Thursday, May 19, 2005
A Muslim group on Wednesday demanded a public apology from online bookseller Amazon.com for its part in delivering a used copy of the Koran with the words "Death to all Muslims" scrawled across the inside cover.Thank God the dropping was accidental; if it was deliberate, Basarudin could have been prosecuted in Pakistan. In any case, Amazon has been quite apologetic:
Los Angeles graduate student Azza Basarudin, who ordered a used copy of the holy book through Amazon.com from a third-party, said that when she discovered the message "I actually dropped the book."
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) said Basarudin brought the matter to them about two weeks ago. The Council contacted Amazon.com who have apologized to Basarudin, refunded her money, sent out a new copy of the Koran and issued her a gift certificate.But apparently it's not enough:
Amazon said it had also suspended Pennsylvania-based Bellwether Books, which packaged and mailed the Koran in question, from selling the Koran and had asked for an internal investigation.
The MPAC said it wanted Amazon to issue a public apology and condemnation and establish a zero-tolerance policy toward sellers and employees.(here's the actual MPAC press release.) Which seems to put a pretty high onus on sellers (and re-sellers) of second-hand books, who now apparently have to leaf through every book to check whether one of the previous owners hasn't scribbled something inside that could be construed as offensive to any of the potential future buyers. I've picked up in my days many a second-hand political book with nasty comments written on the margins about ideological positions I hold dear, but it never occurred to me to complain to the second-hand bookseller in question, or to engage services of a professional grievance body.
The MPAC spokesperson Edina Lekovic says the desecrated Koran was part of a "cult of hate that may exist and may be on the rise."Possibly at "Newsweek". Make no mistake, I don't approve of sacrilege or desecration directed against Christianity, Islam or any other religion, and people who write "Death to all Muslims" have obviously been visited by the stupidity fairy and deserve our scorn - but to turn some anonymous ignoramus' sribblings into a cause celebre and to speak in this context of a "cult of hate" is a sad example of rhetorical inflation at a time when another "cult of hate" that definitely exists and has been on the rise over the last few decades is flying passenger airplanes into skyscrapers, beheading hostages, and killing women and children with car bombs.