Desecration: it’s a fun hobby!


I am appalled. A man in New York was arrested for throwing a copy of the Quran in a public toilet. He deserved arrest—everyone knows it is vandalism and criminal mischief to clog a public toilet with debris.

Oh, hang on — the guy was arrested for a hate crime? Are toilets now on the list of victims targeted by fringe fanatics? What’s their slogan: “Bring Back the Open Trench!”? It is a shame to see innocent and useful toilets persecuted in this ghastly way …

Wait, never mind. He was arrested for being mean to Muslims, which also makes no sense. He destroyed a book and clogged a toilet. If some local nut started setting fire to copies of The God Delusion, I wouldn’t feel personally victimized — let her burn all the copies she can buy, it’s just more money in Richard Dawkins’ pocket. (If she started stuffing copies into the toilets, though, then I might feel oppressed. When you gotta go, you gotta go.)

You know, there is a tradition around here, one that I’ve practiced for a few years: overwrought sanctimony must be met with disrespectful insolence. So I’m thinking of picking up a cheap copy of the Qu’ran. And I’m thinking … what to do, what to do. It will, of course, be something in the privacy of my home, with my very own copy — none of this public vandalism and veiled threats to people who believe. It will just be a demonstration of my right to treat my property as it deserves and of my opinion of this silly book.

So here are a few ideas. Maybe you can think of some more.

  • I could simply urinate on it, but that’s old hat.

  • If I had a puppy, I could use the pages for paper training. But I do not have a puppy and I’m not going to get one for this horrible reason.

  • The traditional approach: keep it near the fireplace, and use the pages for kindling. Of course, there’s no way I’m going to start a fire in the fireplace in August in Minnesota, so that’s going to have to wait a while.

  • I could doodle cartoons in the margins and make my own crudely illustrated (I have no talent) version of the Qu’ran. Then I could put it on ebay and make a profit.

  • Here’s an artsy option: I could make a new cover and a bookmark for it … out of bacon.

That last one sounds fun, and I could also put up photos on the blog (there’s also a tradition there) but perhaps some of you can come up with a better suggestion.

(via Deep Thoughts)


  1. #1 Lulu
    July 29, 2007

    Ohh, bacon on the Quran. Enough to drive both Muslims and veg*ns nuts. DO IT.

    But I demand an equally artsy treatment of the Bible. Perhaps Canadian bacon?

  2. #2 K. Engels
    July 29, 2007

    Technically, the ‘proper’ way to dispose of the Qu’ran is to burn it or place it in running water…

  3. #3 Dan
    July 29, 2007

    I think you should rip the cover off and replace it with one that says “Holy Bible.” Then, go and stick it in a hotel room. Lather, rinse, repeat.

  4. #4 Tom
    July 29, 2007

    Hilarious suggestions, PZ. I would also suggest shredding it and recycling it or using it as confetti. But personally I like your doodle-and-Ebay idea the best.

    What bothers me about calling this a hatecrime is that Christians (and their political henchmen) aren’t persecuted for hatecrimes against gays. I’m not even gay, but I do consider it a hatecrime to disallow them the same rights guaranteed by marriage.

    ..not to mention the hatecrimes preached each Sunday when they suggest that everyone but them (and they assume all of their family and friends, too, of course!) is going to be burnt for all eternity. I touched on this briefly in my post titled, What Wearing a Cross Means.

  5. #5 Tom
    July 29, 2007

    I apologize; here is the real link if anyone is interested. What Wearing a Cross Means.

  6. #6 Tanya
    July 29, 2007

    I know how I would desecrate the Koran or the Bible. I would find the most stupid and offensive passage and then I would tear the page out and roll it up into a very large sized reefer. Then I would smoke it. Maybe I could try to figure out which holy book makes the best rolling papers.

  7. #7 uknesvuinng
    July 29, 2007

    So, does someone want to do a little performance art in a large city (I’d do it, but the small town in which I live would just praise Jesus and wave flags in response)? I don’t think it’d be too hard to build a platform with a functioning toilet that can be setup, allow the performance, and then move on.

    Of course, anyone can do this in the privacy of his/her own home, but that’s hardly speech, now is it? If you’re going to make a statement, it helps to actually have a chance of people seeing it, otherwise you’re no better off than staying silent.

  8. #8 Spanish Inquisitor
    July 29, 2007

    Here are some pre-made book covers left over from the Harry Potter craze. They might work if the book is the right size.

  9. #9 philos
    July 29, 2007

    You say PZ is on the edge of being a book burner?

    This isn’t light-hearted mockery, he said it himself,
    ” . . . must be met with disrespectful insolence” – PZ Myers

    “I have no problem euthanizing books damaged by mildew or water or insects, but taking a book, no matter how repugnant its content, and intentionally destroying it as a strike against the ideas therein is simply alien to me. Censorship and book-banning and worse, book-burning are unforgivable evils.”

    - PZ Myers Jul 13, 2004

    Unfortunately, PZ’s supposed and sweet reverence story of books has its’ bounds.

  10. #10 Brian X
    July 29, 2007

    There’s protest, and then there’s spitefulness. Merely burning a Koran would be protest. Desecrating one… well, since I have no particular attachment to it, I’d call it juvenile at best.

  11. #11 Tyler DiPietro
    July 29, 2007

    “This post is jejune and sophomoric.”

    You suck.

  12. #12 Jorg
    July 29, 2007

    Several years ago, when I lived in Berkeley and was a poor student I did use both the Bible and the Book of Mormon for puppy training. I must report that the Bible paper was superior to the Mormon paper in all ways: softer, thinner, more absorbent. I even considered…nah, forget it.;)

  13. #13 RamblinDude
    July 29, 2007

    As an “appeaser” atheist, I hasten to add that while these acts of iconoclasm may be personally cathartic – especially for those who have been personally traumatized by religious extremists – they hardly contribute to an image of critics of faith as exhibiting calm composure, mature civility, and sophisticated argumentation.

    Hey, untrue! We are calmly composing, in a mature and civil forum, sophisticated arguments for the disrespecting of manuals of supposedly supernatural and divine origin. All very sophisticated and of the highest intellectual caliber.

    I like the ‘Koran Flakes’ best!

  14. #14 Denis Loubet
    July 29, 2007

    An interesting message to send would be to pile up a bunch of copies of The God Delusion, and have Richard Dawkins toss the match and explain that if he is not insulted by the destruction of his own book, what does that say about the thickness of his skin compared to the skins of the purported god and its followers. It also demonstrates that a book is wood-pulp, and its intrinsic value does not compare to the intrinsic value of a human being.

  15. #15 Peter McGrath
    July 29, 2007

    ‘Sorry love you’ve got a monotheistic sacred text best appreciated in the original ancient Arabic stuck down your crapper. I’ll just go to the van and get my Koran wrench…’ Why did that never happen when I was a plumber? That would have been a story to knock ‘em out with down the pub.

  16. #16 Bunjo
    July 29, 2007

    I think Bill (#61) has the right of it. Making a religious or political point (book flushing, flag burning, bumper stickers) is legally free speech in America…

    Anonymous book flushing, cross burning on the lawn, gang tag spraying, is at least vandalism – and if part of a larger set of activities or directed at a specific minority with the intent to cause fear – well that is not really free speech. Is it hate crime? Could be, YMMV.

  17. #17 Iskra
    July 29, 2007

    Well if it is anything like the book of Mormon, it’s super thin pages work wonderfully for hand rolled “cigarettes.”

  18. #18 Djur
    July 29, 2007

    I agree with Orac. This is a despicable post.

    The difference between desecrating a Christian holy symbol or book and a Muslim one is that Christians aren’t the target of a massive campaign of discrimination and demonization in the service of an imperialist war. Think of it this way: if I were to spraypaint generic obscene graffiti on the local lily-white Episcopal churches, that would be a completely different issue than if I went into black neighborhoods and systematically sprayed the same graffiti onto those churches.

    Targeting the Koran for desecration is not constructive when Islam is being used as an excuse for racist intimidation.

  19. #19 Ed Darrell
    July 29, 2007

    One of the things I find despicable in fundy preachers is the way they insist on adding insults to injury.

    Is there any noble purpose accomplished by defacing somebody’s scripture? Isn’t that tantamount to book burning? Do we really want to encourage such silly, but often hurtful, displays?

  20. #20 rjb
    July 29, 2007

    Send it to the “Will it blend?” guy.

  21. #21 Joshua
    July 29, 2007

    I say go for the cartoons. PZ Myers’ Illustrated Qur’an! Hell, you should try to get it published. I’d buy a copy.

  22. #22 Kausik Datta
    July 29, 2007

    Orac at #74, you have my vote. This post was reprehensible. I am honestly surprised at this gaffe from the otherwise level-headed PZ.

    For all those going for that ‘it is just a book’ argument, pity that you don’t understand the context of historical or cultural symbolism. This book, or any other such, the bible, the bhagavad gita, the zend avesta and so forth, represents a belief set – however misguided – of a group of people; it is symbolic of the people, not of the belief set. One can and should attack the belief set strongly, with logic and reason, and point out fallacies and inconsistencies as vehemently as possible; but what would the symbolic desecration of one book achieve, except to give lasting offence to the people it is sacred to? What does that accomplish in the long or short term?

    And no, someone who points out an apparent inconsistency between PZ’s earlier stance on this and this current post – even if anonymously – does not automatically become a troll!

    In order to define what constitutes a racial slur or a hate crime, it is probably best to follow the current federal guidelines for defining sexual harassment at workplace, which states, “It is not the intent of action that matters, but the effect that such an action is wrought upon the victim.” If it hurts someone else, it is bad.

    And please don’t argue that they do it, too!!

  23. #23 tomk
    July 29, 2007

    PZ, no one hates religion more then me.

    But this is absolute crap. I would expect this from a bunch of christian airmen or skinhead thugs, not you. Muslims are largely the victims of imams and other religious leaders like that. Lets save the nastiness for the charletons abusing power, instead of the followers. Otherwise you are just being a bully.

    Also, if you are doing things like yearlykos or whatever its called, you should be extra civilized. This post is Bill O’Reilly bait.

  24. #24 abeja
    July 29, 2007

    I’m pretty sure Muslims are totally repulsed by menstrual blood, so….

  25. #25 Andy o
    July 29, 2007

    “Treatment of the Quran is a sensitive issue for Muslims, who view the book as a sacred object and mistreating it as an offense against God. The religion teaches that the Quran is the direct word of God. ”

    Sounds to me rather like how many Amercians view their flag.

    I agree. It’s ridiculous. “Patriotism” gets to be too much like religion in many cases, not just in the USA. And it IS seen like positive by a much larger percentage of people than religion is. I think it’s just as corrosive.

    To not just bash on United Statesians, in my country there was some desecration (graffiti) of ancient ruins, and some put it like un-patriotic, because it was probably done by locals. How about just uncivilized? How about just idiotic and childish, even a crime? But unpatriotic? Would it have been worse or better if someone from another country did it?

    At the place I work at (in Los Angeles), the old man who puts the flags out in the morning (the American, Californian and some others), got complained about by someone who was just passing by and didn’t care to mind their own business, because he put the American flag on the floor, while raising the other flags on their respective poles. Bear in mind he’s very old and he has trouble leaning down, so he just threw it. No harm done, right? Yeah, right. Some baby was offended in his/her dear sensibility. Even if he wasn’t old… whatever, it’s just a piece of fabric. Right?

    I really love this country (U.S.A.) or rather the part of it that I am in (cause I don’t know most other parts, so I don’t hate them either), and as in any other country, there are “good” and “bad” persons, but in the ridiculous scale, I would say some Americans have such great potential…

  26. #26 MK
    July 29, 2007

    Yeah….I find I’m more in agreement with the folks who see this as a surprising and immature temper tantrum from a respected secular humanist/atheist. Ugly to watch, as most here are usually fellow travellers in this world of intolerance and religious hatred.

    But, hey, I guess it was just humor?

  27. #27 MK
    July 29, 2007


    Problem is…PZ isn’t responding as if it were just humor.

  28. #28 RamblinDude
    July 29, 2007

    “So, shocking people and scorning their beliefs are what represent freedom in America?”


    I’m not advocating hating anybody or any group, and I’m certainly not trying to rouse people to violence. But being deferential and polite to something that enslaves minds would be dishonest on my part. I have the freedom of speech to say what I think of superstition, and I will.

  29. #29 Amit
    July 29, 2007

    #124, Kausik:

    And it is okay to impose your version of freedom on other people?

    I think if someone moves to the US to live here, it’s incumbent on him to learn about the country (freedom of speech etc.) and live by them. There’s always Saudi Arabia if they want to live under sharia laws.

  30. #30 RamblinDude
    July 29, 2007

    “Look, it’s symbolic flushing!”

    LOL! Good one!

    “ was created to promote a serious dialogue about religion and belief.
    The flushing away of an icon is irrelevant, and may help us demystify the words of men.”

    Hey, they get it.

  31. #31 Stogoe
    July 29, 2007

    Piss on their religion. But use the Koran as rolling papers. If you don’t smoke, let Skatje or Alaric have a go.

    And piss on the concern trolls. Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.

  32. #32 tinyfrog
    July 29, 2007

    I’m sorry, but as an atheist, if I were attending a school and all of the sudden anti-atheist graffiti started popping up on campus all over and then someone started flushing atheist books, I would not be so level headed as to say, “Oh, it’s just freedom of speech.” The point of hate-crimes is that they represent a threat to a specific group, in this case muslims.

    Burning the American flag should, therefore, constitute a hate crime because it represents “a threat to a specific group”, in this case, Americans. I hope foreign countries will show they oppose “hate crimes” by enforcing this. Right? And a KKK rally constitutes a “a threat to a specific group” i.e. blacks, and therefore, all attending the rally should automatically be charged with a hate crime. Right? I don’t support either of those cases, but I oppose making them “hate crimes”. I think there should be equality here.

    By the way, Stanislav Shmulevich, the guy who put the Koran into the toilet is being charged with two felonies: criminal mischief and aggravated harassment.

    When events like this happen – showing a double-standard in the US justice system – I have no defense when Christians complain that things that offend them are not prosecuted as crimes, but things that offend non-Christian religions are. The rule seems to be that if you offend 250 million Christians with piss-Christ, it’s freedom of speech, but if you offend 5 million American Muslims with flushing a Koran, it’s a hate crime. The very act of offending fewer people makes it a punishable offense – with jail time and a permanent mark on your record.

  33. #33 Steve_C
    July 29, 2007

    It’s just a book that people give way too much respect to.

    And freedom of speech does alow you to desecrate any book you wish.

    It’s just paper and ink.

  34. #34 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    July 29, 2007

    I don’t think that this is so reprehensible, and I don’t get why so many atheists are chiding PZ here. The book is a book written by a man who claimed to have been visited by angels and had it dictated to him, it started yet another religion that teaches that non-adherents are lesser humans which justifies war and violence.

    I say, use pig’s blood and draw a Mogen David and a Cross on it, perhaps on the pages in which are written that Allah has hardened the hearts of the infidels and that they can’t be converted to Islam, so it’s okay to kill them.

  35. #35 Tessa
    July 29, 2007

    Like CalGeorge (#127) pointed out, the post is tagged HUMOR. Some folks commenting aren’t feeling very humorous today I guess.

  36. #36 Tulse
    July 29, 2007

    You’re comparing defacing a book in the privacy of my home to Abu Ghraib?

    PZ, the original behaviour you commented on was not done in someone’s private home, but was done publicly. As I asked earlier, what is it precisely that you objected to in the original story? There are no laws at all in the US that would prevent you from doing whatever you want to whatever book in private. If your objection is to classifying publicly damaging a religious book as a hate crime, that’s fine, but then your suggested response is meaningless, since it is in private. It is a silly, empty gesture. If you want to engage in civil disobedience against hate crime laws, then you’ll have to do your desecrating in public.

  37. #37 Altabin
    July 29, 2007

    You’re comparing defacing a book in the privacy of my home to Abu Ghraib?

    No, if you read my comment you’ll see that it was provoked by the suggestion to smear the book with menstrual blood because that would be particularly offensive to Muslims. And of course even that it not directly comparable to the actions at Abu Ghraib. But the attitude towards human beings which it implies is not that far removed from it.

    It may well be the case that Muslim veneration for the Quran is absurd superstition. In fact, since I’m not a Muslim or any other kind of theist, I would have to say that any veneration of a text because it has been dictated by God is misplaced and misguided. I will not hesitate to argue with anyone who venerates a text in such a way – and, indeed, I have done many times in the past.

    But a stunt like this – the one the provoked the OP, the ones PZ suggested, and the ones suggested by other posters – cuts out rational argument altogether, and expresses only contempt for one’s fellow human beings.

    I have, in the past, taught at a Catholic university. Some of the students believe that morality is what is in the Bible, or what their parish priest has told them, or whatever is taught in the Church’s magisterium, or in the latest papal pronouncement – or some combination of those. Now, I could have torn down the crucifix that is in every classroom, spat on it and thrown it in the garbage. That would have shown them how silly they were to cling to empty symbols! Instead, I read philosophical texts on the grounds of morality with them, starting with Plato’s Euthyphro, and got them to talk about what they read. And many of them developed more intelligent and nuanced understandings of ethics, and were perhaps a little freer from the deadening clutches of the Church – all without me even using phrases like “the deadening clutches of the Church.” The world is not a philosophy class – but the common civility whereby I did not deliberately trash a symbol to which they had an attachment – well, I hope that isn’t just considered “quaint.”

    We all have ill-founded, but cherished beliefs. Sometimes, we can be talked out of them. But holding them up to ridicule and contempt (and in a way that at least recalls recent human rights abuses) – well, that’s not going to change any minds.

    Somehow, though, I don’t think I’m going to change any minds here, either.

  38. #38 Altabin
    July 29, 2007

    Those people aghast at PZ’s comedic suggestions are indicating that they still revere the type of magical thinking that produces such holy books in the first place.

    Ahh, so this is just a piece of street theater, then…

    If he’d said let’s do this to a copy of Playboy, or The Cat in the Hat, or a pair of New Balance shoes, or a picture of George Bush, would their responses have been any different?

    Well, old-fashioned though it might seem, I do think that civilized people do not harm books. Any books. Even, or especially, ones they don’t like. So yes, when I hear of religious morons burning Harry Potter, I feel a little dispirited. I correct my children when they mistreat even a lousy paperback – because good people don’t hurt books.

    PZ made the point that the reverence for holy books should be equal to that given other common objects. And that the irreverence permitted in dealing with these other objects should, in a free society, also be allowed in dealing with holy books.

    Holy books are not ordinary objects – and asserting that proposition does not in any way involve magical thinking. I would be just as appalled if people here were advocating publicly taking a sh*t on a hijab or in turban – because, after all, they’re just bits of cloth, aren’t they? No one would mistake the intentions of such an act – contempt towards one’s fellow human beings, by destroying an object into which they have invested some of their self-identity (yes, yes, foolishly, mistakenly, without sufficient epistemic grounds). And also an implicit threat, given the appalling treatment our government has meted out to people who read the Quran, and wear hijabs and turbans. Sometimes by desecrating the aforementioned Qurans, hijabs and turbans.

  39. #39 Caledonian
    July 29, 2007

    contempt towards one’s fellow human beings, by destroying an object into which they have invested some of their self-identity

    All the more reason to destroy such objects.

    If you’re never willing to hurt other people’s feelings, if you let the boundaries they establish become inviolable barriers immune to analysis and ridicule, they can put whatever they like behind those walls at any time, and you become utterly impotent.

    Sarcasm, laughter, criticism, and cruelty are the weapons they have made it necessary for us to use – so let’s use them. As Samuel Clemens pointed out, a dead cat thrown into a church is worth a thousand syllogisms. Get swinging.

  40. #40 TW
    July 29, 2007

    I had the pleasure of seeing Carl Sagan give a speech in Austin several years ago. During the Q&A after, someone asked him which Star Trek he preferred, the original or the next generation. (Those were the only possible choices at that time.) He said neither because the show didn’t portray what always happens when two civilizations meet and one is greatly outclassed by the other. He said an accurate portrayal would have a large flyswatter sweep the Enterprise away and that would be the end.

    If we really are in a clash of civilizations, and I think we are, then I think it’s pretty clear who is the swatter and who is the swattee. Unfortunately, history shows that the swattee usually has to suffer a crushing defeat and obliteration of culture before turning away from the past and embracing the new paradigm. Post WW2 Japan is a recent example.

    Attacking political Islam by ridiculing its symbols is very subversive. Which is why the Islamic leaders (political and religious being one and the same in most cases) react so much when it happens. Flushing the Koran, and those Danish cartoons, strike directly at their authority. Once people give up belief in the symbols, questions will follow and the political authority of the mullahs will rightly vanish.

    Which, longterm, could also be interpreted as applying that swatter with a more loving swat than a harsh whip.

  41. #41 Dylan Stafne
    July 30, 2007

    “I could doodle cartoons in the margins and make my own crudely illustrated (I have no talent) version of the Qu’ran. Then I could put it on ebay and make a profit.”

    This is the best one. Destruction of books is disgusting, and I too was disturbed at the suggestion of destroying a Koran, a cultural (and mythological) treasure of humanity. It is the cornerstone of the Arabic language, and one of the most influential books of all time.

    I disagree with the other suggestions, but I would absolutely LOVE if you could do irreverent margin doodles and post it for sale. Please please please do that. This way you’re creating, not destroying.

  42. #42 Annamal
    July 30, 2007

    “Desecrating a Quran is not intimidation or comparable to cross-burning. The intimidation factor of a burning cross, swastika, or Confederate flag is part of the meaning of that symbol; the symbol means “I’m threatening you.” Desecrating a Quran isn’t a positive symbol itself; it symbolizes only rejection of the message of the Quran.”

    And I say again, the US government is currently kidnapping and torturing muslims. If you don’t believe that this is happening then now would be the time to point that out, if you do believe that this is happening then everything has to be viewed within that context.

    The Koran being flushed down a toilet has become one of the more eduring stories from Guantanamo and is now very much associated with it (and with the threat of being held indefininately without trial or oversight).

  43. #43 Annamal
    July 30, 2007

    “supposedly more enlightened lands of Europe and Australia.”

    Ummm I’m not really willing to speak to Europe but oh dear does this ever betray an ignorance about Australia. It’s a proud member of the coalition of the willing, there was the whole children overboard thing and then there was Pauline Hanson.

    Suffice to say that Australia does not currently have a glowing reputation for racial tolerance.

  44. #44 Kel
    July 30, 2007

    You could do some real good with this.

    1) Doodle on, desecrate etc. (perhaps not urinate on) said holy book.
    2) Sell on Ebay to one of your fans.
    3) Donate money to the JREF and/or RDF.

    I think you’d be surprised at how much a genuine PZ Myers defaced holy book would go for given the fanbase out there.

  45. #45 bernarda
    July 30, 2007

    I recently discovered a work by Voltaire “Mahomet ou le fanatisme”. It is not just about islam, but was recognized in its day as an attack on xianity as well.

    Voltaire said about it,

    “Earlier, in 1740, Voltaire had read this play aloud to Frederick of Prussia. Then he explained it further in a letter to Frederick, a few months before his Paris defeat: “The love of mankind, and the hatred of fanaticism, two virtues that adorn your throne, guided my pen…. They who tell us… that the flames of religious war are totally extinguished, in my opinion, pay too high a compliment to human nature. The same poison still subsists, even though it does not appear so openly…. In vain does human reason advance towards perfection, by means of that philosophy which of late has made so great a progress in Europe…. Why must I blindly follow the blind who cry out to me: hate, persecute all who are rash enough not to be of the same opinion with ourselves, even in things and matters we do not understand? … A spirit of indulgence would make us all brothers; a spirit of persecution can create nothing but monsters….”"

    It was once again performed in France in 2006 and was protested by the usual suspects.

    It can be found on the web with a quick search.

    It is a bit difficult as it is written in archaic language and style.

  46. #46 bernarda
    July 30, 2007
  47. #47 Josh
    July 30, 2007

    Frank Miller on the urgent need to send Batman after Osama: “Almost half my country equates flushing a Koran down a toilet with sawing the head off an innocent contractor, or using airplanes those barbarians could never have invented to slaughter thousands of my neighbors.”

    In other words, if I find a Koran in a toilet, I am not going to think, “Oh, what an interesting blow against all the god-botherers’ cant about ‘sanctity,’” and more than finding a swastika on a synagogue will lead me to think, “Oh, some Hindus are wishing my people good luck.” Putting a Koran in a toilet for others to find is very likely to be a statement of allegiance to the Rush Limbaugh view of Gitmo and the LGF view of Those People; indeed, some commentators above have defended it on the grounds that People Just Like Muslim Students at Pace run some brutal theocracies.

    PZ’s use of the incident as a lead-in to some boilerplate snark about “desecration” reaffirms my sense that, on issues of racism, his sensitivity is equal to Ronald Reagan’s.

  48. #48 j.t.delaney
    July 30, 2007

    “The scarce Muslim population in rural Minnesota … they aren’t exactly the most empowered people on Earth…”

    It’s interesting to consider that Minnesota elected America’s first Muslim congressman. Or that those Somali and Sudanese refugees have likely fled Islamist fanatics.

    Actually, before I moved to Europe, I lived in South Minneapolis in Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, and I still consider Keith Ellison as my representative. I’m not so sure how familiar with Minnesota geography, but I can assure you South Minneapolis is NOT rural. Life isn’t always easy for the East Africans that call Minneapolis’ West Bank home, but I think they’ve got it better than their counterparts in rural Northwestern Minnesota. In the case of the Morris area, we’re talking about less than 1% of the population; the Lutherans up there are hardly facing any threat of impending Dhimmitude.

    From what I’ve seen here, I do wholeheartedly agree that Minneapolis is far more welcoming towards Muslims than most cities in the Netherlands. Living in a neighborhood that’s roughly 50% Muslim, I’ve gotten a chance to see how race and class plays out in “enlightened” Holland. As imperfect as American society is, I would say that pluralism is a far more universally accepted value back home than over here.

    Or that the US ambassador to the UN is a Muslim (and longtime PNAC member). Or that Bush II, the great crusader, is midwifing two new Muslim quasi-states: Kosovo and Kurdistan. Or that one of the Western “anti-Muslim” military interventions most detested by al-Qaeda was the liberation of East Timor in 1999. (Freeing East Timor was a longtime progressive cause.)

    Okay, I think we’re getting a little off-topic. Considering the role that American military hardware has played in supressing Kurds and the Timorese during the 70′s and 80′s (the former being not so much “midwifery” per se, as being a botched abortion), I find this a curious set of examples.

    …Complicated, isn’t it?

    Indeed it is. All the aforementioned examples show just how frequently different Muslim groups (and their neighbors) play unfortunate proxy roles in superpower geopolitics. However, I don’t see what this has to do with the juvenile & crass act of buying a copy of the Koran and defacing it to prove… um, well, I’m not sure what PZ is trying to prove.

    Getting back to the issue at hand, the original story involved some guy making a very calculated poltical statement, twice: he vandalized a school library copy of the Koran and dumped it into a toilet for somebody in the public (at a school with a large Muslim minority) to find — TWICE. This wasn’t done to “open dialogue” or “raise awareness”; it was done to intimidate and provoke. PZ can do what he pleases in his own home with his own copy, but it won’t exactly have the same gravitas, now will it? It seems like a remarkably useless waste of resources. If 99+% of the population already recognizes that the Koran as being something non-magical, then it’s hardly a revolutionary move. I don’t see how this is anything other than race baiting — something best left to the LGF crowd.

    It’s also strange that bans against headscarves (France) and anti-Muslim riots (Canberra) occurred not in allegedly xenophobic and bigoted post-9/11 America, but in the supposedly more enlightened lands of Europe and Australia.

    Actually, there are public bans on headscarves that cover the face in Belgium and Holland — not just in schools as in France. Casual racism is pretty common here, and not just against North Africans. Racist jokes are still considered funny here by a surprisingly large number of college-educated people. Old-school style anti-semitism pops up in surprising places, and you can still hear people stereotype Roma-Sinti people here as hatefully as anything to come out of Borat’s mouth. It’s pretty unpleasant in this regard.

    (Would you rather be a Mexican immigrant in the US or a Muslim immigrant in Europe?)

    Well, that’s a tough call. I think multiculturalism is something surprisingly hard for many people to grasp here, but I would say that the social safety net here is a little stronger. So maybe the more concretely: would you rather be a Mexican illegal immigrant picking fruit in an orchard in California, or a Moroccan illegal immigrant picking tomatoes in a greenhouse in North Holland? In both cases you are scapegoated and demonized, you have no real rights, and you will face a lot of discrimination. I think the wages here might approach subsistence more closely and healthcare might be more accessible, but still not truly universal. It’s really a tough call.

    A lot of people need to resist the temptation to think in terms of such simplistic and sweeping dichotomies: Evil imperialist West vs noble victim Muslims. Stupid bigoted America vs wise and progressive Europe. Enlightened theists vs troglodyte faith-heads.

    No arguement there. One thing I’ve learned over here is that no matter where you go, the average IQ is still 100. In America, right-wing politicians use wedge issues like gay marriage and school prayer, while over here it’s headscarves and pork sausage in school lunches. From my Turkish colleagues, I get the impression that it’s the same, tired song-and-dance there, too.

  49. #49 CalGeorge
    July 30, 2007

    I’ve changed my mind.

    The toilet is one of humanities greatest and most useful inventions.

    Flushing the Koran is nothing less than an despicable act of toilet desecration.

    Long live my toilet!

    Down with Koran flushing!

    You will not be surprised that the Internet offers a feast of nice poems for toilet worshipers like me. A sample:

    Ode to the Toilet

    Oh Japanese toilet, you technological dream
    Not a simple porcelein fixture on which to lean

    You plug into the wall and offer so many choices
    That even the sickest of bums rejoices

    You move up and down to the height that fits mine
    And allow me to adjust the seat back to recline

    You warm to a temperature that I can select
    And have a bidet option with water flow I can direct

    And if I don’t want others to hear
    You offer a ‘flushing sound’ that’s magic to the ears

    The shower feature still scares me a bit
    But my toilet and I, we make a good fit

    Ode to my Commode

    The way the swirling motion gobbles
    Up my stinky floating baubles,
    Makes me truly understand
    The brilliance of this porcelain stand.

    Your round full bowl!
    I love to wax,
    I caress it carefully,
    I imagine J-Lo’s ass,

    ….But alas!

    You’re much colder to the touch,
    And you don’t stink as much.
    I smile at you,
    You look back catty,
    An honor it is,
    To be your Poop Daddy.

    Of course there are days when my visits are few,
    I don’t eat enough fiber to come visit you,
    But after a day like that I know,
    Its only a few hours before my ass needs to blow

    Bounding in slow motion,
    I dive through the door,
    My ass is on fire,
    But my heart needs you more.

    I dive into the bathroom,
    And drop my trousers,
    A day! A week!
    I could sit here for hours!

  50. #50 bernarda
    July 30, 2007

    delaney, “From what I’ve seen here, I do wholeheartedly agree that Minneapolis is far more welcoming towards Muslims than most cities in the Netherlands.”

    Too bad it isn’t reciprocal. Fanatic muslim Somali cab drivers refuse to pick up people at the Minneapolis airport who are carrying alcohol, or having even seeing-dogs. What can you do with such assholes? I wonder how much female s-x-mutilation goes on in this population.

    The headscarf issue is important. It is the thin edge of the wedge by misogynist muslim radicals to gain influence in certain housing projects. If just few women and girls are going around in them, these fascist religious thugs will start intimidating others to follow suit.

    They will stop at nothing: beatings, disfiguration, rape, murder. It is essential to ban the headscarf. It has more than symbolic importance.

  51. #51 tony
    July 30, 2007

    I’m frankly amazed.

    I see reverence for the medium here that is completely at odds with everything I understand to be part of the rationalist mind-set.

    WTF? Defacing a book? So what – unless that defacement is merely a carrier for your hateful primary agenda… (Nazi,KKK, black power, Xian/buddhist/muslim/jewish/… ascendancy, …)

    As has been stated a number of times, the agenda here is simply to de-conflate the fact of the book as a book from the superstitious ideas held in reverence by followers of that book’s religion.

    I don’t care if you are offended by me or my statements. I will say it how I see it… and I expect the same from you. Perhaps we can have a dialog, even!

    But if you demand that I not say something, or say it only in a special way so as to avoid offending someone’s sensibilities…. then I say no way!

    And defacing a book is simply, in the end, making a statement.

    PZ is saying reverence for a symbol is crock. Reverence for an idea is crock.

    Respect for ideas is great — but you should still question all ideas, and your relationship to them, always and ever.

  52. #52 Amit
    July 30, 2007


    On the one hand, this post will likely mollify the critics who show up in every thread about Christianity whining that you aren’t castigating Muslims to the same extent.

    I see nothing wrong in treating all religions the same way for the same act. It’s a way to check against hypocrisy and to avoid giving special treatment to special groups based simply on their religion.

  53. #53 Tulse
    July 30, 2007


    As has been stated a number of times, the agenda here is simply to de-conflate the fact of the book as a book from the superstitious ideas held in reverence by followers of that book’s religion.

    That’s PZ’s agenda, but the key point is that it is not at all clear that that was the agenda of the perpetrator of the original act — given the context, it appears that the original intent may have been to harass and intimidate a minority group.

    And that’s my problem with PZ’s suggestion — while under some contexts it is a reasonable act, in others it isn’t, just as one could wear a swastika armband around a synagogue as an expression of free speech, or as an attempt to intimidate the congregation. Context matters, and it seems particularly tone-deaf to me to promote an act, out of whatever reasonable motivations, that could be misconstrued.

    If you want to make the point that all religious books are just books, then perform an act that makes that clear, rather than attacking one particular group’s book, and thus implying that the group itself should be attacked.

  54. #54 catofmanyfaces
    July 30, 2007

    ahh, 203, we are trying to stop gitmo.

    And in the mean time, PZ is not terrorizing, nor in fact torturing someone. he is not saying “Do X or else i crap on your book”. He is saying “Look, it’s just a book. If i crap on it, nothing happens, it’s just a bit smellier.”

    This is a big difference. INTENT. without using it, we couldn’t keep dogs as pets, after all, they used dogs in gitmo to right? We all know the difference is that no pet owner is owning dogs with intent to terrorize muslims. Same here.

    P.S. i do suspect that there are some idiots who are indeed training their dogs to attack muslims. i just hope that those people kill themselves with a gun accident or something. yay darwin awards.

  55. #55 mtraven
    July 30, 2007

    Re: 224
    And do not even compare it to physical violence or rape. it demeans real pain that rape victims feel.
    You may be mistaking my intent. I’m not saying that people who feel their holy objects are being descrated are necessarily justified in feeling that they have been physically violated, I’m just saying that they do feel that way.

    PZ is not talking about damaging something like a hand-written torah, which is as much a work of art as it is a book, or a Gutenberg bible, or the hand written korans…He is talking about doing some minor damage to a mass-produced paperback

    So now we are supposed to make distinctions of sacredness based on binding and printing techniques? It’s OK to desecrate a mass-market paperback but not a book bound in rich corinthian leather? Where do you draw the line? Who gets to draw the line?

    I question the strategy of desecration. It seems juvenile and counterproductive, and at least borders on hate crimes.

  56. #56 Great White Wonder
    July 30, 2007

    On that front, I can come up with a dozen anti-Arab bits off the top of my head. But I’m having trouble finding the same consistent drubbing of Israel and Zionism by American humorists.

    Yeah, nobody ever makes fun of Jews.


  57. #57 Tessa
    July 30, 2007

    I think the Overton window is on the move! (marching drum sounds)

  58. #58 bernarda
    July 31, 2007

    People claiming that a hypothetical powerful invisible entity spoke to an illiterate brigand who systematically massacred people who didn’t believe in his delusions or who were business competitors is an insult to everyone.

    Mohammed even admitted he didn’t always know what he was talking about. That is known as the Satanic Verses. He decided that some things he had said he didn’t like, and so he had someone edit and revise him.

    How does anyone know that his revised revelations were not actually the ones inspired by Satan and the ones he edited out were really allah’s plan?

    Proselytizing this crap is indeed an insult.

    As for me, I don’t see how mocking a fraud is an insult.

  59. #59 DingoDave
    August 1, 2007

    Here’s a comment I posted over a in respose to the same subject.

    “I suppose if someone stole my copy of “Origin of Species” and put it in a toilet that would be a hate crime as well? No. It would be theft and destruction of property.”

    “Any sensible person can see that the Ukrainian flushing a Koran in the toilet was not an act of intimidation but an act of contempt.”

    If the book was the property of the library, then perhaps he should be required to replace it and apologise to the the University for destroying public property.

    The writing of a book like the Koran, if it were perpetrated today, would rightly be considered a hate crime. Considering the Koran’s numerous invocations of violence, discrimination, and contempt for all non- Muslims, it is beyond me how anyone could have the gall and hypocricy to condemn someone who displays a similar contempt for this vile book.
    Why can’t we all agree to condemn invocations towards violence and discrimination wherever we find them? Whether they be in the Bible, or the Koran, or the pages of Mein Kampf.

    Many Muslims and Christians set their holy books and their holy prophets up as idols which must be worshipped and which must not be questioned.

    Idolator: n
    One who worships idols.
    One who blindly or excessively admires or adores another.

    The ex-preacher and counter-apologist Farrell Till describes people like these as ‘Bibliolators’.
    Forget the expression, ‘people of the book’, how about we start referring to people like this as ‘worshippers of the book’?

    I’m all for putting warning stickers on the covers of these holy books outlining just how hateful and discriminatory some of their contents really are. But then I suppose that we’d have a bunch of crazy Bibliolators threatening to blow up public libraries in the name of their ‘peaceful’ religion.

  60. #60 Anton Mates
    August 2, 2007


    Here’s the thing: you don’t get to decide what is sacred to other people.

    Exactly. And if other people decide that their copy of your holy book is not sacred, and ought to be urinated on or painted with polka dots for the sake of art or politics or entertainment, you don’t get to stop them.

    So now we are supposed to make distinctions of sacredness based on binding and printing techniques? It’s OK to desecrate a mass-market paperback but not a book bound in rich corinthian leather?

    mas528 didn’t suggest that any book was sacred. Vandalizing a Gutenberg Bible isn’t sacrilege; it’s simply a shame to destroy something of historical and artistic value. A mass-market paperback doesn’t have that value, in my opinion. You may disagree, in which case you’re welcome to preserve your Danielle Steel copies in a climate-controlled museum…or store them in an ark of sandalwood and myrrh, if that’s what their sanctity merits.

  61. #61 tenebrous
    August 13, 2007


    There’s the loving peaceful religion we keep hearing about. Nothing says peace and love like hell fire and vague threats of physical harm.

    Have a cup of tea Zuby, put on some music and chill out.

  62. #62 A.B.D
    February 29, 2008

    This is to phantomreader42

    First I would like to thank you for showing how the Americans are rude, impolite, and racist, also the have bad-mannered.

    According to phantomreader42 ” Yeah, those damn diver people! Someone should punch holes in their scuba tanks!”

    The sentence above shows how the Americans extremely racist.
    I don’t think you know that we live in the Planet Earth and there are many countries in this world (not only the USA). And people believe in different things (Christianity is not only the religion on this Planet). This means you cannot force people to believe in your religion or they will be like what you said before ” those damn diver people! Someone should punch holes in their scuba tanks!”


  63. #63 Ichthyic
    March 1, 2008

    First of all, people are free to believe whatever they believe in. Which means people from different religions don’t have the right to make funs on my religion,

    here’s the key, ABD:

    First of all, people are free to believe whatever they believe in.

    does not equate with this:

    Which means people from different religions don’t have the right to make funs on my religion,

    in fact, yes, they do. At the same time, you have every right to make fun of their silly religions too!

    that’s how freedom works; something you have yet to learn, I gather.

    freedom means not only freedom OF religion, but freedom FROM religion as well.

    There’s an old saying…

    “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

    It’s something you should think about the next time someone makes fun of your beliefs, and you get all angry about it.

  64. #64 sin
    March 12, 2008



  65. #65 MAJeff, OM
    March 12, 2008

    That’s some highly-concentrated crazy.

  66. #66 dadi
    May 2, 2008

    maybe better instead of doing what u said,try to read and know what inside,as a biologist there is a lot to know about things humanity waited a long time to know and they still not knowing enough,secondly this book has no human author,so no money in someone’s pocket,its a book from Allah our God even if u don’t believe in,third u are just a prof thinking himself like doing something as a baby who discover that there is something called mind,thats mean there is a lot u should learn how to use it right,look up what people said about the Quran,so u can know its not just a book as u think even what making me feel sad about u,why do u insult a book by saying “silly book” is that a scientific way to criticize ,really u should get rid from the dust that hiding your mind to see things clear ,am just sorry for u,ah something,maybe some1 will take your pic and do some …things with,like u can find your self somewhere in a website,like gay ones or suspect ones, even do urinate on,there is a lot…do u think some1 can stop me?…but am telling u that am not,just because its not from my ethics,its easy to say what u said but its so hard to be thinking as the way u think,its just so naive and stupid….

  67. #67 dadi
    May 4, 2008

    this a way from many so u can undersatnd what quran says,take a look plz :

  68. #68 John Morales
    July 16, 2008

    This is a community service link.