Burning books is rarely just about the book, is it?


by Ellie Mae    
4:46 pm - September 10th 2010

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So, to Qur’an burning then. What the Dickens is that about, eh? Is it just a book?

Well no, it isn’t. I doubt Pastor Redneck would be satisfied if all paper copies of the Qur’an were destroyed but all e-books remained in tact.

Unless I’m sorely mistaken, his issue isn’t with some bound bits of paper you can pick up for £5.99 in Waterstones: it’s with ideas.

Moreover, the Pastor has taken issue with offending ideas being captured permanently.

Burning a Qur’an isn’t about burning paper and card: it’s about eradicating ideas, which is why Heinrich Heine was once moved to comment, “Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.”

Hitler proved with his own book-burning shenanigans; once you have destroyed one vessel of an idea, you soon move on to destroy another.

Ideas don’t die with books, they die with people; so if it’s an idea you want to kill, eventually you’ll have to commit murder.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting the Pastor is definitely about to embark on a killing spree.

I’m saying he is treading very dangerous ground; I’m saying that once you deem an idea so threatening that it must be destroyed, suddenly all kinds of behaviour become acceptable.

As one sage commenter put it, “the Pastor will have blood on his hands if he proceeds with this madness.” Indeed.

Sunny Update: I like this discussion on MSNBC on this:

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Ellie Mae is an occasional contributor. She is co-editor of New Left Project. She is on Twitter and blogs here.
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Reader comments


1. Padraig Reidy

“the Pastor will have blood on his hands if he proceeds with this madness.”

Who said that?

Some bird commenting on CiF.

Sunny, you need to check your emails more often! Or be less efficient.

I think it’s currently obligatory to reference this:

http://www.jesusandmo.net/2010/09/08/crass/

My fear is not with the “cretinous intolerance” (as Dave Osler put it yesterday) but with the panicked and unsophisticated response from the rest of America.

There will always be idiots like Pastor Terry Jones, but usually we rely on other prominent figures in civil society to refute their arguments. This is what should keep such incitement contained, isolated, and on the margins. Now that the Pastor has ‘postponed’ his event, we can probably say that wisdom has prevailed. But by GodAllah, it took an awful long time for the responsible adults to turn up, didn’t it. Meanwhile, the kids are playing with fire, quite literally.

What’s interesting to me is how the debate changed once the General said it would endanger troops. Immediately puts the right on the defensive… see the video from MSNBC – they’re actually slamming Obama for not shutting this guy down!

It was a teensy bit ironic for Obama to call the Koran-burning a “recruitment bonanza” for al-Queda (sp), when the rather more efficient recruitment drive has been the slaughter of thousands of innocent folk in Iraq and Afghanistan…

But by God/Allah, it took an awful long time for the responsible adults to turn up, didn’t it.

I haven’t been paying too much attention to this story (because it seems to fit too easily into the ‘cretins provoke morons’ category) but hasn’t virtually everyone from Barack Obama to Sarah Palin been calling on this idiot not to be such an idiot?

@2

Some bird commenting on CiF.

Come on Ellie, you can do better than that! Here on teh interwebs we like our quotes sourced and linked to, not anonymously referenced. Such low standards might prevail in the newspapers, but…

The right went on the defensive Sunny? Last time I checked the proper right (not the knee-jerk reactionaries who believe states can ban things) were generally of the same mind as now – he can do it if he wishes, but its a bad idea and won’t achieve anything of any use.

Please don’t label us with the same label as the sort of populist idiot that appears on TV. After all, would all the left want to be considered to be like Diane Abbott?

10. Luis Enrique

so there are nutters everywhere – these Christian nutters, and some Muslim nutters who also like to burn things and chant death to America in response. So far, so unfortunate and perhaps unavoidable.

But why don’t Muslim leaders (like Karzai and the Indonesian pres) go out and say “nothing to worry about here, this is just a few Christian nutters, 99% of Americans think they’re nutters too”. Why haven’t people with influence sought to deflate, rather than to express outrage at the actions of a tiny number of lunatics?

11. Missing The Point

It’s a small point, but calling him ‘Pastor Redneck’ isn’t very helpful.

You are stooping a bit low by using race- and class-based slurs. Aim higher.

@Tim J

but hasn’t virtually everyone from Barack Obama to Sarah Palin been calling on this idiot not to be such an idiot?

Yes, you’re right. I’m just thinking of this in the context ofr the Corodoba Initiative/Ground Zero Mosque bullshit, which undoubtedly emboldened Pastor Jones into being such a dick.

8. Oh FFS, here you go: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/sep/08/quran-burning-terry-jones?showallcomments=true#comment-7601958

Mmm you’re probably right though. Sunny you should prob link that.

11. It’s not racism – it’s misanthropy and bitterness. And I reserve the right to it.

‘It’s a small point, but calling him ‘Pastor Redneck’ isn’t very helpful.

You are stooping a bit low by using race- and class-based slurs. Aim higher.’

He’s a Redhead.

And a dickhead.

But the responsibility of a violent response lies at the feet of the violent responders.

And you can be damn sure most of those who are killed in any protests will be other Muslims.

” After all, would all the left want to be considered to be like Diane Abbott?”

Well, she talks more sense than you. And as you are on here defending Conseravtives every day I think we can put you in with the nut jobs.

‘It’s a small point, but calling him ‘Pastor Redneck’ isn’t very helpful.”

What aee you going to do burn the site down?

Jesus and Mo has/have nailed it pretty well.

I wouldn’t agree with the burning of any books, but then I’d defend the right of those wishing to burn their own (bought and paid for) books to do so – however repulsive their reasoning may be. Either that or people should be prevented from burning *any* books – there should be no special treatment for religion.

Their point in burning the Koran is a contradictory one in that they are not protesting against blasphemy – they are evangelical Christians who probably believe in their own form of blasphemy, – but at the same time, they could have a shred of a point (although it’s not one they are making) that religion does not deserve special treatment – there is no reason why Korans should be any more off limits to being burnt than, say, a secular text, regarless of how many people it ‘offends’.

You could for example say that the mere existence of the Koran ‘offends’ homosexuals and apostates, in that it clearly calls for their execution in its pages. But the difference is that homosexuality is not a religion, therefore it is highly unlikely that we would see homosexuals murdering and suicide bombing due to the ‘offence’ caused by the existence of the Koran.

That’s not to say that the burning of any books is anything other than pathetic and disgusting. But provocation relies as much on the complicity of the person being provoked.

Also, whatever you think about the Rev. Terry Jones and his Koran burning plans, he has at least demonstrated one thing: Islam cares to the point of outrage and retribution about the burning of paper, while readily condoning the stoning of a woman.

21. Grimsby Fiendish

Also, whatever you think about the Rev. Terry Jones and his Koran burning plans, he has at least demonstrated one thing: Islam cares to the point of outrage and retribution about the burning of paper, while readily condoning the stoning of a woman.

Oh come on, it takes a lot less than this to persuade Muslims to violently demonstrate. Not so long ago it was a little girl calling a teddy bear Mohammed. Before that, the swirls in some ice cream. Meanwhile, Sunni and Shia in Pakistan slaughter each other in their mosques, and it doesn’t even merit a sigh from “the perpetually offended”.

There’s a huge cross-over between fundamentalists and book burners because both believe a text has a single, monological meaning that they alone can determine.

And in Afghanistan where protests have been “sweeping the country” there’s a huge crossover between book burning and the inability to read a book. Funny thing, that.

What I meant was there’s a huge crossover between protesting at book burning and the inability to read a book. Male literacy 43%, female literacy 13%.

hmmm….pastor jones is a dickhead of the highest order – no doubts on that.

Book burning by itself shows lack of intellect to argue successfully against what is written.

However, what about those who are willing to kill people because someone destroys a BOOK – and kill innocent people in the name of religion.

So, because terrorists would kill us – we should curb freedom of speech and our way of life.

Majority of Christians in the world would disagree with the nutter in Florida just like majority of Muslims would disagree with the nutters who kill in the name of religion. None of them are following the teachings of their own religion yet the West must curb its freedom of speech and expression.

I am completely against burning of the Holy Koran but I am equally angry about politicians calling on curbing freedom of expression so that some nutters would try to kill us a bit less.

Changing our way of life is what terrorists want – freedom of speech and expression is a cornerstone of how we live and this blog is a great example.

I kinda agree with Angela Merkel who gave an award to the Danish Cartoonist – not because I agree with the cartoonist – I thought it was rather tasteless however, I do agree with Chancellor Merkel when she said “freedom of speech” is too precious. She should know she grew up in Communist East Germany.

So while the dickhead is completely wrong – giving him the oxygen of media publicity was wrong but so was trying to portray this act should be curbed because some nutters are willing to kill people because someone burned a book – no matter how holy it is. It is a bloody book.

And btw, the Commander in Afghanistan would not have opened his mouth on this unless he was ordered to by the Sec Def or the President – thats how the world works. While I support President Obama’s and Sec Clinton’s point that this is Un American – I am disappointed with the President’s rhetoric about the reaction to the book burning.

However, what about those who are willing to kill people because someone destroys a BOOK – and kill innocent people in the name of religion.

Sorry, who is doing that?

But why don’t Muslim leaders (like Karzai and the Indonesian pres) go out and say “nothing to worry about here, this is just a few Christian nutters, 99% of Americans think they’re nutters to

there are Muslim leaders doing that.

http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/uk/koran+burning+uk+muslims+and+christians+united/3764377

In fact I bet they did so in those countries too. But the protesters in both Pakistan and Indonesia were Hizb ut-Tahrir activists.

The idea those ppl will listen political leaders is laughable. Those people protest at the drop of a hat.

@26 Sunny: “The idea those ppl will listen political leaders is laughable. Those people protest at the drop of a hat.”

That’s a rather fatalist attitude, isn’t it? I agree that words from a few politicians, who are regarded as corrupt anyway, will make little short term difference. But the long term message is that liberal democracy and religious faith can co-exist. We don’t write off HuT followers in the UK, so why do so for Pakistan and Indonesia?

People died because of the danish cartoons Sunny. And if the words of the Indonesian President is to be believed then it is quite possible that this could happen even now.

Today people died in Afghanistan because of the proposed event – so its not difficult to extrapolate that once the event is over there is great possibility that people would die. So please.

I don’t remember Ellie Mae (or anyone else) getting too exercised about this. Why wasn’t she sharing her insights about Hitler with those Orthodox Jews?

FWIW, this whole ‘if you burn an object, you’ll end up burning people’ schtick is nonsense. I doubt one in a hundred flag-burners is actually going to take a crack at genocide, for example. Most book-burners aren’t literally trying to kill an idea, it’s a symbolic act to show you don’t like the book.

When we sat our O-level (before your time) English Lit exam, my class then ceremonially burned our set book (Mayor of Casterbridge) in a waste-bin. Forty years on I’ve still not killed any residents of Dorset.

Why is it so bad to burn sacred books but acceptable to blow up ancient statues of the Buddha which had sacred significance for some?

“In March 2001, six months before the September 11th bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City, the Taliban destroyed two ancient statues of the Buddha called Bamiyan in an attempt to cleanse the country of Afghanistan of what they perceived as Hindu heresy.”
http://archaeology.about.com/od/heritagemanagement/a/buddha.htm

Another case of the infamous double standards?

We don’t write off HuT followers in the UK, so why do so for Pakistan and Indonesia?

Erm, yes we do. Thought UK HuT members have become a bit more media savvy – think of the Indonesians as Al-Muhajiroun equivalents who will protest at anything if they can get some publicity for it.

Muslims, believe it or not, are an incredibly disparate group and they also have nutters amongst them who will protest and burn effigies at the drop of a hat. There are Hindu nationalists in India who do the same all the time. After a while people learn to ignore them. Unfortunately, the western media doesn’t

People died because of the danish cartoons Sunny.

That’s true. In both cases it was hot-heads who went on a rampage and were fired upon by the police. I still don’t get what point you’re making.

It seems to me we should communalise this book burning malarkey.

On a set date every year, say November the 5th, anyone who has hated a particular book should donate it to a bonfire. Then we could all stand around and pretend that it had made any difference whatsoever, and we’d all go home with a warm glow. I have several books I’d like to contribute, though, sadly none are of a religious nature and will burn less brightly. They did, however, waste some moments of my time….

I’m sure there is a flaw in my plan….

A flaw in my plan…

It seems to me to be a tad odd that Pastor Terry Jones is able to produce, at the drop of a hat, a pile of Korans to burn? Is he not supposed to be a Christian of the fundamentalist variety? Does he not preach to a flock of fellow Christian fundamentalists? None of them should have a Koran.

Indeed, I’d be very wary of contributing my copy of the Koran to someone like that, lest he became suspicious about how or why I acquired it.

Let’s face it, having a copy, far less reading it, is so far away from what the man stands for that he’s got every right to be suspicious of the scource of every copy received.

So, what to make of it?

Let us take an innocent.

Someone who’s mad aunt left them a library as a bequest, which just happened to include a Koran, bought by an orientalist partner that just thought it was ‘interesting’. The mad bastard.

Look where that might lead. She will be outed as an Islamist herself, by Fox News no less and her social standing will be in tatters.

Far better to ignore, err, just forget, Pastor Terry Jones appeal and keep your reputation as a woman of means, and a library. And her copy of the Koran.

______________________________

It seems to me that Pastor Terry Jones may have a supply-side issue.

Unless, his own supporters are going out and buying copies, just to burn.

The answer would obviously be for providers of holy texts to read carefully about the Dutch Tulip frenzy, and benefit from that.

Hi all

There seems to be a bit of confusion about the argument I’m making (particularly with Laban and and Bob B) so I thought I’d clarify a few points:

1. It’s fine to blow up a statue of Buddha. In fact all acts of violence are fine. EXCEPT burning books. That really gets my goat. Sunny, can you amend my post accordingly? Please remember that when listing acceptable acts of violence, honour killings is spelt with a ‘U’.

2. All book burning is a direct indication of homocidal tendencies. It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but one day Laban will murder the entire population of Dorset.

3. Hitler was definitely right.

Hope that sheds some light on the matter.

Night everyone,

EM

Good night out, Ellie ?

However repulsive the Rev’s book burning plan may be, we must always remember that provocation relies as much on the complicity of the people being provoked.

Any violence carried out must not be allowed to be written off as ‘because of the offence caused’. Those who commit the violence do so willingly.

See a video clip and news report of the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan in March 2001:
http://www.photogrammetry.ethz.ch/research/bamiyan/buddha/destruction.htm

“They were intentionally dynamited and destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban, on orders from leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, after the Taliban government declared that they were ‘idols’ (which are forbidden under Sharia law). International opinion strongly condemned the destruction of the Buddhas, which was viewed as an example of the intolerance of the Taliban.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhas_of_Bamyan

By way of what is sometimes termed “disambiguation”, I post this to show that other religions besides Christianity also have their clerical nutcases.

Corrected link address @37:

See a video clip and news report of the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan in March 2001:
http://www.photogrammetry.ethz.ch/research/bamiyan/buddha/destruction.html

Apologies

What Jones (he may call himself a Pastor, but it’s a self awarded title) has done is provided the anti muslim bigots with a means of expressing their bigotry. Note all the comments here that call him a “dickhead” but then go on to express equal hatred of muslims. Christians, liberals, conservatives, feminists, westerners, whatever – the capacity for hating other human beings is endless and shameless.

@39

If you burn a book simply to offend people you’re a dickhead. If you start a riot because someone has burnt a book you like you’re also a dickhead. It’s not hard. Yes, the overwhelming majority of Christians and Muslims are not dickheads, but that doesn’t mean one can’t point out dickheadishness wherever it occurs.

41. TuringMachine

@34 “All book burning is a direct indication of homocidal tendencies.”

I’m sure you’re right (something you have in common with Hitler, apparently) but you’ll have to define the new crime of homocide you’ve identified. I would suggest it could mean the killing of gay people. I feel that this is an appropriate definition because, after all, the topic of conversation is religious (funda)mentalists.

count me among the protesters against “redneck”. Try “this bullying cultist” instead.
Also I don’t think he’s naive.

Forty years on I’ve still not killed any residents of Dorset.

Devon and Wiltshire weren’t so lucky…

44. Chaise Guevara

“Why is it so bad to burn sacred books but acceptable to blow up ancient statues of the Buddha which had sacred significance for some?”

YEESH, Bob.

The answer is pretty simple. Because they’re fundamentalists, in this case Islamic fundamentalists. So, according to their beliefs, the Koran is holy while the Buddha is blashpemy. Therefore burning the Koran is an affront to god and thus bad, while blowing up Buddhist statues is fighting the infidel and thus good.

That wasn’t so hard, was it? Considering the amount of posts you make on this site, it would be nice if you occasionally actually, y’know, contributed to the discussion instead of just trolling us with your news sources, which always seem to 1) prove something we already know or 2) provide anecdotal evidence for an argument with a fundamentally fatal flaw.

44. Chaise Guevara

To be fair, I think Bob B is implying I am outraged by Qur’an burning but am fair game for a bit of Buddha arson.

And he would not be wrong. Buddha gets on my tits.

Laban – I stayed in to watch the last ever final of Big Brother. Sean Lock described it as Britain’s 9/11. I wonder if it’ll be come a national holiday?

46. Chaise Guevara

“To be fair, I think Bob B is implying I am outraged by Qur’an burning but am fair game for a bit of Buddha arson.

And he would not be wrong. Buddha gets on my tits.”

I could tell by the way you didn’t mention them in the OP. “I won’t mention those statues,” you thought. “That should make unambigiously clear that I hated them and am glad they exploded.”

Perhaps because of my age, I’m increasingly confronted by official forms with an early question about my religion – to which I routinely respond by entering N/A or “None”.

Besides being approximatefully truthful, I am becoming increasingly irritated by this question because: (a) it is about my personal beliefs and I can see no convincing reason why my religious sentiments should be picked out for official scrutiny over my views on ethics in general, the legitimacy of the last Iraq war, macroeoconimc policy or climate change; (b) my religion is often irrelevant to the context of the form.

Having said all that, I can respect the sacred artefacts and literature of those who profess religious belief and faiths but can see no special reason why I – or the public at large – should accord special preference for the artefacts or literature of one religion over another. I would be entirely content to disestablish the Church of England but then I understand the reason for establishing it in the first place was to better control the established church in England from interfering in the affairs of state. In short, I’m supportive of what motivated the first amendment to the US Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/teachers/lessonplans/iraq/billofrights_handout.pdf

In that same spirit, I cannot understand why I’m supposed to be outraged at the burning of the Koran – or the Bible, the Torah, the Sutras of the Buddha and the Analects of Confucius – but not outraged about the wanton destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas. If their supposed heresy, according to the Taliban, was the depictment of the – or “a” – deity in human form, what are we – or they – to do about all those statutes of the Catholic church?

Sorry about all the typos.

49. Chaise Guevara

“In that same spirit, I cannot understand why I’m supposed to be outraged at the burning of the Koran – or the Bible, the Torah, the Sutras of the Buddha and the Analects of Confucius – but not outraged about the wanton destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas.”

Bob.

Who, aside from non-moderate Muslims, has told you that you should be outraged about Koran-burning but not the destruction of the Buddhas? What is your basis for banging on and on and on about this supposed ‘double standard’?

Sunny

I think my position has been abundantly clear in the post Rumbold and I have written in PP. I am not disagreeing with you. And for others who have not read the post here it is:

http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/10045

I hope that clears the confusion.

And Ellie – freedom of speech is more important than a nutter burning a book

@11 – thats exactly what i thought. I doubt she would say something like pastor paki would she?

52. Just Visiting

Chaise 49

>Who, aside from non-moderate Muslims, has told you that you should be outraged about Koran-burning but not the destruction of the Buddhas?

Well on LC – no one started a thread over the statues.
In contrast, look at what coverage Pastor Jones gets.

53. Just Visiting

Sunny

You seem to be coming from the viewpoint, that Islamic, Hindu and Christian Nutters are equal in your eyes. Equally violent. Having equal impact around the world.

Is that a fair assessment of your view?

In 26, your link supposedly showing Muslim leaders asking for calm over the book-burning – is NOTHING of ths sort!

It includes NO maintream Islamic leaders.
Just a minority flavour of Islam (who are not even considered to be Muslims in pakistan law !). And a bunch of christian, Jewish a and other UK religious leaders. But no Muslim leaders.

So the ball is in your court – where are the prominent Islamic leaders round the world, calling for calm over Paster Jones?

Indeed the prominent voices were calling on Obama to stop it, something he couldn’t have dine, rather than on their own populations to cool it.

: “Who, aside from non-moderate Muslims, has told you that you should be outraged about Koran-burning but not the destruction of the Buddhas? What is your basis for banging on and on and on about this supposed ‘double standard’?”

The destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas in Afghanistan by the Taliban was back in March 2001, sufficiently long ago to have been long since forgotten by much of the media and by many of those recently outraged at the prospect of the burning of the Koran.

By reports, the boundaries between “non-moderate” and “moderate” muslim opinions on toleration of other religions is often malleable. In more than a few muslim countries there is presently no freedom to preach Christianity, for instance – try: “Nine Muslim countries among top 13 ‘egregious’ violators of religious freedom”
http://www.jihadwatch.org/2009/05/nine-muslim-countries-among-top-13-egregious-violators-of-religious-freedom.html

How many will sign up to that exemplary Confucian ethic: “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you” ? [Analects 12:1]

56. Just Visiting

a bit late to chip into this thread – but it gets funnier (or sadder)

Iran – which had condemned so strongly Pastor Jones threatened Qur’an burning….is allegedly engaged in Bible and Torah burning itself!

——————————————————————————————————–
Hundreds of Bibles Have Been Burned By The Iranian Government Security Forces
The report said that on Saturday, May 29, 2010, Ati News, a site belonging to Morteza Talaee, the previous head of the security forces and the current member of the Tehran’s city council, reported that shipments of so called, “Perverted Torah and Gospels” had entered Iran through its Western borders.

Two days later, on Monday, May 31, 2010, the same report was reiterated by the official anti-crime website of the Pasdaran Army called “Gerdaub” which said that a large shipment of Jewish and Christian Scriptures had entered Iran through the Western Azerbaijan province ..
…the official website of the Pasdaran Army [also known as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG] continued its report by quoting the security official who had stated: “Some of these books are distributed locally, but most of the books are smuggled and distributed all over the country. In just the last few months, hundreds of such ‘perverted Bibles’ have been seized and burned in the border town of Sardasht.”
http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2010/s10060047.htm


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Burning books is rarely just about the book, is it? http://bit.ly/b8MGB4

  2. Christopher Wilson

    RT @libcon: Burning books is rarely just about the book, is it? http://bit.ly/b8MGB4

  3. Nathaniel Simpson

    Interesting thoughts on #Burningbooks is rarely just about the book, is it? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/y30vRiu via @libcon

  4. Dominic Victor

    Burning books is rarely just about the book, is it? | Liberal …: Burning a Qur'an isn't about burning paper and … http://bit.ly/ackq8P

  5. Pisces Zodiac

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  6. Alexandra Do Sado

    Burning books is rarely just about the book, is it? | Liberal … http://bit.ly/9yXKgY

  7. Jenny Rowland

    Burning books is rarely just about the book, is it? | Liberal …: Burning a Qur'an isn't about burning paper and … http://bit.ly/d8Rdbu

  8. Jeff A. Jones

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  9. Martin Shovel

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  13. links for 2010-09-13 « Embololalia

    [...] Burning books is rarely just about the book, is it? | Liberal Conspiracy I doubt Pastor Redneck would be satisfied if all paper copies of the Qur’an were destroyed but all e-books remained in tact. [...]





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