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. JT

    Where r these dummies been that r stupid enough 2 say Islam is peacefull? (R they smarter than a 5th grader?) They not only burn the bibles (and lots of proof around the world) but they burn the Church buildings also. By the way, why would our President spend time talking about one small congregations Pastor instead of asking the Muslin leaders why we cannot build a Church in their countries?

    September 11, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
  2. BlackJack

    Try to take bible in Saudi Arabia. Customs officer will confiscate it and trash it.

    September 11, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
  3. Rev. Rick Baker

    Did you miss this Bible burning by the muslims?

    AP: Christians in Gaza Fear for Their Lives as Muslims Burn Bibles and Destroy Crosse

    Published June 18, 2007 by: Kimberly West

    "After defeating their rivals in Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, Muslim extremists are focusing their attacks on Christians in Gaza City. Christians in Gaza City have issued an appeal to the international community and a plea for protection against the increased attacks by Muslim extremists.

    "Father Manuel Musallem, head of Gaza's Latin church, told the AP that Muslims have ransacked, burned and looted a school and convent that are part of the Gaza Strip's small Romany Catholic community. He told the AP that crosses were broken, damage was done to a statue of Jesus, and at the Rosary Sister School and nearby convent, and bibles were burned.

    "Gunmen used the roof of the school during the fighting, and the convent was "desecrated," Mussalem told the AP."

    September 11, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
  4. T

    Who would you rather have living here the muslims who want death to america or illegal immigrants I choose the immigrants

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

      geezzzz is that a choice we have.. can't we just not have neither?

      I welcome LEGAL immigration.
      I welcome non violent myth believers.

      A choice between 2 illegal and violent options is not a choice we should be offered.

      I chose option 3... neither!

      September 11, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
  5. Dread Cthulhu

    I would point out that Muslims do and have burned bibles...


    September 11, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
  6. Chris

    Islam is not a religion, it is an politico-ideological cult.
    Stating as fact that burning a book is equivalent to blowing up human beings is moral relativity at its very worst.
    Shame on the media, politicians, and other so-called 'americans' who promote this tripe.

    September 11, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
  7. Get Real

    Yes Muslims may reverence written words...it’s the Christian and Jewish BUILDINGS and INNOCENT WOMEN, CHILDREN, and MEN, they seem to have a problem with! As for the Critics of the Koran burning–

    What Part of "Freedom of Speech" do they NOT UNDERSTAND?

    Why is it OK for the US Military to Burn Bibles in Afghanistan?

    Would these same critics oppose burning Hitler’s Mein Kampf in 1938 so as to not hurt Nazis’ feelings?

    The Koran supports: the murder of Jews & Christians; death for those who leave Islam; and the subjugation of Women & the World ! FAR WORSE THAN Mein Kampf !!!

    What's the difference between Islam and Christianity? A true believer in Christ lives their life like Jesus Christ or at least Mother Theresa. A true believer in Mohamad straps on a bomb and murders innocents! Just keep believing the two are morally equivalent and soon you will be bowing down to Mecca three times a day!

    September 11, 2010 at 11:39 am |
    • freewoman

      to the muslims.. attacking those towers was an act of free speech and a religious ritual.

      September 11, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
  8. whiskey_tango_foxtrot

    "Inflaming an already heated debate, the imam behind the proposed Ground Zero Mosque claimed in a CNN interview Wednesday that moving the site of his project would be a victory for "the radicals." Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's statement was steeped in irony, though, as the dangerous narrative he predicts would result from moving the mosque – that "Islam is under attack" from the U.S. – is precisely the story line he has put forth himself multiple times since Sept. 11, 2001."


    September 11, 2010 at 11:14 am |
  9. whiskey_tango_foxtrot

    Also in 2002, Islamic terrorists holed up in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity and used the Bible as toilet paper.

    September 11, 2010 at 11:08 am |
  10. whiskey_tango_foxtrot

    No Bible's have been burned by Muslims in the last 9 years? More lies.

    # 2005: Saudi Arabia Desecrates Hundreds of Bibles Annually 1

    # 2006: Muslim Students Urinate, Spit On Then Burn Bible 2

    # 2007: Christians in Gaza Fear for Their Lives as Muslims Burn Bibles and Destroy Crosses 3

    # 2008: Muslims burn Bible in Pakistan 4


    September 11, 2010 at 11:03 am |
  11. Barter



    I think you need to read that bible at least once
    The christ did till his believers to kill the non believers.

    And the christ did say non believers will go to hell for not believing.
    there is no tolerance in any mythic dogma book..

    They all say to kill the non believers of its myth and its god..

    Non believers going to hell, is not Christ sending them to hell..they send themselves.
    there is no tolerance in any mythic dogma book
    How much tolerance do you expect, and how long? It has been over a thousand years...

    I think you need to read that bible at least once
    The christ did till his believers to kill the non believers.
    Where did Christ, in the New Testamnet, tell believers to lill non believers?
    Scripture and verse, please? Mayby you need to read it again,,,,,,Ever notice how unbelievers will call him "THE" Christ?
    Did you know Satan does the same?

    In Colossians 2:8 we are told, "Beware lest anyone spoil you through his philosophy and vain deceit, which is after the tradition of mankind, after the elements of the world, and not after Christ." The "me" generation, new age philosophy, and any ideas of mankind that are not in accord with Biblical principles, are all designed by Satan to deceive and confuse people, so that one's worldview is skewed against any commitment to Jesus Christ. Since one's way of life is that track upon which life is run, it is important to find the right way of life, as Christ said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one come unto God, but by me."

    September 11, 2010 at 10:55 am |
    • freewoman

      the devil and Satan characters were created by the some people who created the god/s of the bible.
      So was the heaven and hell after life fairylands.
      The origins of the deserts myths are found in the earlier pagan myths.
      Christianity was written by Romans.. to provide the Jews with their awaited messiah and to control them.

      September 11, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
  12. Beware

    That Nazi video made me sick to my stomach! How sad those poor people were killed...little baby laying under the knife of a madman,,horrible! I hope they pay for what they did!!!

    September 11, 2010 at 10:22 am |
  13. Brett

    Im tired of us having to show all this deference and respect when many of them want to kill us and show us NO respect. Here we are, tip toeing around on egg shells out of fear we might offend some of these extremists. Our president apologizes daily to them. What a joke. They drew first blood on 9/11, not us. These people stone women for just showing their faces. I hate that we live in such a politically correct society that we have completely lost our spine. I turn on CNN every day and see more of them blowing people up or sawing heads off. In short, who gives a damn what they think. I remember watching some of them cheering on the news on 911, doing that little tribal call some of them do. It was sick.

    September 11, 2010 at 10:21 am |
  14. Concerned


    September 11, 2010 at 10:16 am |
  15. Anonymous

    No more tolerance of the religion of peace. Ban all religions and especially islam the religion of pigs.

    September 11, 2010 at 10:14 am |
  16. Anonymous

    We shouldn't burn it. We SHOULD use it for toilet paper, line the cages of pigs with it, and THEN burn it.

    September 11, 2010 at 10:11 am |
  17. Beware


    Kate, You're going off on rabbit trails. The question was "Why isn't the g-a-y community screaming bloody murder against a religion that wants them exterminated?" There are laws on the books in the five countries listed above where being g–a-y is pun-ishable by death. Last time I checked that wasn't the case here. The question is still unanswered. Ask Rauf if g-a-y people will be allowed in the Cordoba Mosque or any mosque for that matter.

    Kate, Could you elaborate on your 'all enemies foreign AND domestic' comment? It almost sounds like you would raise up that M-16 at American Christian 'fundies' if so ordered. I hope I'm wrong.

    I am watching to see your response, As much as Christians may not con-done g-a-y- lifestyle, they still love the one who engages.(Hate the sin, love the sinner) I never saw anything where Christians were stoning, hanging, or killing people for thier so called sins today.
    I think it highly offensive that on one hand you look out for American Muslims,and yet condemn American Chrisitians, and accuse them of atrocities.

    September 11, 2010 at 9:55 am |
  18. Dread Cthulhu

    And, actually, the professor is dead wrong...


    "Father Manuel Musallem, head of Gaza's Latin church, told the AP that Muslims have ransacked, burned and looted a school and convent that are part of the Gaza Strip's small Romany Catholic community. He told the AP that crosses were broken, damage was done to a statue of Jesus, and at the Rosary Sister School and nearby convent, prayer books were burned.

    Gunmen used the roof of the school during the fighting, and the convent was "desecrated," Mussalem told the AP.

    "Nothing happens by mistake these days," he said.

    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."

    I wonder if the professor's comments were a "mistake," a "misstatement" or just an out and out lie.

    September 11, 2010 at 9:50 am |
  19. infidel

    There is no moral high ground when your religion advocates death to non-believers, Sharia law, stoning of women in the name honor, treachery and murder condoned against non-believers in the name of Allah. Islam can not tolerate other religions so why should it be toleratered?

    September 11, 2010 at 9:34 am |
  20. Beware


    American Muslim ok with this? Any Muslims here care to comment?
    Had to include spaces, filter would not let it pass. But google it and see this video, very telling.

    September 11, 2010 at 9:13 am |
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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.