Monday, September 13, 2010


SYDNEY (AFP) - An Australian lawyer tore pages from the Koran and the Bible and smoked them on YouTube, days after a US pastor’s threat to burn Islam’s holy book triggered deadly protests and global condemnation. In a 12-minute clip entitled “Bible or Koran - which burns best?” Alex Stewart, who belongs to an atheist group, holds up the Christian and Muslim holy books before tearing out pages and smoking them. At one point he lights what looks like a joint rolled from a page from the Bible, leans back after inhaling heavily and says “Holy”. Stewart appeared in the video wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words 'I'm an atheist, Thank God' . The video, which has been deleted, was posted on YouTube over the weekend, coinciding with the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Stewart’s employer, the Queensland University of Technology, said the research lawyer is on leave following a meeting on Monday. “The university is obviously extremely, extremely unhappy and disappointed that this sort of incident should occur,” vice-chancellor Peter Coaldrake told reporters.

Stewart’s video, in which he describes the Bible and Koran as “just books”, is deeply hurtful to Muslims, said Sheik Muhammad Wahid, president of the Islamic Association of Australia. “There is no need for this kind of thing, just to create disunity and disharmony among people living in Australia,” Wahid told Australian news agency AAP. In comments to Brisbane’s Courier Mail, Stewart , an assistant organiser with a group called Brisbane Atheists, defended his right to freedom of speech. “The video was a joke video, of course,” he told the paper, adding that he was smoking grass clippings rather than marijuana.

Stewart - who belongs to an atheist group from Australia - as he smokes part of a page from the Koran, he ponders: “I wonder what Mohammed would have thought about this. Is this profanity, is it blasphemy? Does it really matter?” ... “basic freedoms, such as freedom of speech, should not be threatened simply because someone might be offended,” he said. To believe in God and respect the sacred, or not do it, is not just a matter of opinion, but a deep personal experience.

In the history of humanity there is a long standing debate on theism vs. atheism. Better thinkers than you or I have pondered this issue reaching different conclusions. From this it seems that there is sufficient logic in support of the spiritual reality, at least as much as there is in support of atheism. Beyond logic lies the realm of spiritual experience. ... And we can proceed to experience ourselves. If you like the experiences you get from your practice, continue the practice, as there is no other proven method by which one can get such experience. Furthermore, the method prescribed by the saints for attaining spiritual experience involves becoming an ideal person, whose actions (karma) are integrated with knowledge (jñana), making one fit for a balanced emotional life (bhakti). ... Spiritual life is about being an ideal person. It is a daunting task but there is no greater challenge. Strive for it by any means.

Śrīla Bhakti Vedanta Tripurari Mahārāja :
“Difficulties on the Path: In the Hands of God”
“Q & A with Swami B. V. Tripurari”
Śrī Caitanya Sanga - Vol. II, N° 38 – November 2, 2000.

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