2. Flags in Flames in a Burner’s Eyes
Muslim immigrants have been lambasted for burning Israeli flags in Berlin to protest on Jerusalem. Mr. Heiko Maas, Minister of Justice of Germany, denounces their burning as a display of “anti-Semitism”. Ms. Ines Pohl, Chief Editor of the Deutsche Welle, tells immigrants to “abide by” the “fundamental value” that burning any national flag is “unacceptable”. Meanwhile, Israel has called for a change of the German law to prohibit such burning. Although I look forward to an Israel, with liberty and justice for both Jews and Arabs, having the entire Jerusalem as its capital, I find it difficult to agree with the logic behind such criticisms.
Firstly, those Israeli flag burners were not necessarily aimed at the Jewish community because a national flag represents a state rather than a people. Consequently, burning an Israeli flag is more likely to denote political furor over the state of Israel than make an outcry of racism. In fact, those Muslim burners are not powerful Nazis but the main targets of today’s neo-Nazism. Also, they are not the only ones to have done the burning. For example, ultra-orthodox Jewish groups repeatedly burn Israeli flags to protest their own country. Would Mr. Maas also accuse those Jewish protesters of anti-Semitism?
I have never burned an Israeli flag but burned the flag of communist China, which I find symbolizes the brutal crackdowns in my homeland, including restrictions on freedom of speech and religion, torture of lawyers and activists, and massacres in Shadian and Beijing. While Ms. Pohl cites the necessity to protect minorities and strongly disapproves of burning the flag of any country, I see no connection between respect for the Chinese flag and protection of the Chinese people to whom grave persecution under this flag has been happening. On the contrary, defense of such a flag can be more excruciating to the victims than its burning.
The fact that Israel unlike China is a democracy and the home of a sympathizable people makes burning of its flag more controversial. The angry German responses are as comprehensible as the Muslim uproar incited by Mr. Terry Jones’s Quran burning. Being pro-Israel and Muslim myself, however, I support the rights to voice dissenting views of Israel and of Islam, even in the unpleasant way of burning. A ban on burning will suppress criticism. If this ban becomes general, critics will be easily punished for blasphemy and a free society will stop being free.
In addition, by asking the burners to conform to the country’s norms, the German left have observed the right-wing norm of treating those Muslim immigrants, who are probably permanent residents or citizens, as outsiders. They are unprepared to hear and share those immigrants’ memories and concerns of what Ms. Pohl calls “a nation of immigrants”. When it comes to the alt-right, however, liberals seldom question on their assimilation but accept them as full members of the German society despite their xenophobic and sometimes anti-Semitic speeches. Liberals’ double standards reveal their own failure to bridge the gap between the majority and the Muslim minority of Germany.
Our Chinese flag burning video ends with the caption “It won’t be long before we the people raise our own flags of liberty and justice over the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Like the American flag, our new flags are not to be enshrined in a temple but to be burned in the streets. Flags in flames without sparking moral outrage or raising racial questions will prove us as brave people with freedom that is true and strong.