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Misplaced Right Wing Outrage

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Last week, I happened to be watching Fox’s “Hannity and Colmes.” To no surprise, Sean Hannity was doing what he does best: complaining about liberals and political correctness. The trigger for this tirade was an incident at Pace University where a young man was arrested on hate crime charges because he flushed a Quran down the toilet.

To make matters worse, the putative perpetrator, Stanislav Shmulevich is accused of flushing the Quran down the toilet not once, but twice in separate incidents. This came amid other occurrences of intolerance towards Muslim students at Pace, including racial slurs scrawled on a bathroom wall, and another Quran flushed down the toilet.

Hannity and his ilk missed an easy opportunity to demonstrate a little bit of decency by substantively denouncing these acts.

Surely any reasonable person would conclude that these acts were awful. For a Muslim, the Quran is the inerrant word of God. To desecrate it in any way is to commit an unspeakable offense against Islam.

This sentiment shouldn’t surprise Americans; after all, a majority describe themselves as religious Christians. How would Jerry Falwell have reacted to stories about a Bible being flushed down a toilet? I can hear his ominous warnings from the pulpit, citing such an incident as evidence that the country is steadily becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah.

However, vocal right-wingers had only de rigueur condemnations of the episodes. The most Mark Steyn, a guest on the show could muster was that “I’m opposed to the desecration of books,” while arguing that it was okay for someone else to do so, an odd pro-choice position for a conservative to take.

Steyn then went on for most of the rest of the interview about how arresting people for hate crimes against Muslims would lead to “something called creeping sharia in the west.” Just how such a tiny minority would ever manage to impose that on the United States was not explained by the alarmist commentator. Of course, such a statement is laughable, but hardly surprising from a man who, when asked if there was hostility towards Muslims, replied that “there is none.”

However much some want to deny it, there is hostility towards Muslims in the west. In fact, part of the problem with incidents like this is that it heightens tension between Muslims and members of broader society. Moreover, this comes at a time, when cooperation between Muslims and western governments is critical to prosecute the war on terrorism successfully.

While conservatives had little to offer in the way of outrage over these incidents, most of them went absolutely ballistic when reports surfaced that a cross had been dunked in urine. They were right to do so. As a Christian myself, I was offended that anyone would ever turn a holy object into a tasteless art project. But my question is: why can’t conservatives attack people who desecrate Qurans with the same vehemence they attack people who desecrate the cross? To do so seems only fair to me.

I should say that I am not sure about the hate crimes charges the suspect is facing. Should he really go to prison for this? What exactly constitutes a hate crime, and when should they be prosecuted? I don’t know the answer to these questions. Being a huge fan of the first amendment, I am uncomfortable with the idea that any form of speech, no matter how vulgar or offensive could be punished with jail time.

Conservatives or anyone else for that matter are right to raise such questions. But it simply does not make sense that a Quran desecration should have been a jumping off point for a vitriolic attack on the “liberal media” or on the Council of American-Islamic Relations, or on political correctness, particularly when these same conservatives were aflame with passion when it was a Christian object involved.

The logical thing to do is to condemn such desecrations and argue why they violate American ideals, not use it to launch into standard victimist conservative talking points. In short, the outrage I saw on Hannity’s show, and from his fellow conservatives last week was badly misplaced.
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Marcus Alexander Gadson is a freelance journalist and commentator. He has written articles on various issues including foreign policy, race, economics, and politics for publications including the Huffington Post, the Daily Voice, and the (more...)

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