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September 10th, 2010
12:12 PM ET

Would a Muslim burn the Bible?

If you’re trying to understand what burning a Quran would look like to a Muslim, consider this:

“For Christians, Jesus is the word of God. For Muslims, the Quran is the word of God. Imagine someone burning Jesus,” says Emad El-Din Shahin, a religion professor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

Talk about the Quran has dominated the news ever since a Florida pastor announced that he would burn copies of Islam’s holiest book on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The pastor has since announced that he has called off the event, then later said it is still being contemplated. But his plan has already evoked some of the vilest acts of religious persecution in Western history, religious scholars say.

To burn a Quran is not just offensive; it is the equivalent of “destroying a people’s soul,” one Muslim scholar says.

The Quran is so sacred that many Muslims will not touch it without washing their hands, face and feet, says Caner Dagli, a religious professor at the College of Holy Cross in Massachusetts.

“Muslims always keep the Quran
in a high place. No book is ever placed on top of it. It is never placed on the ground,” Dagli says. “When a Muslim picks up the Quran, he or she
typically kiss it and then touch it to their forehead, and do the same
when they are about to put it down.”

The Quran teaches Muslims to respect the sacred books of Christians and Jews as well, says Chris van Gorder, a religion professor at Baylor University in Texas.

“To burn a holy Quran for a Muslim is to throw down a gauntlet,” he says. “Those who deface any holy book, including the Bible, in many Muslim countries today, will be executed.

“How many Bibles have been burned in the Muslim world in the last nine years? None.”

Muslims, along with Jews and Christians are known by some as “people of the book.” Each religion descends from the same branch. The prophet Abraham is their patriarch.

The Quran considers both Jesus and Moses great prophets. It also praises Mary, the mother of Jesus, says Shahin, the Notre Dame professor.

“Moses and Jesus are mentioned more than the Prophet Muhammad in the Quran,” Shahin says.
The Quran doesn’t just preach religious tolerance; the Prophet Muhammad demonstrated it in his life, Shahin says.

The prophet would meet Christian delegations in his mosque.

“He would allow them to perform Christian prayers in the mosque,” Shahin says.

Muslims believe the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in a series of revelations by the archangel Gabriel. They say the prophet journeyed to a mountain cave where, after falling into a trance, the angel came to him and ordered him to “Proclaim!”

The Florida pastor, however, says he is compelled by his own faith to something else –burn.
To do so, though, would replay some of the most wretched moments in religious history, says Ivan Strenski, a religious studies professor at the University of California, Riverside.

The Florida pastor who has threatened to burn the Quran has unwittingly evoked some of the worst moments in Western history, Strenski says.

When a group of people conquered another, they often sought to destroy their victims’ sacred books. The Spanish conquistadors and Christian missionaries, for example, destroyed the sacred books of the Mayans; American slaveholders tried to destroy the African religion of slaves.

Desecrating a people’s sacred book is like “destroying their soul; you destroy their sense of who they are,” Strenski says.

“It’s about controlling memory,” Strenski says. “You can oppress people. You can beat them down, but if they can retain some kind of memory of who they were before you beat them down, they can pass that on and when the time is right rise up again.

The notion of burning a Quran was so offensive to one religious scholar that he drew on his own personal history.

Van Gorder, the religion professor at Baylor University, says that Nazis not only murdered millions of Jews. They also burned Torahs.

“As a German-American,” he says, “I rue that the day of burning books has come to my own ‘civilization.’ "

- CNN Writer

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • 9/11 • Bible • Books • Interfaith issues • Islam • Persecution • Quran

soundoff (376 Responses)
  1. Logic

    They burn Christian literature every day in Saudi.... If you're caught with any Christian items, they're confiscated and burned!! It's time for Christians to wake up or disappear into oblivion, like the Christians of Arabia and the Greater Middle East!!!

    September 10, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
  2. Lester

    The U.S. military has burned bibles of soldiers so how can they now say we can't burn Qurans. I will not do it because I think its disrepectful but the preacher in Florida has the right to do so. Where's the ACLU now? They get involved any other time but now they want to be quiet? What a joke that organization is. Why the outrage at Quran burning when they muslims have repeatedly burned bibles, beheaded Christians and Jews, and even bombed churches. Why should we continually take it and mount no response. Where is the freakin media when these injustices are perpetrated against my faith. Where was the outrage when South Park portrayed Jesus in a boxing match with Satan. Oh yeah, you all know Christians can be reasoned with whereas radical Islam (which is far more prevelant...then the media wants to admit) is not willing to reason. That's why your scared....not that a book may be burnt but that these people who adhere to its hateful teachings can't control themselves and will act out what they learned in their book....the Quran.

    September 10, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
  3. Shaun Sells

    This took two seconds of research on google, question answered – yes muslims would burn Bibles.

    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/285123/christians_in_gaza_fear_for_their_lives.html

    and notice we didn't threaten to kill them for it.

    September 10, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
    • Jibril

      Behead this guy for providing facts against islam

      September 10, 2010 at 9:21 pm |
  4. Jon

    old article from 2007.... about Muslims burning Bibles

    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/285123/christians_in_gaza_fear_for_their_lives.html?cat=9

    September 10, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
  5. Nonimus

    "The Florida pastor who has threatened to burn the Quran has unwittingly evoked some of the worst moments in Western history, Strenski says."
    This pastor, if that is the correct term, has received entirely too much attention. Although he may have "evoked" the worst moments, this is not an organized government sponsored action. This is some guy in south Florida pulling some stupid stunt and biting off way more attention than he can handle.

    And, all the high level people making comments only gives it more credibility than it is due.

    September 10, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
    • freewoman

      Well, they can now take those Korans and place them in the church's restrooms and use them there.
      At lease they can have some recycle benefit's before being put where they really belong.

      September 11, 2010 at 6:49 am |
  6. cesar

    Why is so hard to understand that "muslims" aren't the terrorist, Al Qaeda is... it's so pathetic that you have to belittle someones faith because of it followers. Burning the Quran is one of the most disgusting thing I have ever heard; that's just American Ignorance at it best. You! have no right to tell me what I should worship or where I should build a mosque. I bet, the majority of people who are anti-muslim havent even interacted with a muslim person. Stupid People

    Oh! and I am not a Muslim...

    September 10, 2010 at 4:07 pm |
  7. David Johnson

    You can google "Have Christian Bibles been burned by Muslims"

    It is not an empty set.

    I sure hope we aren't going to be really sorry in 10 years. Or 5, Or next week.

    September 10, 2010 at 4:06 pm |
    • Kate

      @David Johnson

      I kicked open my feedreader this morning and already I was sorry – does that count?

      Just regrettin'

      September 10, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
  8. SomeTruth

    Kristen and lessboring:

    It is painfully obvious that many who come here are not "educated people of faith" - they believe without ever having examined the facts.

    Some would say, "It doesn't get any more boring than the Bible and Koran crap that is trotted out day after day." Would you like that?

    If you don't like what @Reality posts, argue the facts or ignore them and remain ignorant.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:56 pm |
  9. Chris

    Yes a Muslim would burn the Bible if they had their way. The religion of Islam does not tolerate any other religion (Thus why Jews and muslims cant get along), if it was up to them the whole world would be living in the 5th Century with Islamic Rules.

    So for you to ask the question would a Muslim burn the bilble is ridiculous. In America it is MY right as a Citizen to burn what I want, draft card, flags, toast, leaves, and the Quran.

    These are the same people that for the longest time have burned our flag or effigy's to our past & current President. Now that an American is fed up and is going to burn something sacred to a Muslim everyone is having a fit. Maybe the question should be Why havent we done this sooner?

    A Proud American Citizen who is Mad as Hell and isnt going to take it anymore!

    September 10, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
    • jawn lawk

      "yes A muslim would burn a bible if THEY had THEIR way" off to a bad start

      September 10, 2010 at 3:56 pm |
    • TammyB

      So what you are saying is that we become just like those Muslims that burn effigies, flags, etc.? Maybe if they make us really mad, we can bomb their countries...oh wait! We've already done that.

      September 10, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
    • Shaun Sells

      TammyB –

      we are not becoming like them – the US gov't is not burning anything. Private citizens are. The gov'ts of Muslim nations do burn things, and by the way the don't just burn things, they kill people who disagree with them. Isn't it weird that burning a book knocked the threat to stone a woman for adultery out of the top of the headlines...

      http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ixvYN7oeF8ehN9beAHZ4G_YlfKeA

      September 10, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
  10. Steve

    Muslims have burned the Bible:
    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/285123/christians_in_gaza_fear_for_their_lives.html?cat=9
    Christians in Gaza Fear for Their Lives as Muslims Burn Bibles and Destroy Crosses, June 2007

    So, it has happened at least once and reported. It probably has happen more, but is not reported. No, Christian riots that I could find.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
    • adams

      i liked your comment until it seemed to excuse Christians from our bad behavior.

      September 10, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
  11. Ferdinand of Castille

    Agreed BOB! The so called "left" in the west are in my view individuals who think that the world is just same and the qoran just like the Bible is talking about God's love to mankind. The left is also a camp of Islamoignorants who have never bothered to ask themselves whether they would get permission in islamic countries to set up a Christian prayer center leave alone a church. It is well known that setting up a church in Saudi Arabia is impossible. The west needs to enact CULTURAL RECIPROCATION STATUTES which would restrict Muslims from countries that do not reciprocate in matters of culture and religion from enjoying similar rights in America and Europe. The qoran is a mere fallacy which for instance "quotes" Jesus 600 years after he lived!!! How is this possible? Common sense guys!

    September 10, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
  12. adams

    way to be general rick (lazy thinking or lazy articulating?)

    September 10, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
  13. Rick McDaniel

    No. They would simply kill the Christian.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
  14. Reality

    In summary:

    From historical analyses and common sense, the koran nor the bible are the words of god so burning both or either one is like burning, composting or flushing a book about santa clause. And throw in using as toilet paper as another disposal method.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
    • lessboringreality

      shorter doesnt mean less boring

      September 10, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
    • TammyB

      @ lessboringreality.....LOL! :}

      September 10, 2010 at 3:40 pm |
    • moreboring

      lessboringreality

      "shorter doesnt mean less boring"

      Yep, PTL, for example, is no less boring than the extended version.

      September 10, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
    • onlyslightlyessboringthanmoreboring

      lol- good point... i guess?

      September 10, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
  15. lessboringreality

    yeah reality- and you're a boring writer.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
  16. Bob

    So if the president and white house has condemned the act of burning the Quran, the secretary of state has made public comments on it, the media and military are reporting on the riots in other nations caused by this and fear for the lives of US Citizens. Doesn’t that mean that terrorism has worked its magic? The leader of the US army, white house and media are pleading for a person to forgo a first amendment right for fear of the consequences from radical Muslims. That is exactly what terrorism is, they strip away personal freedoms and replace them with fear. This is a sad day, a first amendment right has been beaten by fear of what might happen when radical Muslims respond. If the Muslim religion is so peaceful why are there riots and groups burning US flags and personal threats to bomb this guys "church"? I don’t agree with what he is doing but I agree less that it’s a protected right and the entire world is scarred if he exercises it.

    If he (the pastor) were smart, what this guy would do is say: I never intended to burn the Quran, I just wanted to make a point on where the Government stands on our rights, where the Muslim religion stands on terrorism, where the media stands on fair reporting (note that the bible burning church in NC last year that got zero media coverage) and so on. If he were smart, he would turn this all around and draw a very visible line in the sand for everyone to see.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
    • TammyB

      You make a good point about the terrorist thing...we cannot always bow down to what they might get mad at. However, we don't really have to incite anyone either, right? What the "pastor" did was to shoot a spitball at Muslims by burning their holy book. I know that the act itself is allowed in this country, however, if you play the bully you might just get smacked.

      September 10, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
    • Jibril

      Tammy. what if the local Imam is offended by your miniskirt – would you wear a burka ?

      September 10, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
    • TammyB

      @ Jibril....Nope, I wouildn't because I live in America. But then again, I wouldn't go into his Church/mosque, whatever, and demand that women take off their burqas or hijabs either. Tolerance my friend...understanding that different religions do things differently. Not talking about the violent things, just the clothing thing. I just don't believe in poking a stick at a snake when I can walk around it.

      September 10, 2010 at 9:53 pm |
  17. Ferdinand of Castille

    Sorry, i meant CONFLICTORY DISPOSISTION and not VIOLENT DISPOSITION.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:23 pm |
  18. Lester

    How many Christians are persecuted around the world and little goes said about it by the mainstream media? Its like the "left" in our country is only against the Christian religion but they consistently fight for the rights of Islam. They try to paint all religions as being the same to fit their agenda when they clearly are not. Notice how even the above article tries to paint a picture of certain commonailities just because Mary and Jesus are mentioned in the Quran. However, they fail to mention that it paints a completely different picture of Christ in the Quran than in the Bible. Its hard to have sympathy for a book which condemns the "nonbeliever" and says that believers should not take Christians and Jews for friends. It also teaches that one can lie as long as the ends justify the means. Another CNN article talks about a church in Baghdad. How many churches are in Badhdad? Not many. By last count two and honestly I think I'm being generous but how many mosques and prayer centers are in New York. Many. Christians and Jews have been beaten, killed by beheadings, and their churches bombed repeatedly and I'm suppose to feel sorry about the burning of a hate driven book. I don't. Why put all the pressure on the pastor not to burn this book alone. Why not put pressure on the radicals to respect his freedom? The media knows that radical Islam is a lot more widely accepted in the middle east than they want to let on. Even when voting is allowed many of these religious nut jobs are voted into office by an adoring public all to familiar with their views. Here...the problems for the majority of muslims pale in comparisons with the problems Christians face each and every day in the Middle East and around the world.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:22 pm |
    • TammyB

      Most religions condemn the "unbeliever"....that's how they draw people in, by saying you'll go to he-ll if you don't believe. Most religions think all atheists are going to burn because they deny any type of God, they think all other religions that aren't their religion must be converted to their own "true" religion or all those people will be burning if they don't. What's the difference again?

      September 10, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
    • Lester

      The difference is that God is the judge and he condemns them himself after that person dies and that the Quran okays the believer to practice a form of vigilanty justice. If you don't want to practice Christianity that's fine and you don't have to worry about anyone from my church beheading you or bombing you as a non believer. You don't have to worry about that because the God of the Bible restricts his people by saying, "love your neighbor as yourself". You are lucky you were born in America or a Christian culture and not an intolerant islamic society for societies are a reflection of its dominant religions. If you are female then you can virtually count on "mutilation" as a religious injunction. If homosexual....then you could be killed outright. If Jew or Christian...stoned or beheaded. Chances are that if you live down the street from the local Baptist, Adventist, Holiness, or Methodist church...all Christian denominations...you don't have to worry about any of that.

      September 10, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
    • Bob

      @ TammyB. The difference in the Christian religion is that a person can only be saved by Grace, not by acts or deeds. All other religions budism, muslim, etc your afterlife is based on acts or deeds you do while living. Muslim religions offer virgins for those who die for Allah etc, The Christian religion relies only on the grace from god and his forgivness.

      September 10, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
    • Kate

      @Bob

      While the virgins thing isn't actually true, you're right about deeds – but let me ask you this: Which do you think leads to more good actions, the idea that everything you do, good or bad, will be weighted on you in the hereafter, or the idea that you can go to see a priest once a week, say you're sorry, and you're all done even if you go out and do those bad things all over again, rinse, repeat?

      Just wonderin'

      September 10, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
  19. Ferdinand of Castille

    As a Chrisitian, i would ignore someone going public burning the Bible as simply a mad person because he would be burning only a few Bibles among millions of copies in circulation. I am pretty sure that no Christians would take to the streets and burn the Saudi flag say. But because of the VIOLENT DISPOSITION of muslims, they find the threat to burn the qoran as a perfect reason for a Jihad they crave for. The VIOLENT DISPOSITION is a reflection of the kind of mindset which one develops after reading the qoran and believe it to be the word of god. This consequential islamic mindset which is a danger to world peace is therefore a very convincing reason for burning all copies of the qouran circulating in this planet. Whether the qoran is burnt or not, the third world war will have something to do with Islam.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
    • Lester

      Your absolutely right. Never thought of it that way. That book does lead to a violent nature and I think radical islam is a lot more mainstream in the Middle East than the media would like to let on. They (the left) in our country like to try and paint all religions as being the same but they are not.

      September 10, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
    • wyson.

      lol- i agree ferdinand. not just because there are a lot of Bibles, but because Jesus was crucified, early Christians were fed to lions, etc. so we've dealt with hard stuff before. also, if you memorize it, live it and teach it, you know, well, have fun burning it.

      September 10, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
  20. Kristen

    Hey Reality: What part of "Belief Blog" don't you get? Every day you come on here selling your version of religion which is humanism or secularism or atheism. Stop taking up valuable space with your BS. Educated people of faith already know that Abraham is the father of all three major monotheistic religions and that there are those that doubt his existence along with the divinity of Christ and the holiness of the Prophet. Your insistence on trotting out the same crap day after day is BORING. Try to actually say something to the point of the articles you are decrying. And may God have mercy on your soul.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.