque protest in September, according to

On the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, then-NJ Transit employee Derek Fenton was photographed burning three pages of a Koran in front of the space where the proposed Ground Zero mosque will be built. Soon after, he was fired from NJ Transit for violating their 'ethics' codes.

The ACLU is saying that Fenton deserves his job back, as NJ Transit has infringed on his right to free speech, the website reports.

If you allow governments to censor one kind of speech, you open the door to censorship of all kinds of speech, Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the ACLU in New Jersey, told the site. Our individual right to free speech depends on everybody having it.

When the train line fired Fenton, it released a statement saying that, NJ Transit concluded that Mr. Fenton violated his trust as a state employee.


15th September

Updated: Burning Bridges...

Dove World Outreach Center planned to burn copies of the Koran

A small US church says it will defy international condemnation and go ahead with plans to burn copies of the Koran on the 9/11 anniversary.

The top US commander in Afghanistan warned troops' lives would be in danger if the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida went ahead.

Gen David Petraeus, the top US commander in Afghanistan, said on Monday that the action could cause problems not just in Kabul, but everywhere in the world . It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the church's plan was disrespectful and disgraceful .

Muslim countries and Nato have also hit out at the move.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Tuesday that any type of activity like that that puts our troops in harm's way would be a concern .

Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen blasted the plans, telling reporters that burning Korans violated the Nato alliance's values .

And the US Attorney General, Eric Holder, called the idea idiotic and dangerous .

But organiser, Pastor Terry Jones said: We must send a clear message to the radical element of Islam.

Dr Jones - author of a book entitled Islam is of the Devil - has said he understands the general's concerns but that it was time for America to quit apologizing for our actions and bowing to kings .

News of the bonfire has also sparked protests in Afghanistan and Indonesia. In Kabul on Monday, about 500 protesters chanted long live Islam and death to America as they set fire to an effigy of Jones. Thousands of mostly Muslim demonstrators rallied around Indonesia at the weekend.

The role of Islam in America has become a hot button issue with social and political implications. While most Americans would probably take issue with exhortations to burn the Koran, there is clearly widespread concern about the influence of Islam.

Update: Website Censored

10th September 2010. Based on article from

The website of the church that was planning to burn a Koran on Saturday to commemorate 9/11 was removed from the internet after its hosting service claimed the site violated its terms of service agreement.

The removal of the site comes as President Barack Obama urged the Florida pastor not to burn the Koran on the 9-year anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. This could increase the recruitment of individuals who would be willing to blow themselves up in American cities or European cities, Obama said.

Rackspace, of San Antonio Texas and the web hosting service in question, pulled the plug on the Dove World Outreach Center's site at midnight over what it said was a terms of service breach. Its terms of service agreement prohibits using Rackpace servers if such usage incites violence, threatens violence, or contains harassing content or hate speech.

Dan Goodgame, a Rackspace spokesman, said that the company reserved the right to stop hosting Jones' hate speech as of Thursday morning. He said Rackspace was protecting its right not to associate and do business with Jones under the company's terms of service contract.

Jones said Rackspace's decision was an indirect attack on our freedom of speech.

Update: Dove of Peace Restored

10th September 2010. Based on article from

The fundamentalist pastor who promised to mark the anniversary of the September 11 attacks by burning hundreds of copies of the Koran has pulled the plug on his stunt, in the face of blanket condemnation from world leaders and a warning from Interpol that Christians around the world were at risk of violent revenge attacks.

As anger mounted against the obscure Florida church, called the Dove World Outreach Centre, Pastor Terry Jones said he was changing his plan, following a meeting with local Muslim leaders.

Earlier, Barack Obama and the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, had led a chorus of condemnation at the proposed book-burning which only intensified through the day, amid claims that it had already prompted killings in Iraq.

In the news conference announcing his decision, the pastor claimed that he decided to cancel his protest in exchange for a deal to move a planned Islamic centre and mosque away from New York's Ground Zero. The imam planning the centre, however, quickly denied any such deal.

The cancellation came as reports emerged from Baghdad of an apparent revenge attack on Iraq's only operating Anglican church, St George's. According to two eyewitnesses, up to four people were killed after gunmen opened fire on guards outside the church, which lies in a compound just outside the comparative safety of the Green Zone.

Update: Bored of the Westboro Baptists even when they burn a Koran

12th September 2010. Based on article from

The burning of a Quran and an American flag Saturday by members of Westboro Baptist Church drew little visible interest. Instead of the hoards of media representatives that descended on Florida, only a handful of area reporters turned out at noon for Westboro's burning.

I'm glad it didn't get a lot of publicity and it didn't draw a lot of people to the church, said Imam Omar Hazim, of the Islamic Center of Topeka: It seemed people in Topeka ignored what they were doing. Members of Topeka's Islamic community were absent from the event. Hazim said that was by design.

Mayor Bill Bunten, who was at home watching The University of Kansas football game during the burning, said national attention on Westboro Baptist is waning.

The fool in Florida one-upped them, Bunten said, referring to the Rev. Terry Jones, of the Dove Outreach Center church in Gainesville, Florida: They were apparently tagging along on his idea, so the fellow in Florida had stolen the stage, so to speak.

Update: A few pages ripped assunder

12th September 2010. Based on article from

A small Christian group tore a few pages from a Koran in a protest outside the White House on Saturday to denounce what they called the charade of Islam as they marked the anniversary of 9/11.

Part of why we're doing that, please hear me: the charade that Islam is a peaceful religion must end, said Randall Terry, one of the six members in the group.

Another activist, Andrew Beacham, read out a few Koran passages calling for hatred towards Christians and Jews, and then ripped those pages from an English paperback edition of the Islamic holy book.

He carefully put the torn pieces into a plastic bag, in order not to litter, and said: The only reason I will not burn it at the White House is because to burn anything on the Capitol grounds is a felony.

Update: A couple of burned Korans

13th September 2010.  From

A national Islamic group has called for an FBI investigation after a burned Quran, pages allegedly covered in feces, was found Saturday at an East Lansing mosque frequented by the Michigan State University community.

To have the Quran burned at a mosque is equivalent to having a cross burned at a black church, said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, referring to an intimidation tactic frequently used during the civil rights movement by those opposed. He has asked the FBI to consider the burning a hate crime.

Meanwhile in Tennessee, the Rev. Bob Old vowed to stick with his plan to burn the Quran. On Saturday, despite the national tempest and opposition from conservative Christian leaders including Middle Tennessee pastors, Old carried out his plan. But for all the controversy and hype, his Quran burning took place in front of just a handful of people, most of them from the media.

Old and the Rev. Danny Allen stood together in Old's backyard, answering what they say was a message from God. The pair soaked two copies of the Quran and one other Islamic text with lighter fluid, ignited them and watched the books disintegrate into ashes. This is a book of hate, not a book of love, Old said, holding the Quran, before setting it afire. It's a false book, it's a false prophet (Muhammad) and it's false Scripture.

Three protesters stood across the street from Old's home, holding signs that read My husband fights terrorism and your actions perpetuate it and Proud of my country but ashamed of my neighbors.

Update: Violence in Afghanistan

13th September 2010.  Based on article from

Two protesters were killed and several more injured as for a third straight day violent demonstrations swept Afghanistan in response to the threats made by a US church to burn copies of the Koran.

Chanting Death to America and Death to Christians , about 500 demonstrators clashed with Afghan security forces in Logar province, south of Kabul, pelting them with stones until the soldiers opened fire, killing two and wounding five others. Few protesters were aware that the Koran burning by the pastor of a small church in Florida had been called off, and some warned of more violence to come.

The [district] governor must give us an assurance that the church is not going to burn the Koran, otherwise we will attack foreign troop bases in our thousands, Mohammad Yahya, one of the protesters, said. For his part, the governor, Mohammad Amin Rahim, said he had tried to convince demonstrators that the burning would not go ahead but the demonstrators were not convinced and attacked us .

Update: Roll Up, Roll Up, for Easy Offence

15th September 2010.  Based on article from

An Australian lawyer has contributed to the US pastor's plan to burn the Koran by allegedly smoking holy books and posting the videos on YouTube.

Brisbane-based lawyer Alex Stewart is seen smoking what appear to be joints made up of pages from the Koran and the Bible filled with (lawn) grass.

He was shown lighting up his religious joints under the YouTube title: Bible or Koran - Which Burns Best?

He gave the Bible a seven out of 10 for its burning qualities, and said it was better than the Koran which left him feeling sick. Stewart says burning religious books is no big deal and that people need to get over it .

But since his video attracted approbation from around the world, Stewart - who appeared in the video wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words I'm an atheist, Thank God - has gone into hiding.

The president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ikebal Patel, said: I think it's highly offensive that he has done this to two of the holiest books in the world. It does not in any way add value to trying to promote world peace and the consideration of different views, especially when there are heightened tensions around the anniversary of September 11 and the Eid el Fitr (end of Ramadan) celebrations.

Sheik Muhammad Wahid, president of the Islamic Association of Australia, said: We condemn the video and our feelings have been hurt by this man's actions.

Stewart told Queensland's Courier Mail newspaper before he fled from his Brisbane home that the video was a joke and he does not do drugs. He insisted that the green substance he showed in a plastic bag before rolling it up in the torn-out pages was actually grass clippings.

The video has been censored and removed from YouTube.

Update: Another burnt Koran

15th September 2010.  Based on article from

Chicago police are investigating the discovery of a burnt copy of the Quran found outside the Muslim Community Center on the Northwest Side to determine if the book was damaged in a hate crime.

Update: 18 Protestors shot by police

16th September 2010.  Based on article from

The long-troubled state of Kashmir suffered one of its bloodiest days when at least 18 people were killed and more than a hundred injured as security forces opened fire on protesters in confrontations across the valley.

As politicians in Delhi debated whether to ease a bitterly controversial law that provides effective immunity to troops, Indian forces again responded to widespread demonstrations with deadly force. Related articles

The protests, which saw tens of thousands of people ignore a curfew and take to the streets, were at least partly in anger over reports that copies of the Koran had been burnt in the US. A police officer also lost his life.

Update: The Bill

22nd September 2010. Based on article from

The maverick preacher who sparked an international crisis over plans to burn the Koran has been hit with a £100,000 bill to cover the cost of police security for the stunt.

More than 200 police, including members of a SWAT team, were on duty outside the church in Florida where Jones planned his mass burning of the Holy Book.

The huge security operation was put into place even though Jones called off the burning protest that had been condemned by President Obama and the Vatican.

City officials in Gainesville said they planned to send Jones the security bill.

But Jones has said he will not pay the police bill.

Update: Vengeful Pakistan

24th September 2010. Based on article from

A Pentecostal church in Karachi has been attacked and vandalized by militants still angry over a threat to burn Qur'ans in the United States earlier this month.

Nine copies of the Bible, three hymn books and three wooden crosses were found burnt on Sept. 18 at the Nasri Pentecostal Church in Shah Latif Town, Karachi.


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