The spark was lit not by Imram Khan but by Newsweek itself on May 9 when apparently none of its reporters or editors was aware of the effect such a story would have. There seems to have been nobody there that knew that death is the penalty for desecrating a Koran in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Egypt is milder, there one would be sentenced to several years in prison under Article 161 of the penal code for “publicly insulting Islam,” or perhaps Article 98, “inciting sectarian strife”; similar patterns are followed in more moderate Muslim countries.If what should by all rights have been regarded as an all-too-typical mere faux-pas in Newsweek (and I'm not trying to defend Newsweek here), is enough to set back U.S.-Islamic relations for a decade or more, then the only rational response to these psycopaths, it seems to me, is "screw 'em!". As it stands, these folks are really more in the order of drama queens with a body count, so I don't actually anticipate much lasting damage.
In Pakistan, Article 295-B of the penal code calls for life imprisonment for desecrating the Koran or any extract from it. Last September, mentally handicapped Shahbaz Masih was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment, convicted of tearing up some leaflets that contained verses from the Koran. In 2003, the same judge sentenced Ranjha Masih (no relation) to life in prison for allegedly throwing a stone at a Muslim signboard with a Koranic verse on it during a bishop's funeral procession. Dozens of other Pakistanis have met similar fates.
In all of these countries, the greatest danger is not from the courts, but from vigilantes and mobs. In Pakistan in 1997, Shantinagar, a Christian town of some 10,000 people, was burned to the ground after a man there was accused of tearing pages from a Koran. In the Netherlands last fall, the documentary producer Theo Van Gogh was butchered after he produced a documentary Submission featuring Koranic verses on women’s bodies.
Update: This post takes the words right out of my mouth:
"Muslims from Jalalabad to Indonesia are agitated because of a rumor the Qu’ran landed in a toilet. Fair enough. But the real problem is that the collective reaction of the West has been to prostrate ourselves apologizing for something that, even if true, did not result in anything worse than clogged plumbing.
Has our perspective become so skewed that when we see people clearly deranged as a result of their religious beliefs go on a murderous rampage we’re solicitous of their hurt feelings? If you think about it, we are being remarkably patronizing. What we should say is "Yes, this is an unfortunate incident. But have you godly types considered that perhaps killing people over a wet book is something of an overreaction? Just asking.”
Of course, this suggests the possibility of rational exchange when any “dialogue” between the Islamists and the West is entirely spurious. We would like them to accept a pluralistic world. They want to live in the eighth century only with cell phones."
-- Seth Greenland