Watching books burn is an unpleasant experience for those old enough to recall newsreel footage of Nazi excesses. With e-books and Library deposits the notion of denying or limiting knowledge to others is a thing of the past in the free world. Now the act is more a gesture of principle or defiance as dangerously demonstrated by the obscure US pastor who caused worldwide uproar by threatening to burn copies of the Koran and encouraging others to do likewise.
Just the suggestion had Islamic people on the streets waving placards and threatening violence particularly against against US troops. There is an odd contradiction here. The pastor had the freedom to exercise free will in a free country but was shackled by public opinion and political pressure. Islamists on the other hand have no qualms about desecrating non-Islamic religious symbols or even killing people just for being Christians.
As we celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain we remember those who fought and died in the war against tyranny. Today we face a different tyranny, the threat to freedom of expression. Islamic fundamentalists are succeeding in muzzling everyone but themselves. The slightest hint of criticism is regarded as abuse yet Islamic abuse is rife, particularly in Iran. If as claimed, Islam is a religion of peace, protestors could demonstrate that forcibly by taking up the cause of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, sentenced to death by stoning, or is a book, however sacred, more precious than a life?