Dear readers, a proviso to this post if you will... If you read the Daily Mail, look away now, this is a post that will make the xenophobe tell me to get back to where I came from (a small town hospital in Devon), the jingoist to call me unpatriotic and the BNP member to tell me I'm selling out.
I don't care.
This is my reply to the amount of things I've seen lately that go something like this...
"That girl who burned a Koran has been arrested, but we don't see any of the poppy burners arrested do we?!"
Final warning, if you read that and thought "Ha, yeah, exactly!" go check out something fluffy speaking ungrammatically, it's for your own good.
Let me get my own feelings off the bat straight away, the poppy burners are morons doing something mind-numbingly stupid. Possibly a number of people will completely and utterly ignore that bit, certainly anyone who ignored my warnings and isn't now giggling over a tabby explaining "I haz a sad...", but at least I've put it in there for the rational people who's brains aren't so full of anger their ears sound like an old fashioned kettle going off.
I thought I'd look at what seems to be the main points here one by one...
Burning a poppy is equal to burning a Koran. No, it's not. There is absolutely no logical reason why the two are equal. No, shush, yes you at the back, I can see you muttering. Whatever you were going to say? Wrong.
The burning of a poppy can be many things. An insult to soldiers alive and dead (more on their feelings later), an anti-war protest, a propaganda mission hoping to stir up hatred against an entire religion and create martyrs to boost extremist recruiting numbers in a George Bush free world that seems much more inclusive... (Hmm, wonder which this one was...)
What it can't be is something as serious, as wide ranging and as plain insulting and abusive towards a huge chunk of the world as burning a Koran.
Think about what you felt when you heard about it, especially your thoughts before the media had guided you in the direction they want.
Two, maybe three million (I'm giving them half the population of Britain) felt anger, annoyance, a little bit of disgust? Perhaps a desire to punch one of them? The burning was so small and petty that a lot of people just felt apathy and mild irritation. After every November 11th I regularly find poppies strewn on the floor like litter by people who presumably cared enough to buy them then consign them to the elements to sit forlornly on the pavement, wilted and rained upon. Is that not a more ignominious end for a symbol? Why do we not take photos of these forgotten poppies and begin a campaign to stop them being flung away like this? The answer? It's not as exciting.
On the other hand think about how Muslims will feel on seeing a Koran burnt... It is by far and away one of the most insulting, most abusive, most degrading things you can do. Barring Andrex creating loo roll with Muhammed on it we're pretty much at the peak of religious intolerance and hatred here.
This is deep, this is personal, this goes down to not just a tradition and a symbol, this is their lives, their beliefs. This is the words of their God being defiled and destroyed.
Imagine someone pissing up against the Western Wall or bitch-slapping the Pope. Imagine JK Rowling rewriting the bible to say Harry Potter was Jesus or a vandal cutting down the Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya.
It wouldn't matter who did it, there's no excuse of it being some 15 year old kid. Any of those actions would create a deep feeling of disgust, of physical sickness and pain, of anger hotter than we've ever felt and of alienation, of detachment from the place that it was done.
We HAVE to make a stand and make some show of arresting this silly little girl because firstly it's right, and secondly we have to do what we can to make true, moderate Muslims, the Muslims that make up most of their faith, realise that we don't hold them accountable for the actions of the few.
I think the most pertinent argument is this. The poppy burners, with the aid of the media ("Darling, the Daily Mail says we should be annoyed about Camembert and asparagus today..."), successfully angered the couple million people they were aiming at. This daft student successfully angered an ENTIRE RELIGION which has over 1.5 billion followers making up almost a quarter of the world's population, the vast majority of which aren't extremists. It's the difference between suggesting Indian scam phone centres are knobs (which they are) and suggesting a knobishness about the entire Indian nation...
So basically this girl has taken the world's most annoying teenager title from Justin Beiber, quite an achievement.
They should be arrested for the same thing. What for? They could be arrested for arson, true... but then anyone burning ANYTHING will count as that ("put the Lambert and Butler down ma'am, you're coming to the station..."). There's no way we can arrest them for spreading religious hatred or intolerance when the poppy isn't a religious symbol, it's a patriotic one.
Under free speech they're allowed to bitch about the country (we do it enough) and are allowed to protest, it's actually a right. Nobody said we have to agree with the reasons and methods behind every protest, we just have to allow them (within legal reason... ie, don't burn a frickin religious book).
The poppy burning here is akin to the Westboro Bastard Church in America, the "God Hates Fags" brigade. In both these scenarios I have heard from soldiers young and old who say they don't WANT these people stopped, that if they had it in their power they wouldn't arrest them and even pleading with people to leave them alone and not resort to violence.
Why? Because it's what they fought for, nobody ever said our wars for freedom was only going to be the freedom we like, it's freedom for all within limits. We're going to get some bad apples, yeah, but we're just as free to bitch back as long as we don't take it to an extreme... such as something so stunningly dickish as burn a holy text.
That's not protest, that's religious intolerance of the highest level.
Soldiers also realise that if you defeat an enemy by lowering yourself to their level, you've both lost.
Britain doesn't care about Britain anymore. Yes, it does. Which is why it might not be a good idea to give extremists (and possibly even moderate Muslims) a reason to want to kill us... no?
By the way, the majority of these people don't mean Britain, they mean white, fifth generational Brits... the same as how the word "foreigner" in the mouth of a Daily Mail reader never includes the Swiss or the Aussies...
We have to be as bad as them. Do you know who burnt poppies? Muslim extremists wanting to cause trouble because it looks good on recruitment posters.
Therefore, congratulations to anyone who thinks burning a Koran is a good response, you've just been relegated to British Extremist (Your BNP membership card is in the post, welcome to institutionalised bigotry).
Thankfully rather than send explosive packages on airlines we Brits are much more likely to send letters to our local newspaper signed off "Angry Patriot from Much-Moaning-On-The-Wold" so we should be safe to fly. The worst we can fear is some of the cabin crew treating us like crap and a baggage attendant rifling through to nick some underwear, so nothing out of the ordinary.
I will finish this whole thing off with an ironic homage to Godwin's Law, an internet rule that I knew of already even before it was mentioned on QI and is particularly pertinent here as many of the people filling with rage at my post are likely to go with it.
You know who liked burning books? Hitler.