In the northern city of Mosul, Islamic State militants have been confiscating and, in some cases, burning books from libraries.
According to an Associated Press article by Sinah Salaheddin and Sameer N. Yacoub:
Islamic State militants invaded the Central Library of Mosul, loaded about 2,000 books – including children’s stories, poetry, philosophy and tomes on sports, health, culture and science – into six pickup trucks. They left only Islamic tests. They also broke into the University of Mosul’s library. They made a bonfire of the confiscated books on science and culture and burned them in front of students.
Could this happen here? There have, in fact, been cases of churches directing the burning of Harry Potter books in Charleston, South Carolina and Alamogordo, New Mexico. A church leader in Canton, North Carolina believed that all translations of the Bible other than the King James Version are heretical and planned to hold a book burning on Halloween of 2009. In 2011, protesters against the military government in Egypt burned the library in the Institute d’Egypt in Cairo. Sadly, book burnings have occurred thousands of times throughout history, the result being the loss of many historical records. In the case of the two recent American book burnings noted, the participants did not break in or steal publications belonging to the public, as in a library. Their actions were more symbolic gestures based on their faith.
People fear the unknown. In America, as each new group of people migrate to the country, many of those who are already here object. A few years ago some Americans feared that the Asians were going to take over the country. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution many books were destroyed or burned, considered contrary to Communist Party thought. Could these people take over our country? The Hispanic population has increased significantly in America in recent years. A relationship between the United States and Cuba is being reestablished. But, as recently as 2003 the Cuban Department of Interior destroyed thousands of documents on the U.S. Constitution, and Martin Luther King. The general population in this country has feared black people, Italians, people of Polish descent, and now Muslims.
The headline of the Associate Press article promotes that same fear. I wish that I as an individual, or my country could make everything right in the world. History indicates that we cannot. Our own constitution by way of the Bill of Rights protects us from unlawful search and seizure and provides freedom of speech. If I wish to burn a book that I own, I have that right, just as the church members who chose to burn Harry Potter books did. But I do not have the right to enter a public facility and confiscate and burn books owned by the general public. So, the short answer is no, it couldn’t happen here. As distasteful as the act of burning books may be to me, it is more the lack of basic human rights that I find disturbing.