On Sunday, March 20th, fundamentalist pastor Terry Jones burned a copy of the Koran after conducting a mock trial that found Islam guilty of crimes against humanity. Right-minded people of every political persuasion responded with round condemnation. Shame on them.

Terry Jones strikes me as a bona fide idiot, but this is Western Civilization. We’ve earned the right not to pull punches when it comes to religion, and we’ve earned the right not to have to justify the freedoms our culture grants to individuals.

We Westerners demean religions and all that they hold sacred. We Westerners mock, scorn, and ridicule religious taboos. It’s not just something that we can do because it’s legal. It’s something that we actually do, because it’s part of our cultural tradition.

Sometimes it takes the form of crude and vulgar comedy on animated shows like South Park. Other times we see it in irreverent skits on shows like Saturday Night Live. At times it’s the approach of serious journalism like we saw with the Jyllands-Posten newspaper. Once and while, we see it in a compelling HBO series or a brilliantly-written broadway musical. Occasionally, we even see religious bigotry rear its ugly head, as we saw with attacks on Romney’s Mormonism and Terry Jones’ attack on Islam. First-rate religions take all of this in stride, because that’s the way that it has to be if you’re a religion in the West and you want to play with the big boys.

As Fleming Rose eloquently noted in his Washington Post article defending his Mohammed cartoons in 2006:

[I]f a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy.

We’ve rejected this brand of submission, and we must not be in the habit of apologizing for anyone who refuses to submit.

Here in the West we put Christians, Buddhist, Hindus, and Jews all on the same footing. When some nut burns a Koran or South Park puts Mohammad in a bear suit or Fleming Rose solicits cartoons of Mohammed, they’re attempting to treat Islam as an equal to other religions; they’re inviting Islam to take a seat at the table with the major world religions.

When large segments of the world’s Muslim population respond with violence or threats to Western depictions of their religion, they are rejecting that seat at the table. Their actions have the effect of denying that their religion has a place alongside the great religions.

The choice is clear: We either accept their verdict that Islam is a second-class religion or we proceed undeterred with our Western treatment of Islam. Personally, I’m not comfortable handling Islam with kid-gloves, treating it with the same tact and delicacy that we otherwise reserve for the mentally retarded. So my message to anyone with a match and a Koran is simple: “Burn, baby! Burn!.”