640 A.D. : According to legend, the caliph Omar burned all 200,000 volumes in the library at Alexandria in Egypt. In doing so, he said: “If these writings of the Greeks agree with the Book of God they are useless and need not be preserved; if they disagree, they are pernicious and ought to be destroyed.” In burning the books, the caliph provided six months’ fuel to warm the city’s baths.

"blogger Steve Bandera published an interesting story last week about Anti-Ukrainian book burning in Crimea. The protests are in response to what Russian nationalists say are “distortions of the past by the administration of former President Viktor Yushchenko.” (VOANews) Many of the books were Ukrainian history textbooks."

Although pastor Terry Jones is a freak, he did not magically appear out of nowhere. The sad fact of the matter is that  book-burning is an endemic Western disease, with deep cultural roots. In fact its a global disease. A pandemic. In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury spins a tale of book burning and suppression of knowledge. Real life history tells us that this was not a novel idea. Back before the printing press banning a book was easy. You burnt it. Problem solved. Just think of all the words that were written that we’ve never had a chance to wonder at. Physical books – pages bound between covers – seem to have kept their unique affiliation with human bodies.

Nazi university students burning books

It was Heinrich Heine, a 19th-century German poet, who famously observed that “where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people.” Later, tragically, the Nazis burned his books, including Almansor, the play in which the famous line appears. Even the word “Holocaust” is a reference to burnt sacrifices, as if everything, whether flesh or paper, was consumed in the same fire. “Almansor”,incidentally, is a history play, with a Muslim hero, describing the Spanish Inquisition. The Spaniards burned Hebrew Bibles as well as Korans. Their strategies during the Reconquista translated easily to their conquest of the New World.

Seems to be a fan of Mel Gibson. Is there a Torah in the house someone wants torched? Does Jones have 200 Korans to burn; or four Korans per parishioner. maybe thatrs the bluff. He doesn't have the Korans to burn.

“Russian nationalists in Crimea have burned Ukrainian history textbooks to protest what they say are distortions of the past by the administration of former President Viktor Yushchenko. The recent transfer of power in Kyiv has raised hope among Russian nationalists and fear among Ukrainians. More history texts were burned the following day at another demonstration in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea. Among the participants was Sevastopol city councilman Yevgeniy Dubovik, a member of the pro-Russian and far left Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine. He agrees with the warning of 19th century German writer Heinrich Heine… Nonetheless, Dubovik told VOA that Monday’s burning of Ukrainian history books was justified.” ( March 17,2010 )

Students and S.A. unload books for burning. It is an image not merely of brutal cruelty, but also of German self-annihilation. On that occasion, along with Heine, the Germans burned works by Marx and Freud and Einstein. If they had read Einstein instead of burning him, they might have developed the bomb and won the war.

At the end of Elias Canetti’s 1935 novel  “Auto de Fé”, one of the major works that won him the Nobel Prize in 1981, the hero burns alive inside his library; that’s how Canetti prophetically and apocalyptically imagined the horrors of the 20th century, which was only just beginning to show its capacity for destruction. …

"CANTON, N.C. (October 13, 2009)—The Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, N.C. will celebrate Halloween by burning Bibles that aren’t the King James Version, as well as music and books and anything else Pastor Marc Grizzard says is a satanic influence. Among the authors whose books Grizzard plans to burn are well known ministers Rick Warren and Billy Graham because he says they have occasionally used Bibles other than the King James Version, which is the sole biblical source he considers infallible. According to the church’s Web site, members will also burn “Satan’s music such as country, rap, rock, pop, heavy metal, western, soft and easy, southern gospel, contemporary Christian, jazz, soul (and) oldies."

Pastor Jones himself made no reference to his distinguished forebears in the book-burning business; but he definitely and self-consciously belongs to the tradition of violent, militant Christianity. He has, in part, copped  the licks, the whininess, a faux righteousness of Glenn Beck or Palin. Reading the tea leaves however, it is easy to  spot  the  not so elaborate charade of playing the victim, especially in organizing his “happening” on the 911 anniversary.  “How long are we going to bow down?” he asked the CNN anchor to whom he granted an

rview. “How long are we going to be controlled by the terrorists, by radical Islam?”

Martin Luther burning the Papal Bull. "His domination of this news cycle is the equivalent of the “accidentally” “misplaced” homemade porn of Kim Kardashian. It's the grand American story – a performer pulling himself up the ladder of notoriety rung by rung. And Mr. Jones's plan worked to perfection, provoking angry responses from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – the wet dream of every nutbar conservative – and even General David Petraeus, the top U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization commander in Afghanistan, whose plea, echoed by the Obama administration, was disheartening in its vapidity"

Fortunately, Terry Jones is neither a Nazi nor an Inquisitor; he doesn’t have their moral clarity or intelligence or coherence.“Our message is very clear,” he said, signalling that his message was anything but clear. “It is not to the moderate Muslim. Our message is not a message of hate.” Say what you will about the Nazis or the Inquisitors, they knew that they hated and they knew who they hated and why. Terry Jones doesn’t have the depth to be a Nazi. He’s too simple to be an Inquisitor. Maybe that’s why he stopped himself.

All that is left of the Temple of Artemus. "Mr. Jones craved fame through horror. In the Western tradition, fame through horror is as old as fame or horror, dating back to the destruction of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus in 356 BC. The arsonist on that occasion was Herostratus, who revealed that he burned the temple – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – to immortalize himself. That disgraceful act of self-promotion, like Terry Jones's proposal for “Burn a Koran Day,” had the desired effect."

Mr. Jones is closer to a reality-television star, hustling for the flash of the spotlight. A show where he joins a mosque and learns to love Islam is probably already in the works. His play for mainstream attention started with cheap signs outside his church reading, “Islam is of the devil.” When they didn’t garner enough attention, he moved on to talk about burning Korans.

"1497–98: Savonarola, a Florentine religious fanatic with a large following, was one of the most notorious and powerful of all censors. In these years, he instigated great “bonfires of the vanities” which destroyed books and paintings by some of the greatest artists of Florence. He persuaded the artists themselves to bring their works—including drawings of nudes—to the bonfires. Some poets decided they should no longer write in verse because they were persuaded that their lines were wicked and impure. Popular songs were denounced, and some were turned into hymns with new pious lyrics."

“More than a year after Mr. Obama said he considered it “his responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear,” American attitudes toward Muslims appear to be deteriorating. An ABC News-Washington Post Poll out this week showed that 49 per cent of Americans have an unfavourable view of Islam, up from 39 per cent in the months following the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. The proportion of those who think mainstream Islam encourages violence against non-Muslims has doubled to 31 per cent of Americans. Throw in the rise of the Tea Party movement, resurgence of right-wing militias, and recent polls showing that anywhere between one-fifth and one-quarter of Americans now believe Mr. Obama himself is a Muslim, and one is naturally alarmed.” ( Konrad Yakabuski )

"But the clearest demonstration that this Code did nothing was the continued public outcry. Heck, in December of 1948, there was a public comic book burning in Binghamton, New York, for crying out loud!!"

All this is however, so much diversion that paints the Muslim religion the same color as radical Islamists; a wing that is deeply imperialist, whose existence is in the main, treated as an oddity of history, a temporary eruption that will soon fade and shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with our lives. There is some irony, that many in the West worry more about the rights of the Islamists than about preserving out own traditions; we set up human rights councils to protect islamists from words they might find offensive.

"Nevertheless the efforts are already too little too late for at least one person. Jones should return to the fire and brimstone pulpit from whence he came and get out of the public sphere, for outside his inflated world of angels and demons and eternal destinations — “one nice and one nasty experience,” as Christopher Hitchens puts it, — he’s a danger to civil society."

The term Islamophobia is a recent phenomenon used as a stick to shame  critics, and cow discussion into silence. At the same time, Islamists and their sympathizers have developed a certain expertise in finding reasons that can be used as a pretext to be enraged, and vent spleen against the West without toppling their own corrupt regimes.  In this pursuit what they call Islamophobia is their rhetorical ally.

"A BEATLES tour of the American Deep South was marked by violence, the Ku Klux Klan and record burning following John Lennon's comments that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus", according to leading historian Professor Brian Ward."

Terry Jones, is an aberration, who has achieved his fifteen minutes of fame; who knows? he may have even been paid to attempt the stunt.  But the Rauf Islamic center in New York, is a much larger issue that goes beyond zoning regulation and religious freedom, mainly because the politics and the religion are so intertwined and inseparable; leading to the issue of what is the fine line, the limit between the imperialistic tendency of  Islam, common to Christianity as well, religious freedom and blackmail. Islam, appears to be deeply sensitive about the key point regarding the divine nature of the Koran. Because many Muslims adhere to its unalterable holiness, it is a taboo to discuss it within a critical and theological context. In this sense, there is justification to regard Islam as medieval, since it has not undergone the rupture of Christianity with the Reformation of Martin Luther.  A litmus test?:

"1525: Six thousand copies of William Tyndale’s English translation of the New Testament were printed in Cologne, Germany, and smuggled into England—and then burned by the English church. Church authorities were determined that the Bible would be available only in Latin."

“Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is responsible for the building, moved the issue to a more ominous level when he said on television on Wednesday night the results will be dire if the controversy causes the centre to be located elsewhere. “The headlines in the Muslim world will be that Islam is under attack,” Rauf predicted. He said it would threaten U.S. troops and otherwise undermine U.S. security….No one argues he is an Islamist, but he’s clearly playing Islamist violence as a political card.

Christian missionary activity in Israel:"First it was said that Deputy Mayor Uzi Aharon (SHASS – Party) was responsible for the book burning. However, later he claimed that the incident was not planned at all, but a spontaneous reaction. The inhabitants of Or Yehuda are traditional, stick to their Jewish heritage and don't want any idol worship in their town. I just wish that other places would follow this example. As soon as I see a pile of New Testaments laid out by Christian missionaries, I throw everything into the garbage. Unfortunately, Christian missionary material is getting more and more and their camouflage within the texts is becoming better. Jews who don't know anything about their own religion might think that the booklets are of Jewish origin. "

It feels like a test case. If that threat silences opposition this time, the number of future uses of the same strategy is infinite. Rauf says his goal is to build a bridge among faiths but in this case his strategy sounds more like coercion: “National security now hinges on how we negotiate this,” he said. ( Fulford )

Books are burning
In the main square, and I saw there
The first eating the text
Books are burning
In the still air
And you know where they burn books
People are next
I believe the printed word should be forgiven
Doesn’t matter what it said
Wisdom hotline from the dead back to the living
Key to the larder for your heart and head
Books are burning
In our own town, watch us turn ’round
And cast our glances elsewhere
Books are burning
In the playground
Smell of burnt book is not unlike human hair
I believe the printed word is more than sacred
Beyond the gauge of good or bad
The human right to let your soul fly free and naked
Above the violence of the fearful and sad
The church of matches
Anoints in ignorance with gasoline
The church of matches
Grows fat by breathing in the smoke of dreams
It’s quite obscene
Books are burning
More each day now, and I pray now
You boys will tire of these games
Books are burning
I hope somehow, this will allow
A phoenix up from the flames ( Books Are Burning, XTC. Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding )


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  1. massimiliano says:

    good post (and good blog) perhaps you forgot the conquistadores bonfires in south america and Mao’s repulisti after cultural revolution.

    • Dave says:

      I was pretty sure there were bonfires on every continent, but didn’t have the time to research it all. Thanks for pointing these examples out. Best,Dave

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