Is Michael Bloomberg to blame for the deaths of the 18 Muslim men in Indian-controlled Kashmir who rioted over reports that someone in America burned the Koran?
Let's think it through.
As I explained at length in an earlier column, I believe that the New York City mayor could have stopped the Park51 ("ground zero mosque") project months ago, long before it became a national story. It would have taken some wheeling and dealing and a few phone calls. Instead, in his grandiose pomposity, he went a different way.
Even if you don't buy that Bloomberg could have nipped this noxious weed in the bud, Commentary magazine editor John Podhoretz is surely correct that this wouldn't be nearly the controversy it is today if only Bloomberg had been capable of getting the "Freedom Tower" built in a timely manner.
Enter storefront pastor Terry Jones, who introduced the idiotic idea of Koran-burning to the American people. He clearly got his inspiration from the debate over the ground zero mosque. He chickened out, but not before he inspired others to do something similar. Two pastors in Tennessee held a private Koran-burning, and a New Jersey transit worker tore up and burned a few pages (and was fired for it). These acts, plus the media coverage of Jones' planned stunt, sparked the deadly riots in Kashmir.
So, should we put Bloomberg in the dock? Recall him from office? Drop him, bound and gagged, into downtown Lahore?
Alas, no. While we should criticize him for his thumbless grasp of church-state issues and his megalomaniacal incompetence, he's not to blame for the actions of others. And it isn't fair to hold people legally accountable for the evil or misguided deeds of others.
And the same basically goes for Jones. His plan to burn the Koran was stupid, irresponsible and repugnant, but it's not his fault that there are a significant number of Muslim men who are not only ready but eager to riot and kill in response to insults to Islam.
If you deny this, you are basically denying the humanity of Muslims. We take it as a given in this country that not only are all men created equal, but that each individual is responsible for his own actions. Each man and woman is a captain of his or her own self.
To say that Muslims have no choice in the matter, that they must act like animals, is to say that they are animals. If you tease a bear and he kills you, your stupidity is to blame. If you tease a man and he kills you, the murderer is to blame.