This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← A letter to the Home Office: legal protection for sacred books

A letter to the Home Office: legal protection for sacred books - Comments

green and dying's Avatar Comment 1 by green and dying

The law doesn't actually protect particular books. Better would be to point out that the books themselves seem to fit the criteria for inciting religious hatred.

Wed, 29 Dec 2010 23:32:45 UTC | #570462

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 2 by Jos Gibbons

Jackson's Classical Electrodynamics is a VERY good book, incidentally - I fully recommend it to anyone interested in electromagnetism.

Wed, 29 Dec 2010 23:38:26 UTC | #570465

DocWebster's Avatar Comment 3 by DocWebster

I nominate Stranger in a Strange Land for protection. It's the book that showed me that religion is just a geek show and we are the rubes to be milked for what the market will bear.

Wed, 29 Dec 2010 23:53:35 UTC | #570474

bethe123's Avatar Comment 4 by bethe123

What has happened to the UK where you can be arrested for burning a book? How pathetic. Somebody in England should organize a mass Quran book burning to protest.

But, on to Jackson... First of all, I have both the 2nd and 3rd editions of Jackson. Jackson is the standard graduate text on E&M for graduate physics, for those not familiar with it, and the problems at the end of each chapter are the bane of many physics students (although there is apparently a Chinese solutions manual, I have not seen it...it is also rumored to be riddled with errors. I don't speak Chinese in any case.)

However, Jackson's "Classical Electrodynamics" cannot be considered the Bible of E&M and Jackson is not the prophet, since it is not up to date on modern diffraction theory. But is the best single volume text, nonetheless. In particular, there is no mention of the very interesting work in diffraction theory that led to the development of stealth technology and stealth bombers. This is NOT a mere footnote in diffraction theory, but a very interesting topic onto itself.

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 00:07:13 UTC | #570481

green and dying's Avatar Comment 5 by green and dying

Comment 5 by bethe123 :

What has happened to the UK where you can be arrested for burning a book? How pathetic. Somebody in England should organize a mass Quran book burning to protest.

There isn't a law against it. The law is against inciting racial or religious hatred, and arresting is not the same as charging. We don't know how this burning was done or exactly what went along with it. Simplifying it by saying someone was arrested simply for burning a Quran is silly.

Burning Qurans isn't a very good way of making a point, except the point that burning Qurans should be legal which I am unconvinced needs making. If people want to disrespect some Qurans in a more educated and point-making way, how about a mass cutting out of offensive and violent verses?

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 00:18:26 UTC | #570487

mmurray's Avatar Comment 6 by mmurray

What was the final outcome of the arrest of that girl ? I couldn't find it anywhere.

Michael

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 00:26:57 UTC | #570492

bethe123's Avatar Comment 7 by bethe123

We don't know how this burning was done or exactly what went along with it. Simplifying it by saying someone was arrested simply for burning a Quran is silly. --green and dying

Based on the news story, that is exactly what happened. Actually, it is your comment that seems to be silly.

Burning Qurans isn't a very good way of making a point, except the point that burning Qurans should be legal which I am unconvinced needs making. ----green and dying

Disrespect a Quran? What is that, a joke? It's a book, and a myth at that. It does not have any feelings. How does one disrespect a book?

Obviously if people are getting arrested for it (that is the headline of the story), then it is a point that needs to be made very strongly.

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 00:51:33 UTC | #570504

green and dying's Avatar Comment 8 by green and dying

Comment 8 by bethe123 :

Based on the news story, that is exactly what happened. Actually, it your comment that seems to be silly.

Can you tell me which law they were breaking if that's all they did? Or what they were charged with if they were?

Disrespect a Quran? What is that, a joke? It's a book, and a myth at that. It does not have any feelings. How does one disrespect a book?

Obviously if people are getting arrested for it (that is the headline of the story), then it is a point that needs to be made very strongly.

You've never heard someone talk of treating an object with respect? You know exactly what I meant.

Ah yes, headlines always give the most accurate picture of a story.

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 01:00:55 UTC | #570506

rebelism06's Avatar Comment 9 by rebelism06

I do not know the exact circumstances surrounding the book burning incident but if you feel that burning a book is in someway making a point, then you are mistaken.

Burning a book is, to put it bluntly, crude. Full stop.

It is the destruction of information, a symbol of ignorance. Whether you believe the Quran or not is irrelevant, it is a piece of very old literature that has been painstakingly maintained in it's entirety for many centuries.

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 01:06:02 UTC | #570509

bethe123's Avatar Comment 10 by bethe123

Can you tell me which law they were breaking if that's all they did? Or what they were charged with if they were? -- greenanddying

You would have to ask the arresting officer. Myself, I would not have arrested the girl.

Ah yes, headlines always give the most accurate picture of a story.

Yes, we all understand that. But you are implying they left out additional details on purpose. Additional details would have been even more newsworthy, so I have no reason to believe they omitted details. Thus, based on the story, it was an arrest for the simple act of burning a Quran.

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 01:09:04 UTC | #570511

mmurray's Avatar Comment 11 by mmurray

Comment 9 by green and dying :

Can you tell me which law they were breaking if that's all they did? Or what they were charged with if they were?

In the UK you can be arrested as part of the investigation process. According to the Guardian article linked in the discussion item

A 15-year-old girl has been arrested in the West Midlands on suspicion of inciting religious hatred after allegedly burning an English-language version of the Qur'an – and then posting video footage of the act on Facebook.

The teenager, from Sandwell, in the Birmingham area, was filmed on her school premises burning the book. Police have confirmed the incident was reported to the school and the video has since been removed from the social networking site.

A 14-year-old boy was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of making threats on Facebook. Both teenagers have been released on police bail.

The boy was threatening the girl on facebook. There was a very long discussion of it here at the time.

I have no idea what the outcome was or if the girl or boy were eventually charged.

Michael

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 01:14:50 UTC | #570512

mmurray's Avatar Comment 12 by mmurray

Comment 10 by rebelism06 :

It is the destruction of information, a symbol of ignorance. Whether you believe the Quran or not is irrelevant, it is a piece of very old literature that has been painstakingly maintained in it's entirety for many centuries.

But there is more than one currently in existence so how does burning one destroy information ?

Michael

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 01:21:34 UTC | #570514

bethe123's Avatar Comment 13 by bethe123

There was a very long discussion of it here at the time. -- MMurray

Oh, I see, a thread bifurcation. RD's comment on the other thread was good.

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 01:23:41 UTC | #570515

green and dying's Avatar Comment 14 by green and dying

Comment 11 by bethe123 :

You would have to ask the arresting officer. Myself, I would not have arrested the girl.

You don't know what the police had seen.

Yes, we all understand that. But you are implying they left out additional details on purpose. Additional details would have been even more newsworthy, so I have no reason to believe they omitted details. Thus, based on the story, it was an arrest for the simple act of burning a Quran.

I'm not meaning to imply that. We've no idea what details they had. We've no idea what this person did other than set light to the book. We've no idea exactly why the police arrested and we've no idea whether anything came of it. It IS a massive oversimplification to say this was simply a person being arrested for burning a Quran.

Do you think if I burned one in my house right now and attempted to turn myself in the police would care? What do you think I'd have to do to get them to care? Probably firstly do it in front of people and secondly use it to incite some racial or religious hatred. Probably I'd have to film myself doing those things or do it in a very public place with lots of witnesses. Otherwise no one at all would care. It is not illegal to burn a Quran.

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 01:37:19 UTC | #570517

danconquer's Avatar Comment 15 by danconquer

Although the opening post will no doubt elicit a few wry smiles from RDF followers (myself included), it is nonetheless based on a fallacious understanding of the law. The burning of a book, any book, does not constitute a de facto criminal offence. However, when taken in the context of surrounding circumstances, the burning of a book may be construed as evidence of an intention to stir up religious hatred.

Pretending that the Racial And Religious Hatred Act 2006 somehow criminalises the burning of books, is rather like claiming that the arrests of people dressed up in KKK outfits who burn crosses somehow amounts to the criminalisation of "burning bits of old wood" or the criminalisation of "wrapping oneself up in cotton sheets".

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 01:39:54 UTC | #570519

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 16 by AtheistEgbert

Comment 10 by rebelism06 :

I do not know the exact circumstances surrounding the book burning incident but if you feel that burning a book is in someway making a point, then you are mistaken.

Burning a book is, to put it bluntly, crude. Full stop.

It is the destruction of information, a symbol of ignorance. Whether you believe the Quran or not is irrelevant, it is a piece of very old literature that has been painstakingly maintained in it's entirety for many centuries.

Burning a book today is the equivalent of deleting a file off your hard drive.

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 01:43:35 UTC | #570523

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 17 by AtheistEgbert

Comment 16 by danconquer :

Although the opening post will no doubt elicit a few wry smiles from RDF followers (myself included), it is nonetheless based on a fallacious understanding of the law.

I'm afraid Hatred laws are based on fallacious misunderstanding of mental states. Since when has hate become a crime? No, hate isn't a crime, it's causing offence that's the crime. Being offended by someone who burns your precious sacred symbols or says something nasty is now viewed legally as 'hatred'. This is complete absurdity. This allows people (or fanatical muslims, because this is the group for which the law was created) to manipulate the law so as to: (1) intimidate and bully all criticism of Islam and (2) to discover the names and addresses of those who criticise Islam.

And no, context is not a factor, otherwise a stupid 15 year old girl would not have been arrested.

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 02:05:24 UTC | #570528

William33's Avatar Comment 18 by William33

I thought book burning was protected under the law because it carries political purposes?

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 02:20:29 UTC | #570531

bethe123's Avatar Comment 19 by bethe123

Pretending that the Racial And Religious Hatred Act 2006 somehow criminalises the burning of books, is rather like claiming that the arrests of people dressed up in KKK outfits who burn crosses somehow amounts to the criminalisation of "burning bits of old wood" or the criminalisation of "wrapping oneself up in cotton sheets". -- danconquer

Thank you for highlighting my point. It is NOT illegal in the US to dress up in KKK outfits and burn crosses unless it is being done to intimidate. But if it is being done to express an ideology (yes, the Klan has their beliefs too) it is protected speech.

Burning the Quran can be a philosophical and political act -- representing the rejection of the ideas of Islam, an expression of a belief in free speech, and a rejection of sharia law. In that sense, I consider it a fairly righteous act, and it has nothing to do with hate. We need something like an International Quran Burning day. Really.

At the risk of belaboring an obvious point, the Racial And Religious Hatred Act 2006 is a joke.

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 02:56:51 UTC | #570540

raytoman's Avatar Comment 20 by raytoman

Surely it is silly to treat fiction books as anything other than entertainment. Why should they be given any protection.

Types of fiction such as Romance Novels or Science Fiction can be quite entertaining for their readers. Religious books are typically boring.

Now Non Fiction Books such as "How To...." Books can be very useful. These should be protected. Taming and Training Oxen and Horses, making suitable Yokes and Harnesses and Carts and Argricultural Implements, and associated Feeding and Breeding and Caring for these may become very useful when we regress as we destroy our planet and ourselves with (probably) religious wars.

We are becoming reliant on technology which typically needs Fuel and Electricity and we have already compromised supply of these by overpopulation and wasteful use.

We have had the good sense to protect the seeds of an incredibly wide variety of plants that we need for survival (reliant on an underground storage facility in the Arctic, to name one). Of course we will have difficulty traveling to this to recover the seeds when we need them and if we havn't protected associated How T0 Books, we won't know what to do with them anyway.

I spoke to a lady today who assesses our society, especially our children and how our species seems to be doing, by reference to the Bible. Aparently it foretells the future and contains all we need to survive in todays world and ensure our future. There are 6 billion with beliefs like hers, based typically on some "Holy Book" which have gotten us into the current mess we are in. Probably all 6 billion support protecting THEIR book and destroying all others. After all, we don't need anything else, HE/THEY will provide.

Sigh!

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 03:04:22 UTC | #570546

danconquer's Avatar Comment 21 by danconquer

Comment 18 by AtheistEgbert :

No, hate isn't a crime...

Nobody said hatred in itself is a crime. But inciting hatred against various groups is against the law. Laws against the inciting of hatred have been in place for decades now, so if people are opposed to the principle of such laws, then it's a bit late in the day to protest.

...it's causing offence that's the crime.

Well, that's your assertion. But when one looks at the Racial And Religious Hatred Act 2006 it unequivocally makes clear that causing offence ("expressing antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse") is most categorically not a crime. It's there, in black and white statute (Section 29J if you're interested).

So, for your assertion to be true, means that there is a consistent and blatant attempt by the judiciary to wilfully misinterpret, indeed ignore, provisions laid down by Parliament. Which is quite a bold claim.

And no, context is not a factor, otherwise a stupid 15 year old girl would not have been arrested.

This was dealt with comprehensively before, but to recap: i) The age of criminal responsibility in England is 10; once someone is over this age the Police are bound to investigate. The age of an offender is a CPS/Judicial matter which cannot be usurped by the police. ii) Being arrested is not the same as being charged or convicted. It merely indicates that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an offence may (or not) have been committed.

Claiming that "context is not a factor" doesn't stack up with the fact that the Quran comes in for a relentless barrage of abuse, scorn and utter contempt on this very website. And yet not a single RDF contributor has been arrested, let alone convicted. How do you account for that fact if, as you claim, simply "causing offence" is the crime?

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 03:05:03 UTC | #570547

danconquer's Avatar Comment 22 by danconquer

Comment 20 by bethe123 :

Burning the Quran can be a philosophical and political act

Yes, potentially it could be. It could also be the basis of, say, some form of artistic expression. And in all such cases ones actions would be explicitly protected by Section 29J of the R&RH Act 2006.

However, in the cases at hand, the Police made the perfectly reasonable judgement call that the individuals concerned were potentially motivated not by philosophical or artistic concerns but were "intending to incite hatred". This contention would then have formed the basis of their investigation and decision whether or not to charge.

Please note I'm not defending the R&RH Act 2006, but there is clearly alot of misunderstanding about what it does and does not say. Crucially, even if a law is unnecessary or undesirable, the one thing that we cannot and should not be doing is knocking the Police for pursuing prima facie breaches of Parliamentary legislation. The idea they might do otherwise is truly dangerous.

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 03:19:33 UTC | #570550

mmurray's Avatar Comment 23 by mmurray

Comment 18 by AtheistEgbert :

And no, context is not a factor, otherwise a stupid 15 year old girl would not have been arrested.

You know she was stupid because ?

Michael

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 03:33:07 UTC | #570553

Rob Schneider's Avatar Comment 24 by Rob Schneider

How is burning a Koran "intending to incite hatred" presumably of Muslims? Or is the burner ostensibly trying to incite hatred of herself by Muslims?

I see the act as unnecessary, definitely political speech, and likely to incite the most radical Muslims to respond negatively. But since when do we hold the speaker responsible for the violent, irrational actions of the offended?

This kind of kowtowing to religious sensibilities is a form of "blaming the victim"
"Certainly the rape victim had it coming dressing like that" "Certainly the book burner deserved violence for expressing an opinion".

Again, burning a book is a hamhanded technique. But that should never mean a law protecting either the book or the sensibilities of it's adorers ought to be enacted. It is Absurd.

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 05:44:33 UTC | #570593

mmurray's Avatar Comment 25 by mmurray

It seems no action was taken in the case of the girl

No action is to be taken against a teenage girl in the West Midlands who burnt a copy of the Koran, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has said.

The 15-year-old girl, from the Sandwell council area, was arrested last month on suspicion of inciting racial hatred.

Action will also not be taken against a 14-year-old boy arrested on suspicion of making threats against the girl.

The CPS said that after discussions it felt it was not in the public interest to prosecute either of them.

In a statement, the CPS said the reviewing lawyer had felt there was sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction in each case but had also considered whether the public interest required a prosecution of a final warning.

Both teenagers involved were of previous good character, the statement said, so after discussions with police and community groups, it was felt that it was not in the public interest to prosecute.

The girl was arrested after allegedly posting the video, filmed on her school premises, on Facebook.

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 06:04:47 UTC | #570595

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 26 by Stevehill

Agreed - it's a witty letter, but does not address the legal issue. No books are legally protected in Britain. We do however have a law against inciting religious hatred. It may be an improvable law, but it's basically in the same "liberal" strand of legislation that protects minorities from discrimination on grounds of race, sex, disability, sexual orientation etc.

If you accept that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not a bad piece of work, then you have to accept its guarantee to respect religious freedom. And that means protecting people of faith from having what is sacred to them being wilfully destroyed for no better reason than to cause deliberate offence.

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 07:37:02 UTC | #570613

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 27 by Stevehill

@mmurray

But there is more than one currently in existence so how does burning one destroy information ?

Whether or not the motive is to incite hatred, how would you feel about someone destroying say limited edition art prints?

Is that person making an intelligent point? Exercising some inalienable freedom? Or being an ignorant fuckwit worthy of nothing but contempt?

If it is contemptible to refuse to employ say gays, and we have legal sanctions for such conduct, why should a democratic society not be free to legislate against any other contemptible conduct?

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 07:52:07 UTC | #570618

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 28 by Stevehill

@Rob Schneider

But since when do we hold the speaker responsible for the violent, irrational actions of the offended?

For several centuries, under e.g. the Riot Act (1714 in the UK, 1792 Militia Act in the US). Inciting people to riot is a crime.

It is reasonably forseeable that fundamentalist religionists might riot if you piss on their altar or whatever they hold sacred. And it is reasonably evident in some cases (like Pastor Terry Jones) that such an outcome is intended.

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 09:24:19 UTC | #570635

Dr. monster's Avatar Comment 29 by Dr. monster

maybe we should respond like the "i am sparticus" copy cat campaign?

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 12:32:55 UTC | #570737

bethe123's Avatar Comment 30 by bethe123

If you accept that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not a bad piece of work, then you have to accept its guarantee to respect religious freedom. And that means protecting people of faith from having what is sacred to them being wilfully destroyed for no better reason than to cause deliberate offence. -- Stevehill

I do not accept that sacred works should be protected from being destroyed simply to avoid offence. Therefore, ANY law that supports that idea either should be modified, or completely repealed. In lieu of that, acts of civil disobedience such as mass "sacred object" destruction would be good, and as such, I applaud the girls Quran burning.

It would also being interesting to know what fools allowed such a law to be promulgated.

Thu, 30 Dec 2010 13:32:12 UTC | #570763