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We strengthen our rights by exercising them.

OK, here we are at the start of another academic year and September – and sadly at the intersection of the anniversary of 9/11, a small number of people advocating burning the Qur’an/Koran and ALA’s banned books week focused on the freedom to read.

I usually avoid politics on this blog and I am still doing that. This isn’t politics. This is basic human rights.

We enjoy many rights and privileges in North America.

We enjoy the freedom to read.
We enjoy freedom of expression.
We enjoy the freedom of the press.
We enjoy freedom of speech.
We enjoy freedom to study, research and publish.
We enjoy freedom to worship as we like.
We enjoy the freedom to assemble and influence eachother.
We enjoy the freedom to choose our leaders.
We have the right to be schooled, be well, be without fear, and more.
It’s not perfect but we strive to be so. And in that striving we try to serve as an example to others.
If that’s arrogant, then so be it. I believe that you have to stand for something and I’ve always been proud that my profession and colleagues stand firmly for everyone’s intellectual freedoms.
We live in an awesome world and we are truly blessed. Our freedoms thrive in an environment where civility trumps anger and listening and undertsanding reign. We do not ned to agree but we can appreciate other points of view.

In particular, at this moment in world history, we continue to have dedicated men and women, from the U.S., Canada and more, fighting for these rights all over the world but, in particular in the Middle East. You may hate the war but everyone respects our soldiers’ sacrifices and efforts.

Our freedoms are the foundations of our society here. Not everyone has these freedoms and we shouldn’t ever take them for granted.

We have free libraries and every citizen has a right to use them.

I am a librarian. I subscribe to a foundation of beliefs that drives my behaviours in many ways but I always know I wake up every day to support a free society.

Burning books as symbolic attack and commentary is not in my vocabulary. That’s what words are for.

So, in my burgeoning discomfort and anger at the foolishness of those who disrespect and endanger all of our freedoms, (and those who serve to protect them), by perverting them to their own interests for publicity, false catharthis, or whatever twisted motivation, I am fearful that we risk losing our freedoms. The forces for book burning do have a right to their views and actions and good and decent people have a right to object to their views and actions.

I have a simple suggestion for those who want to take personal action.

Sometime on Saturday September 11th, 2010 please try this simple task:

Read a passage of the Qur’an/Koran to yourself – quietly. Reading is more than an activity. It builds insight and understanding. Read other holy passages of your choice of other faiths – quietly. Light a candle. Let the light of that candle defeat the darkness of some souls. Besides, I love irony and the misguided actions of the few can be overwhelmed by the quiet and respectful actions of the many.

Nearly all faiths’ holy works are available in fulltext online and you have the skills to find them easily.

It doesn’t require big demonstrations, fancy 24 hour news shows or ranting. The point is not to subdue those who would limit our rights. It’s to exercise our important rights that have been achieved through hard effort and sacrifice. Just READ. Let the light of knowledge and learning spread words. Just like our heart muscle, we strengthen your rights and freedoms by exercising them.

I suspect my personal passions are lessening my abiity to be as articulate as I want in this post (I am certainly no MLK, Ben Franklin or Ghandi) but I had to post it. I’ll leave the comments on as long as they meet the civility test.

Thank you.

Stephen

Posted on: September 8, 2010, 11:22 pm Category: Uncategorized

10 Responses

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  1. Well said. I agree 100%.

  2. Sara Kelly Johns said

    Thanks for this post. I am really proud of ALA’s answer to the book burning. On Sept. 11, there will be a reading of the Qur’an at headquarters in Chicago. As you suggest, I will be reading it on Saturday, too.

    http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/inside-scoop/fighting-fire-free-speech-ala-will-protest-book-burning-911-quran-reading

  3. Thank you

  4. burning or not burning qur’an will never/bring islam down.Allah has promise in the qur’an that he will protect his religion..and he said “innaddina indallahil islam”the religion with him is islam.islam is the way as you can see it ur self.ask your self what is the secret of islam that people from different angle are converting to is lam?these is becaose they go for research and got suplication to there doubts,solution to there problems..plz it is very good to find the meaning and translation of qur’an,is then u will undersatnd that qur’an is not as the way u see it.all what is wreting on it was automatically right…may Allah guide us in the right path.

  5. Maybe we risk losing our freedoms by people attacking others who are expressing theirs, like this person in Florida?

  6. Good post! I’m a pretty committed christian, and I get so completely irked at “my people” sometimes – they simply don’t get it… I could SO go on here…

    Freedom to read anything, freedom to believe anything – that’s hugely important. It’s always better to put, say, the bible and the quran together on the shelf and let individuals decide for themselves what they want to believe, rather than trying to force the issue. Otherwise it’s simple bullying.

    So – right on!

  7. Yes. A thousand times, yes.

  8. The right answer in every case is to read it for yourself and draw your own conclusions. Whatever “it” is, by the way.

    As well, only a fool supports suppressing any book. I have no use for many works, but they should be available for others to sort it out for themselves, which is why I support having them readily available.

    Thank you for posting this!

  9. Barbara Galik said

    Thank you for so eloquently stating the importance and value of reading. You have listed our greatest freedoms and I, for one, treasure and value them. Many of our ancestors were immigrants for these very reasons and it tears at my soul to see these freedoms disrespected. Thanks again for your timely and important post…I will read from my copy of the Qu’ran, a gift from some Saudi friends when I was studying Arabic.

  10. Done and done.

    Thank you for a thoughtful post.