A BRISBANE-based atheist has risked inflaming political and religious tensions by posting a video on YouTube showing him burning pages from both the Koran and the Bible.
The video, by lawyer and Brisbane Atheists member, Alex Stewart, 29, comes as international outrage continues over the proposed burning of multiple copies of the Koran by a radical Christian pastor in the US.
Yesterday, the president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ikebal Patel, slammed the video.
“I think it’s highly offensive that he has done this to two of the holiest books in the world,” Mr Patel said.
“It does not in any way add any value to trying to promote world peace and the consideration of different views – especially when there are heightened tensions around the anniversary of September 11 and the Eid el Fitr (end of Ramadan) celebrations.”
After smoking both he gives marks out of 10 – rating the Bible as a better burner than the Koran.
In his commentary, he said people should just “get over” the burning of books like the Bible or the Koran.
“I guess that’s the point with all this crap,” he said.
“It’s just a f—ing book. Who cares? It’s your beliefs that matter. Quite frankly, if you are going to get upset about a book, you’re taking life way too seriously.”
Yesterday, Mr Stewart told The Courier-Mail he expected people to be offended by the video but was not worried about reprisals.
He said although it looked like marijuana, he was actually smoking lawn clippings.
“The video was a joke video, of course. I never actually do drugs. People do this stuff all the time and if people get really upset about this then they’re taking it far too seriously,” Mr Stewart said.
He said basic freedoms, like the freedom of speech, should not be revoked just because someone might be offended.
Queensland Council for Civil Liberties president Michael Cope said he didn’t believe Mr Stewart had contravened the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act.
He said penalties for blasphemy had also been removed from the Criminal Code.
“I don’t think on the face of it that what he’s done is an offence . . . nor do we think it should be,” Mr Cope said
Anglican Church spokesman, Dean Peter Catt, labelled it a stunt that on one level was humorous.
“But I can accept that some people would be scandalised by it,” he said.
Father Catt encouraged people not to take offence, which would just escalate the issue, as had occurred with the threat by radical Florida Christian evangelist Terry Jones to conduct a mass burning of the Koran on September 11, unless Muslim plans to build an Islamic centre near the Ground Zero site were scrapped.
A QUT spokesman said the university would seek an urgent meeting with Mr Stewart.