I read the news about the slaughter of United Nations workers in Afghanistan with dread and anger. That an angry mob would brutally murder International peacekeepers in order to revenge the burning of a book- any book- is chilling.
And yet, I was also chilled when I read about the "church" in Florida that put the Koran on trial, found it guilty of blasphemy, and sentenced it to death by burning.
When I was in Seminary, I wrote my Rabbinic thesis on an obscure book that documented a "disputation" between a Christian prelate and a Rabbi. Throughout the Middle Ages, Jewish communities in Europe were often subjugated to staged "trials" in which they were forced to defend their faith in order to avoid expulsion and/or the confiscation of property. Public burnings of the Talmud and other holy texts often took place at the conclusion of these events as well.
While there is no excuse whatsoever for the murderous actions of those responsible for the killings in Afghanistan, I shudder when I read of medieval tactics used to demonize faith. The Koran is not evil. Islam is not evil. History has shown repeatedly that those who feel called by their faith to commit acts of violence and condemnation are the true criminals.
Burning a book is not equivalent to murder. But book-burnings all too often lead to violence.