Yes, burning the Qur’an can violate the First Amendment

May 17, 2022 • 10:00 am

Yesterday I described the mayhem that ensued in Sweden and Denmark when a nativist right-wing politician, Rasmus Paludan, head of Denmark’s anti-immigrant Hard Line Party, set fire to a Qur’an live on Facebook last month. He then announced that he was going to tour Sweden over Easter weekend burning Qurans: a tour with burnings in different Swedish cities. This caused the expected consequences: public ire and violent protests that included overturning buses and throwing Molotov cocktails. (The Muslims, of course, were irate over the burning of their scripture, and perpetrated the violence.) Paludan is continuing his Burn The Qur’an Tour and continues to create mayhem.

However, the Swedish and Danish police protected Paludan, and several readers noted that his acts are not prohibited in Sweden and Denmark, even when they could cause damage to people and property.

The question I posed to readers was this:  could burning a Qur’an in the U.S. under some circumstances not be considered Constitutionally protected speech if it led to foreseeable and imminent harm, and if that harm was intended?

Like most readers, I see no issue with burning Qur’ans, but I was posing a hypothetical legal question.

Most readers argued that this “speech” (burning the Qur’an) would be protected in the U.S. even if it was likely to lead to foreseeable and intended violence. You can see readers’ comments here.

However, I wanted a definitive legal opinion, so I consulted a very well known law professor specializing in free-speech and First Amendment issues.  His/her answer was that, yes, under some circumstances burning the Qur’an might NOT be protected speech, in which case the burner could be prosecuted. The prof’s response (I’ve added the link), quoted with permission:

According to the Court’s 1969 decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio, which remains a leading precedent, the government cannot punish an individual for engaging in expressive conduct that causes others to engage in violence unless the individual specifically intended to cause that reaction and his speech caused likely and imminent violence. So, whether the right wing Swedish politician could be punished for his conduct would depend on whether the government could prove that causing the violence was his specific intent in burning the Muslim [book] and that the violent response was likely and imminent (and grave).

Now these circumstances may not obtain in the case of Paludan, and proving intent is of course quite difficult. Nevertheless, it is not beyond possibility that someone burning the Qur’an could be punished by the U.S. government for that act under the “imminent violence” provision.

I consider this opinion definitive.

Here’s a recent video of Paludin burning the Qur’an under police protection, and some of the reaction:

51 thoughts on “Yes, burning the Qur’an can violate the First Amendment

  1. > His/her answer was, yes, under some circumstances burning the Qur’an might NOT be protected speech, in which case the burner could be prosecuted.

    However, the burner would not be prosecuted for violating the First Amendment.

  2. I’m still unsettled by this. I still think speech need not be invoked in this specific case.

    “Violence” is one thing.

    But “accidental” conflagration of surrounding structures, and the public resources committed in the moment to minimize that risk, is not what I think of as “violence”. And if it is “harm”, then it is not bodily harm, but destruction. It drains public resources.

    I’m simply astonished with the preoccupation of fire to achieve whatever objectives the fire users are after. I saw not one mention of precautions that Paludin will have a single fire extinguisher at hand, or any other precautions, or any permit for it. He could simply shred the thing or even pee on it, or 100 of them.

    Fire is not inherently stable, spreads rapidly, and so on. Paludan proposes what is in effect a traveling performance art, deliberate and reckless, in which any genuine speech is independent of combustion.

    1. I do not think the Law Prof’s answer implies that Paludan could start an illegal fire, toss a Koran on it, and that makes it legal. That would be ridiculous – all those idiots starting forest fires could just claim they were performing some free speech exercise. Free speech doesn’t work like that; just like a local sound ordinance can put a limitation on how loud you can blast your speech, a local fire ordinance can put a limitation on where and how you can do your Koran-burning.

      So, IMO Paludan still has to obey local fire codes. What the Prof’s answer is saying is that a legal fire may still not count as protected free speech in some circumstances.

      1. Yes, what’s at issue here is the free-speech dimension of a particular form of expressive conduct, not the illegality of arson.

  3. I think in practice the intent aspect is going to rule out anything but the most in-your-face expressions…and even then, it would be simple enough for the burner to tape themselves saying “I’m doing this to show my disapproval of the mosque being built in this area/of Islam’s treatment of women[/or some other political or religious point]…”. To have ones’ Koran-burning be deemed illegal here in the US, you almost have to want it to be deemed illegal. Because if you don’t, there are plenty of ways to avoid running afoul of Brandenburg.

  4. I suspect in Canada the fire setting politician would not be protected by police but would be stopped and charged with setting a fire in a public place. His right to Free Speech would be irrelevant.

      1. Disagree— Expression is protected as well. Performance art doesn’t have to have words.
        Natives can block streets for drumming circles. No words at all.

        1. “Expression is protected as well.”

          So I guess this is the crux of this problem – “expression” – I am not sure how the first amendment encompasses “expression” beyond speech as defined by written or spoken _language_.

          “Performance art doesn’t have to have words.”

          That, I think, needs some explanation with respect to, specifically, fire. Combustion of materials. Open flames.

          1. Open flames consuming churches in tinder-dry British Columbia. Not a single arrest. Much praise on social media for understandable vengeance over a mass grave story which now appears to be a hoax. (Not the fires, which were real enough. The graves.).

            Not all protestors are as fastidious as you over fire safety, ThyroidPlanet. But if your only traditional technology is fire, you use it for maximum symbolic effect.

          1. Indeed. Expression trumps most things. Consider that prostitution (paying someone for sex) is illegal (for both sides) in most of the USA. However, paying someone else to have sex not with you but with someone else, which you film and make available to anyone who wants it, is protected, since production of porn is legal in (at least parts of) the USA (even if prostitution is not).

            I’m sure that many who want to outlaw prostitution (or are happy that it is already outlawed) want to outlaw porn as well. The fact that they haven’t been able to underscores how protected expression, even without speech, is.

          2. “… expressive conduct is protected by the First Amendment Free Speech clause.”

            [ sigh…] so what, precisely, are the boundaries of “expressive conduct” – the usual caveats for free speech such as imminent harm?

            What could our Mr. Paludan not achieve had he simply peed on a Koran? What, precisely, gives him the right to involve the fire department with his “expressive conduct”?

            I am arguing as if this is, as advertised, not one small book in some sort of self-contained fire pit, but an unspecified number of books of unspecified dimensions across different countries, in open public spaces, in all manner of weather conditions.

            1. Paludin, had this happened in the US, could have been stopped (and, if he refused to stop, arrested) if his conduct constituted a fire hazard (which is to say, because it presented a risk of inflaming nearby property).

              He could not be stopped or arrested because of the expressive content of his conduct (which is to say, because it presented a risk of inflaming nearby minds — unless, under the circumstances, the risk of violence thereby created was imminent).

              1. Thank you.

                I gather that, if a case were brought up, free speech and all it entails might be as much as half of it, and the other half might be related to municipal safety, property, … failure to procure a permit,… etc.

                I.e. different charges.

              2. Thyroid, things like fire safety statutes or noise ordinances are called “time, place, manner” limitations on free speech and they are often perfectly legal. As long as the government is not regulating speech based on its content and can provide some reasonable justification for limiting the time, place, or manner of speech, there’s no problem.

                Examples are things like:
                1. Providing a public Q&A period, limiting each speaker to 5 minutes so many people can speak. It is then not a violation of your right to free expression to stop you at 5 minutes (time limitation).
                2. Saying you can display your posterboard protesting the President’s decisions in Lafayette Square, but not put it in the Oval Office (place limitation). Note both Lafayette Square and the Oval Office are “public” places, so this is not the same justification as “not in your neighbor’s house, you don’t own that space.”. This is a limitation on the use of public spaces for practical (and obvious) reasons.
                3. Saying you can speak your message at 2am in public, but it must be below 50db as measured from your neighbor’s property line (manner).
                4. Saying you can burn a Koran, but only where and in ways it is otherwise legal to start a fire (primarily manner, but time/season and place component too).

                The real thing the 1A tries to guard against is the government deciding legality based on content. The government saying “this fire is okay, burning a Bible in it is okay, burning a Koran in it is not okay” = violation. Either the fire is legal for both fuels or not legal for both fuels. But deciding some expression is illegal regardless of content, based on other pragmatic concerns like “you can’t wake your neighbors up in the middle of the night” or “you can’t start a fire in Yosemite in Summer” does not violate anyone’s 1A protection to free expression.

        2. What is your problem with native Americans? You want us to stay invisible — the noble savages of the past who have no importance or influence in the here and now. You seem to have some sort of itch.

    1. Not so fast. The Canadian Supreme Court does not deem free speech to be irrelevant in guiding Courts who hear prosecutions for law-breaking. Even though the protections for speech are much weaker here, they must still go into the hopper to decide if a conviction can be allowed. Otherwise protestors would be arrested as soon as they stepped off the sidewalk into the street or stopped their vehicles with intent to impede traffic. You are surely familiar with protestors who drive “unnecessarily slowly” (an offence) on all three lanes of highways flying some banner or other, while the police escort them to protect them from road rage.

      Don’t be so sure that fire is a special case that would always result in prosecution. The burning of churches was effectively normalized as a protest activity last summer. Climate change might have incinerated Lytton but it didn’t mysteriously ignite those dozen or so churches.

      1. I agree about the burning of the churches last summer. The police have a lot of discretion in deciding to lay criminal charges. There is often a lot of hypocrisy in those decisions and there can be political pressure not to lay charges in controversial and highly charged situations.
        But I expect that charges will eventually be laid if and when the police can identify the perpetrators. I don’t know how hard they are looking for them.
        A perpetrator of a public order and public safety offence like setting fires in public places, will certainly assert his/her rights to freedom of speech under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But you know that this will almost always fail because the Crown (which is how the State is referred to in the Canadian courts) can assert an exception to defend the State’s action under Section 1 of the Charter as an exception justified «  in a free and democratic society ». This justification will not always be accepted by the courts, and there are many cases in which the courts uphold the defence of breach of Charter rights. I just have to add here that it helps a whole lot to have a court system that is generally independent and not politicized.
        Most of the occupiers in the Ottawa occupation (truckers and others) last winter who have been charged , have been charged with public order and city bylaw offences. Some of them could also have been charged with offences of insurrection and conspiracy. But why would the Crown go down this onerous path when they can make the far easier case of offences against public order?

        Canadians in general, and most courts are intolerant of purposeful public disorder behaviour like burning objects in public places and will have little tolerance for assertions of rights to free speech in these sorts of circumstances.
        This is one of the significant differences between the culture of the US and Canada.

    1. Similarly, one can be successfully prosecuted for criminal mischief for stealing someone else’s Qur’an and burning it.

      Take Proud Boys’ leader Enrique Tarrio (please). A few days before the events of Jan. 6th 2021, Tarrio was arrested in Washington, DC, on a warrant for having stolen a Black Lives Matters banner and burning it in public (whereas, had he rightfully owned the banner himself, his expressive conduct in burning it would have been protected by the First Amendment). At the time of his arrest, Tarrio was found to be in possession of (and also arrested for) a firearm in violation of Washington, DC’s strict concealed-carry laws.

      It was probably this arrest of Tarrio that kept the Jan. 6th insurrection from turning into a complete bloodbath, since it convinced the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and others of their ilk to stash their arsenal of firearms in a motel in Virginia, across the Potomac River, rather than to chance a pre-riot arrest, as had happened to Tarrio, by bringing them into DC. (Their plan, apparently, was to have the firearms brought over to the Capitol once they had established complete control of the building on Jan. 6th. That way they could have held off a siege by law enforcement, thereby indefinitely preventing Joe Biden from being declared victor of the 2020 electoral college.)

      It bears noting in this regard, I think, that SCOTUS has a case teed-up for decision this term, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, that could well invalidate strict concealed-carry laws such as Washington, DC’s on Second Amendment grounds.

  5. The fact that he is going on a Quran-burning tour and is making it a public spectacle, in my mind indicates that he is doing this provoke the very reaction he is receiving. Anybody who has paid attention over the last 20 years should know the response he will get/is getting.

    I have no idea why the police are protecting him from his obvious attempt at suicide.

  6. Would burning a flag (another symbol) be prohibited because it would inflame (pun intended) some patriots and nationalists to threaten violence?

    1. It was established during the Vietnam war that flag-burning is lawful protest. Good solid Republicans, many of them WW2 vets, were expected to control themselves and not fly into fits of blind irrational rage just because the flag they fought under was being disgraced.

      Muslim cultists are another matter entirely.

      1. Actually, Leslie, flag-burning was not definitively established to be constitutionally protected speech until 1989, 16 years after the US withdrew from hostilities in Southeast Asia, in the case Texas v. Johnson.

        Johnson was a controversial 5-4 decision with an odd mixture of liberals, moderates, and conservatives on both sides of the issue. (Liberals Brennan and Marshall, and moderates Blackmun and Kennedy, joined conservative Scalia in the majority; liberal Stevens — who eventually became the last of the WW2 veterans to serve on the Court — moderates White and O’Connor, and conservative Rehnquist, dissented.)

        Then Chief Justice Rehnquist accused Brennan of using the majority opinion to give “a regrettably patronizing civics lecture,” yet Rehnquist himself used his dissenting opinion to quote from John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem “Barbara Frietchie.” 🙂

      2. My point remains … if I were to park outside of an Aryan compound and burn a US flag, would I not be inflaming violence? Their response is all too predictable.

        1. Since you ask, Rom, and with Jerry’s hoped-for indulgence…

          I think what annoys me about the Muslim violence is that it is claimed by supporters to be justified and even required in the name of Allah. If they can’t attack the blasphemer because of police protection, then they must attack other elements of the civil society that hosts them, with God on their side, in the hope of intimidating the state into criminalizing blasphemy. This is fundamentally irrational, foreign, and threatening to a secular society.

          I don’t know who Aryans are exactly. I imagine them to be like the Skokie Nazis in The Blues Brothers but for real. My sense is that their decision to retaliate with violence —against him alone —would be tempered by their rational assessment of the threat the sole flag-burner posed and the likelihood that the police would arrest their members if they whacked him. The nature and motivation of their violence would be more comprehensible and less alien. But I think we’ve moved away from incitement to fight-picking. The guy who murdered 22 people in rural Nova Scotia in a single night before being shot to death was an angry man who just liked to pick fights, no politics or incitement involved. Just had to look at him the wrong way.

  7. The good professor’s answer is simply a restatement of existing principle under Brandenburg v. Ohio; there is nothing unique to it about Qur’ans. The same could be said about burning bibles, or burning Old Glory, or denigrating motherhood and apple pie. If a statement is made with the intent, and is likely, to incite imminent lawlessness, it falls outside First Amendment Speech Clause protection.

    In Brandenburg, among other things, a Ku Klux Klan leader in full regalia appeared at a rally urging a crowd in hoods, bearing firearms and standing beside a burning cross, to take “revengence” against “Niggers and Jews.” SCOTUS determined that this speech was protected by the First Amendment.

    If I put my imagination to it, I can conjure some circumstance that might run afoul of the imminent incitement to lawlessness standard set out in Brandenburg. But, off the top of my head, I cannot think of a single successful prosecution for an incitement to violence on American soil since Brandenburg was decided.

    1. IIRC ‘fighting words’ are technically not allowed, but like Brandenburg it’s pretty hard to get there. Even if his audience reacts with violence, Paludan’s Koran burning is IMO a good example of not getting there. Standing out front of a Mosque burning a Koran, he clearly knows what he’s doing is going to offend the people at the Mosque. That’s part of why he’s doing it. But he’s also a right-wing politician opposed to his country’s immigration policies. And because of that, his speech is very easily seen as politically objecting to their presence in the country. He is sending a “you’re not wanted here, and I will do my political best to stop your legal immigration” message, not a “come at me bro” message.

      Because of that difference in message, I think here in the US there’d be no question – assuming his demonstration obeys local fire codes, etc. – that such a demonstration could be legally defended as protected expression and not just to provoke a violent response.

    1. The average reader, even here, is not noted for their flawless command of the details of First Amendment law.

      This is not helped by the constant drumbeat of pundits who really really wish that the legal meaning of “incitement” would be far broader than it is in reality (examples left to the imagination).

  8. I imagine it would *violate* the First Amendment if the politician doing this had used any of the powers of his office to stage or promote the burning. That would then be an illegal government preference of one religion over another. If he burned Korans on the courthouse lawn, it’d be as illegal as mounting a statue to the Ten Commandments on that courthouse lawn. (Perhaps even more so as it’d be harassment of people entering the courthouse.)

    The professor’s view sounds completely reasonable about whether it’d be protected under the First Amendment based on the burner’s intent as a private citizen.

  9. I’m still confused about incitement.
    1) If I am at the head of a mob with torches and cans of kerosene outside a mosque and I shout, “Avenge our children murdered by Islamists! Burn that mosque!!”, that is incitement.

    2). If I lead a similarly equipped mob of a different sort to the home of a cartoonist who drew likenesses of the Prophet, and I call for them to burn it down in the name of Allah, that is incitement.

    3) But suppose all I do is sit on a bench on the sidewalk outside a mosque drawing cartoons in a sketch pad of the Prophet squatting over a hole in the desert, tearing out pages of the Qur’an and wiping his butt with them. Each cartoon is captioned, “I recant.” I peaceably allow these large images to be visible to worshippers as they pass by me. I know from experience that some of them will fly into fits of blind rage and try to kill me or, failing that, start setting fire to random transit vehicles. Is that incitement? (I omitted fire from my own performance in order not to worry the safety monitors here.).

    At my trial, the prosecution points out that every time I do this performance the same thing happens and the city has to replace two or three transit busses. They would really rather I stop stirring up trouble by inciting this irrational behaviour.

    My defence would be that I didn’t intend or want the fanatics to set fire to busses —as a taxpayer I have to pay for them—and I didn’t goad them in any way other than drawing my sketches in a public place outside the mosque. I was only trying to proselytize with gentle mocking against the error of their beliefs. It’s not my fault that they can’t control themselves in civil society. This of course is the crux of my argument for refusing them entry into the country, a political goal that I am free to espouse.

    Jerry’s legal expert suggests that my conduct could be considered incitement notwithstanding Brandenburg because I knew or ought to have known it would set them off. This breaks new ground (I think) beyond the familiar where the accused incitor is allied with the incitees, not opposed to them. With greatest respect to the legal minds, I don’t think it can be considered settled law until someone is tried and the appeals of whichever verdict the jury renders are heard. We in civilized countries ought not to accept readily the idea that religiously motivated violence can be unlawfully “incited” merely by insulting the religion. That, in effect, prohibits criticism by ordinary people of the tenets of one religion. Hitchens warns that when there are enough of them they will prohibit criticism outright as they do everywhere they are a majority.

    And they won’t have to attrite the municipal transit system to do it.

    I think this is a vitally important question for the liberal democracies. I thank Jerry for posting the second-day followup.

    1. > my conduct could be considered incitement notwithstanding Brandenburg because I knew or ought to have known it would set them off.

      This is precisely why I am worried about the Trigger Warning Generation, people who demand never to be offended. Once they take on more public offices, it will be depressing to see what policies they push.

      It will be a race to the bottom as all sides try to be the first to play victim of some offense. The New Right pioneered it, and the New Left has adopted it.

      1. Perhaps the standard should be more in line with what would provoke a reasonable, normally law abiding person to violence.
        If you have a person who is driven to violence every time they hear the word “Susquehanna”, the reasonable reaction would be to commit that person to an institution, instead of banning the word.

        It seems to me that “You should have known that those people would behave like savages” is not that far from “You should have known better than to dress like that in such a place”, or “You should never park your car in that neighborhood” We might agree that those actions have an element of risk, and might well be avoided by a prudent person. But actually prosecuting the person for the risky but otherwise legal act, by the reasoning that lawless people are likely to be provoked, seems wrong.

    2. In the US, #3 is not incitement. You are not advocating an illegal act, you are not identifying a specific target for your illegal act, and there is no “immediacy” to your call.

      Brandenburg would not consider this incitement either. Read Ken’s KKK example; it’s much more inciteful and it didn’t count.

      1. I’m not citing the Brandenburg decision. I’m citing the opinion (which is not law, of course) of Jerry’s legal professor who suggested that in some circumstances, burning the Qur’an might not be protected speech. Jerry says exactly that in the title of his post and concludes (summarizing the quoted opinion), “Nevertheless, it is not beyond possibility that someone burning the Qur’an could be punished by the U.S. government for that act under the ‘imminent violence’ provision.”

        In order not to get bogged down in fire safety discussions (and the very real concern about setting fires in public), I replaced burning the Qur’an with similarly blasphemous conduct that has itself got people killed on more than one occasion but has no risk to public safety.

        You and I don’t think it counts as incitement. Jerry’s law professor isn’t so sure. It would take a case to resolve it. According to the prof, it seems to depend on how reliably and violently the cultists fly off the handle when they witness the blasphemous conduct and on how much I was hoping they did so.

        What the Muslims are really saying when they do this is that they are obliged to obey the teachings of the Qur’an to punish blasphemy even when those teachings conflict with civil authority that tells them to leave punishment to the secular state. For them, the only way to reconcile this is to bring the civil authority into compliance with how the imams interpret the Qur’an. That’s why Jerry’s interest in this is so important.

        Geez, who’d a thunk I’d be discussing blasphemy in 2022?

        1. You and I don’t think it counts as incitement. Jerry’s law professor isn’t so sure.

          The prof says the person would have to be doing it with the intent to incite violence. Certainly a prosecutor could charge the person that way, but to make it stick, they’d have to prove it, and that is an extremely hard thing to prove. The Koran-burner would basically have to admit that was their motive, or at least not deny it, to be successfully prosecuted. Or do something incredibly stupid like leaving hard evidence that that was their motive…like, say, live stream themselves saying ‘watch how I get these Muslims to attack me.’ (A very real possibility with this generation…)

          But frankly none of the examples discussed here sound like that. If you’re doing it because as an apostate you think your previous religion is harmful or evil (your example), or because you oppose your country’s immigration policies (Paludan), or even just because you really hate Muslims (analog to the KKK marches), that’s not incitement or attempting to cause violence. That’s expressing a political/theological/personal opinion. So it is easy for the burner to find a sincere reason to burn a Koran. Most such cases are likely to have a political aspect to them. But even in the case of some true apolitical troublemaker or anarchist it would be extremely easy to make up a reason to get out of the charge. In the US, it is extremely difficult to be found guilty of this (and slander, for exactly the same reason – the prosecution has to convince the jury you had a malicious motive…and motives don’t tend to be ‘evidenced’).

          And it doesn’t matter if your audience has broadcast their intent to harm anyone who does it, because that is just a heckler’s veto argument and your protected speech is not subject to it. If someone threatens to do violence in response to your protected speech, you are still free to speak it, and if they respond with violence, they go to jail. Just like I can’t walk around on a public sidewalk swinging my fists, and claim it’s not my fault your nose got in my way – it IS my fault. You have a right to walk there without being hit…and you also have a right (in the US) to say things that are legal and protected to say, without being hit.

  10. Agree , and this seems to be the argument underlying subsequent Qur’an burning bans in Sweden and Norway – when tjese were planned to take place outside mosques during prayer – as the intent to incite a violent response overshadows any meaningful commentary.

    1. Hmm, yes, there were violence outside one mosque as well, not only the criminal gang violence I describe in my comment to the article. That was resolved with damage to a rental car, but it was still criminal if less violent than the gang violence. Very sad to see in Sweden (as is the criminals of course, but at least the extremely violent branching off that business to Spain seems to have been curtailed). Religion is, like Paludan’s extremism, a poison for the mind.

      Mostly Paludan didn’t get what he was after, though if his aim to whip upp public support for his political party was totally wasted remains to be seen.

  11. I mentioned this before, but I would prefer to be more explicit. I am somewhat concerned about this guy’s mental health. Check the Wikipedia page for his legal problems to date . There is typically a separate body of law for people with the kind of mental and emotional problems I suspect this guy has. If he were in the US, I would not be surprised if he had already received a legal injunction not to use computers, cell phones, or social media – not due to is desire to burn books, but for the other stuff he has done. Seriously. check Wikipedia.

    While a prohibition on destroying/defiling symbols is clearly unconstitutional in the US, I sometimes wonder about realistic implications for someone who is mentally unstable or neuroatypical. In this specific case, the guy already has round-the-clock police protection; if his civil liberties are not constrained, I would almost recommend he be accompanied by someone making the statement ‘He may not be mentally sound or responsible for his actions; please ignore him.’

  12. Hello,

    I do not agree at all with this stance, to me this is not violation of the 1st amendment as no one “incite” physical violence in the sense that people commiting this violence do not belong to the same group as the one doing the “inciting”. (Vs evt of the 6th with Trump for example)

    By following this logic, as long as any “Group A” makes clear that they will cause mayhem as soon as someone from “Group B” says “X” ==> Then saying “X” automatically stops being covered by the 1st Amendment?? awkward.

    Religion does not deserve special treatment here, so the real problem here is with “Group A” i.e. the segment of Muslims priorising their book over everything else. (as we see with honor killings even priorising versus their own family).

    So to me, in this moron vs moron situation, the real problem is the one commiting the violence. Reminding everyone with every instance that they deserve special treatment. Blasphemy laws anyone?

    Just imagine this same guy burning copies of the “origin of species” or “god delusion”, we would just laugh at the sheer stupidity of the exercise, mumble something about useless carbon emissions and leave it there ;-P

    Have a nice evening every one.
    Cheers.

    1. Thank you for focusing on the point of all this, which is to prevent religious groups from being able to impose blasphemy laws protecting their religion from criticism by other religions and by those with no religion at all. The danger is exactly as you say, that Muslim threats of violence against those who commit what Islam calls blasphemy will intimidate secular states into creating laws against “Islamophobic” speech merely to prevent breaches of the peace. Arresting the single peaceful “incitor” is easier for the police than arresting a whole mosque full of enraged bus burners who will then claim that their arrests represent anti-Islamic religious persecution.

      We must be on guard against this criminalization of blasphemy through the back door.

  13. What a bunch of children: the book burner trying to get attention AND the grown men getting upset over a magic book. They all need to grow up.

    1. Sure, but fire is not a sound wave and won’t kill or trap people from newborn to elderly in buildings with smoke – half the lethal danger of fire.

      I remain unsatisfied with Mr. Paludan’s proposal purely on fire hazard risks. If he showed some fire extinguishers or a city permit, I’d be entirely satisfied. Burn as many books as desired if the fire department is cool with it. He could even pee on it to put it out.

      [ I deleted a lot because trying to keep myself in control ]

  14. I don’t know why Scandinavia is singled out as support for a US extremist law – in the context of the UDHR balances of rights – but I note that burning myth texts is generally considered as support for free expression here.

    But I also note this is terribly ill informed and potentially very wrong:

    The Muslims, of course, were irate over the burning of their scripture, and perpetrated the violence.

    We simply don’t know yet who “perpetrated the violence”, but AFAIK early police investigations deem half the abusers were professional criminals from the local drug economy. Presumably anything that acts against the police is good for them. That seems to have been confirmed in the many arrests that solely were among that group (possibly because they were known by the police).

    The local muslim community on the other hand has expressed public support for freedom of expression even if some have been less happy with the target for the burning. Yes, there were witnesses claiming mothers took children with, encouraged stone throwing et cetera. Those could very well have been muslim, but these poor communities have lots of discontents that regularly throw stones at officials. But there isn’t any tangible evidence as of yet, and no such identifications have been made.

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