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Letter to Ms. Patty Smith at Amazon

Reader comment on item: Amazon.com's Koran Desecration Problem

Submitted by Mark E. Roberts (United States), May 21, 2005 at 00:02

Dear Ms. Smith,

I appreciate your desire to satisfy customers, but I am deeply concerned--and my sense of justice is alarmed--by the overreaction of Amazon to the complaint of Azza Basarudin and the Muslim Public Affairs Council that her receipt of a used Koran with a handwritten offensive message in it requires Amazon to take the extraordinary steps it has taken.

Please do not go there, unless . . . you are willing to take exactly the same steps when a devout, even horridly "right-wing" Christian complains about receiving a used Bible or religious book with handwriting in it that deeply offends the purchaser; and ditto for an offended atheist, Buddhist, vegetarian, or raw-meat-eating African or Manhattanite, etc.

I too am a frequent Amazon.com customer, and I buy more used books than new. My only complaint about the amazing book-buying and -selling services of Amazon.com is that this response to the Basarudin-MPAC is, well, pusillanimous. It will begat further, even more ridiculous, demands; and these will lead, if Amazon responds similarly in the future, to truly unjust restrictions on free trade and free speech. Please do not walk any further down this path.

Our society cannot function when the standard of wrong is so finely tuned--and so lowered--that anyone's offense at another's written or oral expression requires the extraordinary response you with Amazon have made in this matter. Again, I commend your company's commitment to satisfying customers, but I know that you have gone too far, way too far, in this matter.

No doubt you have already received and read Daniel Pipes' comment on this incident; but just in case you haven't, I paste it below. I agree with him completely.

With all good wishes for you and for Amazon and its network of used-book suppliers,

Sincerely,

Mark E. Roberts, Ph.D. (Vanderbilt)
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