Kathleen Parker

So goes my prayerful response to news that Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci will be prosecuted on charges of "outrage to religion." Apparently, the outspoken Fallaci, now in her 70s, has offended some disciples of Islam with her book, "The Force of Reason," and, by Allah, they intend to see she pays for it.

At least they didn't shoot her.


You'll recall that last year in Holland, filmmaker Theo van Gogh was fatally shot and stabbed for work deemed unflattering to Islam. A fellow named Mohammed B. confessed to the murder. Recently, two more suspects, both Chechen citizens believed to be linked to a group of Islamic fundamentalists, were arrested in connection with the crime.

Both of these incidents followed another high-profile episode of perceived offense to Islam. In 2002, French author Michel Houellebecq faced trial for calling Islam "the dumbest religion," and for saying the Koran was so badly written it made him "fall to the ground in despair."

The courts acquitted him, but the trend is clear. Criticize Islam and face jail or justice at the hands of a true believer. Is it possible that radical Islam really does hate freedom?

Now, to Durham, N.C., where Wednesday night three crosses were burned in different places around town - in front of an Episcopal church, at a downtown intersection and on a dirt pile near a construction site.

Americans know what burning crosses represent beyond desecration of a religious symbol, and most are disgusted by the act. Most also figure the perps are the sort of folks who, if they bathed, would need a toilet brush and a silo of Lysol.

We might wish the world were rid of these creeps, but alas, life is imperfect and God apparently is still shuffling the deck of human DNA. I say "cut and deal," but then I'm a mere mortal.

Meanwhile, let's be abundantly clear: You can still burn a cross in this country (qualifiers to follow), or flush a Bible down the toilet, or insult Isaiah's writing, or burn a burqa in your front yard and live to see the morrow.

So far.

It is, in fact, illegal to burn a cross on someone else's private property without the owner's permission. (It's a misdemeanor in North Carolina.) But otherwise you can burn to your heart's content as long as you're making a general statement and not trying to intimidate anyone specifically, according to a 2003 Supreme Court decision.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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