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. Vendetta

    This guy is my hero.

    September 11, 2010 at 1:55 am |
  2. Americano




    September 11, 2010 at 1:27 am |
  3. justavet

    Haven't burned a bible in ten years??????????? Perhaps the good(?) propagandist professor should read this story.

    Christians in Gaza Fear for Their Lives as Muslims Burn Bibles and Destroy Crosses: Father Musalam additionally told The Jerusalem Post that the Muslim gunmen used rocket-propeled grenades (RPGs) to blow through the doors of the church and school, before burning Bibles and destroying every cross they could get their hands on.


    religion of peace huh?

    September 11, 2010 at 1:27 am |
  4. tab

    The author claims that Muslims would never burn a Bible. A 30 second search on google resulted in the following story:
    There is a number of other stories about Muslims burning Bibles. I suggest the author checks his facts before writing.

    September 11, 2010 at 1:23 am |
  5. Faisa Fatah

    """""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""Everyone's God-given human dignity must be respected, regardless of their religion, race, ethnic origin, gender, or social status (17:70). Because everyone is created by God Almighty, the Maker of All, humans must treat one another with full honour, respect and loving-kindness. """""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""

    And I wait for day im this world where we can just live in harmony....


    September 11, 2010 at 12:55 am |
    • freewoman

      There are no gods.. just fools who believe in them and their dogmas.

      September 11, 2010 at 7:49 am |
    • freewoman

      that will be when the no one believes in the supernatural myths and we leave the Age of Stupidity.

      September 11, 2010 at 7:51 am |
    • David Johnson

      Darn, I got a tear in my eye from that!

      Kumbaya, my Lord! Kumbaya

      Have you ever heard the expression: "Selling the dog's meat, While displaying the goat's head?"


      September 11, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
  6. Faisa Fatah

    I think I can answer this queation. My answer is no,no,no. I am a muslim who practices my religion devoutly and burning the bible or any other book of religious belief is totally forbidden and should not even be thought of. One of the commandment of islam is to believe and respect Gods books. Now would I really be doing that if I decide to go ahead and burn the bible ...uh no sorry.

    And there some people out there that say..." Well theyre burning the Quran...so why dont you burn the bible?" Although this event is being promoted and operated of a Church, it is NOT my right to judge an entire religion, motion, expression, or belief merely because a few Christians decided to do something that some might considerd inappropriate. The Quran praises VIRGIN MARY, JESUS, MOSES, AND ABRAHAM, more than it praises Muhammed peace be upon them all......so Im concluding that a true christrian wouldnt burn the book of which praises the very prophets that they truly believe in.

    “Allah does not forbid you respecting those who have not made war against you on account of [your] religion, and have not driven you forth from your homes, that you show them kindness (Arabic: birr) and deal with them justly; surely Allah loves the doers of justice. Allah only forbids you respecting those who made war upon you on account of [your] religion, and drove you forth from your homes and backed up [others] in your expulsion, that you make friends with them, and whoever makes friends with them, these are the unjust.” (Al-Mumtahanah 60:8-9"""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""

    this is the true islam.....and i promise that if you were to pick up the quran itself and give it a chance to read it....you might really get to know what Islam is.......IVE ALWAYS BEEN TOLD THAT IF YOU NEED ANSWERS GO TO THE SOURCES :)....

    From an 18 yr Muslim Girl living in Canada..Salam (translation: peace be unto everyone 🙂

    September 11, 2010 at 12:50 am |
    • 1Mohawk

      @ Faisa Fatah

      Would it be possible for you to show this: http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/CTVNewsAt11/20070331/native_manual_070331/
      to your imam and inquire how My Nation should approach this view of My Nation. Do you know Canada's (genocidal)history towards First Nations Peoples ? Residential Schools operated by the Christian Churches, stolen resources, land claims, etc. The only possible way to achieve peace among the Religions, is an expedient and Heartfelt return to the lands each originated from, it was GOD'S ORIGINAL PLAN.

      By all means, Your Welcome as well. Peace Be Upon You.

      September 11, 2010 at 6:16 am |
    • freewoman

      If you know of only one myth you will be doomed to be controlled by it.

      If you learn all the myths you will, in time discover the true meaning of the myth...

      It is a sick joke on humanity.

      The Single Strand

      September 11, 2010 at 7:48 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Faisa Fatah

      You said. "My answer is no,no,no. I am a muslim who practices my religion devoutly and burning the bible or any other book of religious belief is totally forbidden and should not even be thought of. One of the commandment of islam is to believe and respect Gods books. Now would I really be doing that if I decide to go ahead and burn the bible ...uh no sorry. "

      I hear your words, but I am troubled. Actions speak louder than words.

      If I read the Quran, I find passages that are disturbing to me. If I read the Christian bible, mostly I am amused. I like amused.

      If I go to a high mountain, even as Jesus did, and look at all the kingdoms of the earth, I find the followers of Islam are often up to mischief.

      I ask myself, is this a trend? Is this the sort of behavior I can expect, if Muslims move into my neighborhood?

      Will they cut their grass and take in their garbage cans?

      Will they be like Jehovah's Wittnesses and leave religious tracts every Saturday?

      Will they riot and come to cut my throat if I throw the tracts away?

      I do have a concern here. If a child is a brat at home, he will probably be a brat in America – oops! I mean at the store.


      September 11, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  7. William

    I would rather have a Bible burned than have its pages torn out and used a toilette paper as was done by the Muslim terrorists who had taken control of the Church of the Nativity several years back. Tell me again how Muslims respect
    the Bible? And, yes, I've also seen video several years ago on a nightly news cast (CNN, I do believe) where Muslims
    were shouting and raving in the streets, burning American flags and burning Bibles. Tell me again how Muslims respect
    other Religions?

    September 11, 2010 at 12:45 am |
    • freewoman

      I have more respect for the tree that was killed to have the killer myths printed on them, than I do the insane dogma that they contain.

      September 11, 2010 at 7:44 am |
  8. Old School

    This world is in a terrible state.
    Christianity being compared to things that are horrible, When was the last time a Christian burned your house down, or beheaded you? Anybody who see's the Westboro Church as "Christian" needs thier head examined. These people are NOT Christians.
    Why aren't the Muslims happy to stay in thier own country? Is is because some of them are not happy there? Could it be some of them want to see thier Sharia law incorporated here, Imam says we are compliant...does anybody care? Just keep looking the other way. A day will come when you find out YOU had your priorities screwed up. Take care of your family first, not that of another country, Ask any of the Muslims you know, if they deny the Quaran,,the part that is violent and see what they say.

    September 11, 2010 at 12:34 am |
    • Kate

      @Old School

      You do realize Islam is a religion, not a nationality, and there are American Muslims, right?

      Just wonderin'

      September 11, 2010 at 12:57 am |
  9. rachel

    The professor from Baylor is wrong. Bibles and crosses were burned in Gaza in 2007. Google it; the AP covered the story.

    September 11, 2010 at 12:33 am |
    • Christian van Gorder

      Thanks for the note Rachel. You are correct and I misspoke. It is indeed the case that Bibles were burned in Gaza in 2007. I should have remembered the advice that my mother gave me as a youth: "Never say never." There have also been reports in other "Muslim nations" such as Pakistan where these events have also been reported but never conclusively proven. No doubt, fringe elements have done – and will continue to do such things. Leaving aside the issue of editing (this quote was part of a larger statement not used), I will say that I was intending to focus my statement on the treatment of scriptures in Muslim contexts. One could argue that "book burning" (actually scroll burning) is first cited in Acts 19:19 while others have argued that "variant" editions of the Qur'an were burned by Caliph Uthman – but I was confining my remarks specifically to the post 9/11 setting. I would never suggest that Christians have not been frequently persecuted – and killed at times- for their faith in any number of Muslim contexts. I have met many such Christians. I worked for years for a Dutch organization "Open Doors" and their website has abundant proofs to underscore this fact. Further, I have written – and published – research on the persecution of Christians in various Muslim contexts. It is also true (as in the case of northern Nigeria) that Muslims have been killed by so-called Christians in recent years (and I have met Nigerian Muslims who confirm these killings). If you are interested in learning more about my specific views, as a Christian, on Muslim and Christian interactions may I suggest you look at my book: "No God But God: Paths to Muslim and Christian Discussions on the Nature of God" (Orbis, 2003) – sorry I can't send you a free copy (don't burn it, please, unless you are cold – and need to!). Thanks again and apologies for not remembering to cite the 2007 Gaza event. The command of Christ is to evangelize (Mat. 28) and Muslims are also commanded to do da'wah; but neither faith brings any honor to their communities by cheap sarcasm, judgmentalism, or shrill and uninformed half-truths and sweeping generalizations. God forgive me for any mistakes past or future and God help us all to promote respectul, thoughtful, and productive/proactive discussions that glorify His name! CVG

      September 11, 2010 at 8:42 pm |
  10. Lex

    his is a extremist group in the lies of kkk and the media has blown this out to porputions , this church has 30 members! How can you judge all of america by a group of 30 people, why in earth did obama address this dude it only gave him legtemcy

    September 11, 2010 at 12:25 am |
    • David Johnson

      @ Lex

      You said, "this church has 30 members! How can you judge all of america by a group of 30 people, "

      I think there are 50 members, so maybe we can judge...

      September 11, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
  11. amanda

    As a christian, i find the pastor in florida to be absolutely ludicris. What a black eye he has given GOD and the christian community. Just like fred phelps in topeka, here is a pastor getting a really bad idea and running w it. I realize this ordeal has evoked a great deal of anger and resentment, as if there wasnt enough already in our world, today. Im not a believer in the muslim ways but to be so ludicris as this pastor has been, makes me wonder who the pastor goes to for christian counceling.. What does his congregation believe? I have never attended or heard a service where such an appauling idea was even spoken. He has done a great disservice for the LORD GOD, And put the lives of americans at stake. The only positive is it has many christians discussing many serious topics amongst one another and praying. As far as whether a muslim would burn a christian bible, im sure there are those who have and will. There is always a wolf in sheeps clothing, no matter the religon or group.

    September 11, 2010 at 12:24 am |
    • David Johnson


      You said, "What a black eye he has given GOD and the christian community."

      It goes to show you amanda, there is some good that comes out of everything that happens. Amen!

      September 11, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  12. 1Mohawk


    Firstly, you should know, these conditions we live under are unending. History clearly depicts the arrival of the Viking (who wasn't lost) who witnessed our lack of need for weapons of war. The so-called "warring amongst the Native Nations" is an out right lie (propaganda) considering what Christopher Columbus wrote down in his ship logs.

    It wasn't until after we welcomed them, healed their sick, and raised their dead they threw off the ships, only to be rewarded by dumping the dungeon-dwellers and peasants from the fields on us in the beginning. Why history doesn't tell the truth is obvious to us. It wasn't until much later they discovered how bountiful and beautiful God's country really was, thus the planting of the Cross in Virgina Beach led to the Christian concept of America.

    To truly know the heart of any peoples, one needs to understand their language, and given this reality how could the world ever know our hearts and minds when no one, who claims to be human, in the world can speak our language. I find it fascinating when people open their hearts and minds to true knowledge, yet at the same time, disappointing as well given the propaganda that exists concerning My People.

    By the way, My Nation started the First Peace Treaty of the World, that committed the foreigners to live a Peaceful existence, something we both witnessed as failures on the part of those that want to be called Americans/ Canadians. Ironically, our form of Government (which we lived under) was the model by which the United Nations exists, not to mention the American system of togetherness. It appears the world needs our lessons again of how to be here in God's Country.

    September 11, 2010 at 12:03 am |
    • Fast Eddie


      Nice hair. I like how you don't part it down the middle like so many other people. My tribe is not different from yours, just bigger.
      Language is used for lies and rarely works well in terms of communication. Thank you for posting in English.

      September 11, 2010 at 12:40 am |
  13. Monty

    hey reality why aren' t you a good little boy and go play in traffic... all you do every single day of your misserable life is come onto the religion blog and try and throw your crap all over and try and cover us with your brown crap when it isn't going to work all you are doing is waisting everybodies time. I don't even read what you write anymore because you already owe me all the time i have spent reading your post back of my life. I feel truely feel sorry for you if you really believe what you say on these forums what is the reason you are still alive? what is the point of living if you truely believe all the crap you say

    September 11, 2010 at 12:01 am |
    • Reality

      Monty, Monty, Monty,

      You might want to look at a sunrise and/or a sunset someday to see why most of us enjoy life without the need of angels, gods and f-airy tales.

      September 13, 2010 at 12:34 am |
  14. JAMES

    Kate its funny that you talk about what our country was founded on and the Constitution while the current administration stomps all over it. But you dismiss Christianity as evil. Our founding fathers stated many many times that for people to handle the freedoms they wanted to provide us through our founding documents we would need to remember our rights were given to us from God. The farther we stray away from Him (as evident with the fact we kill 4000 plus babies a day and think we are entitled to everything for free in this country) the closer we move to losing our freedoms all together I love my country and I do know the history of it (the real history not the revised liberal version) and history has proven my case over and over again I guess its true what the say the only thing most learn from history is that we don't learn anything from history
    This country contrary to what liberals want to teach was founded on Christianity our founding Fathers use to pray over decisions they made. Now then if, and I say if because you are also writing on this blog and seem to think others writing on here do not fight for our country, if you are one of our fine soldiers I thank you and pray for you but I do believe you are very lost and I hope you somehow find happiness God is real and he Loves Us ALL

    September 10, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
  15. Reality

    For new members only:

    Actually, it is the Muslims who should burn their copies of the koran for the 1400 year old con job that is pulled on them daily by the imams and ayatollahs. Christians should burn their copies of the NT for the 2000 year old con job that has been perpetuated on them by popes, bishops, priests, ministers and evangelicals. And Jews should burn their copies of the OT/Torah for the 6000 year old con job pulled on them by their past and current rabbis.

    September 10, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
    • tagnga

      @ Reality;
      God is real, not imaginary. Religion is from man and man – not- God, added the hatred and corruption to it, so why are you so obsessed and redundant, with your raging atheism posts?

      September 11, 2010 at 10:12 am |
  16. Kenneth M. Fisher

    Moslems used the Bible for toilet paper when they temporaritly laid seige on Catholic Basilica in Rome, I think it was actually St. Peters!

    Here are direct quotes from the Quran that don't depict a religion of Peace. There is also passages that tell them to lie in order to further Islam. Wake up America!

    Qur’an:9:5 “Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war.”
    Qur’an:9:112 “The Believers fight in Allah’s Cause, they slay and are slain, kill and are killed.”
    Qur’an:9:29 “Fight those who do not believe until they all surrender, paying the protective tax in submission.”
    Ishaq:325 “Muslims, fight in Allah’s Cause. Stand firm and you will prosper. Help the Prophet, obey him, give him your allegiance, and your religion will be victorious.”
    Qur’an:8:39 “Fight them until all opposition ends and all submit to Allah.”
    Qur’an:8:39 “So fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief [non-Muslims]) and all submit to the religion of Allah alone (in the whole world).”

    This is just a sampling, there are more.

    September 10, 2010 at 11:35 pm |
  17. 1Mohawk

    muhammed riza falfe

    If what you're saying is true regarding the koran's content of events, including creation of the Universe, etc. Would it be at all possible to inform me where in the koran My Peoples are mentioned and our purpose ? I'm an ORIGINAL inhabitant here in North America, which unbeknown st to you is still ONE COUNTRY for MY PEOPLE, based on Treaty Guarantees, and Our Prophecy, let us prepare for your arrival and like those before you, forced imposition of foreign cultures and religious ideologies which can NEVER address the existence of My People.

    I pray this communication doesn't portray myself as a sympathizer or terrorist like OBAMA would have you believe.

    Please view this: http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/CTVNewsAt11/20070331/native_manual_070331/

    Peace to your Gods and yourselves.

    September 10, 2010 at 11:18 pm |
  18. Donna

    I am not saying that burning the quran is the right thing and do not support the decision to even consider it but, the answer to this article is yes, they would consider burning our Bible. An article was published on June 17, 2007 by Kimberly West ("Christians in Gaza Fear for Their Lives as Muslims Burn Bibles and Destroy Crosses")

    September 10, 2010 at 11:14 pm |
    • freewoman

      I have never heard of a god killing anyone for destroying his dogma book..

      People kill people, not the gods...

      September 11, 2010 at 7:27 am |
  19. loved.....just saying

    This entire article is warped. You can't even read it without thinking that the writter was very missenformed. In the past nine years Muslims have burned numorous Christian churches, that by the way most definetly had a Bible in it, as well as people. They burn the Bible all the time! Its what they are taught in their temples. They can come into our country and not be excepted and believe there faith, but I guarentee you that if a Christian were to go to their country and start a church and so on they would get burned at the stake! They're way to many mistakes in this article to address them all but I will tell you one in the first quote. Burning the quron is completly, astronomically different then burning Jesus! Burning Jesus is like burning Allah. Jesus is God! The trinity....ring a bell. Burning the quron is like burning the Bible.

    September 10, 2010 at 10:51 pm |
    • Talking_It_Over

      Stay in school, dear... with Martha, Jennifer, LeAnne, etc. Actually, you should CHANGE schools quickly - the current one has failed you horribly.

      September 10, 2010 at 11:00 pm |
  20. getafix

    Can a true Christian burn the Holy Quran?
    Find out the answer in this analysis & also participate in the poll at:


    May the Almighty guide all of us in the right path.

    September 10, 2010 at 10:42 pm |
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About this blog

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.