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. JAMES

    freewoman is ridiculous if there was no God who would tell us that killing was wrong if people are left to determine wrong from right they would end up killing thousands of innocent people a day oops forgot they already do through abortions I guess there are a lot of people who dont believe in GOD and in the not to distant future we will all have to answer for our actions hope you are ready for that day it is coming soon

    September 11, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
    • David Johnson


      You said, "if there was no God who would tell us that killing was wrong if people are left to determine wrong from right they would end up killing thousands of innocent people a day"

      One of the most common arguments from the fundies is that without God there would be no morality.

      Well, I 'm an atheist. I have never been arrested for any reason. I've been married to the same woman for 30 years.

      Look out your door. Are Atheists rioting, ra ping and stealing?

      Truth is, there is a higher % of Christians in prison, than atheists. Less than 1% of the prison population are atheists.

      Our morals have evolved along with our intellect. Parents pass along their idea of morality, to their children. Society imprints its values upon us all.

      There have been many tribes, that think head hunting, is a fine past time. They worshipped nature and their ancestors. No god imprinted a set of morals on them. Why is that James?

      God had a man believe he was going to sacrifice his son to Him. Do you know how traumatic that would be for a father and his son?
      If you had the power would you do this? Would you be so insecure?

      There was a man who loved God. God made a bet with Satan that even if the man were tortured, his Possessions taken, and his children killed, he would still love God and never curse Him. God won the bet.

      Would you do that? Would you kill a man's children for a bet?

      I submit to you, that the God of Abraham is morally bankrupt. He has murdered men, women, children, babies and animals. He is blood thirsty.

      You said, "in the not to distant future we will all have to answer for our actions hope you are ready for that day it is coming soon"

      Jesus thought he would be back in the first century. Fundies try to cloud the issue, but when read, it is the only meaning of Jesus' words that is possible, without twisting and changing the meaning of Jesus' words.

      Certainly the Apostles thought Jesus meant he would be back in the first century.
      Jesus isn't coming back. He is occupied with being dead, if he ever existed. It is a full time job.

      You said, "oops forgot they already do through abortions I guess there are a lot of people who don't believe in GOD"

      Society must decided issues based on their impact on society. Gay marriage has no negative impact on society. So it should be allowed. God's opinions are irrelevant, since he doesn't exist.

      Abortion requires society to decide when life begins. Catholics and fundies believe it is at the moment of conception. Most think an abortion should not be performed beyond 12 weeks. As long as Roe Vs. Wade stands, the pro-life people's opinions are not important.

      Abortion keeps unwanted babies from being forced on society. It may even have a positive impact on the crime rate. The impact on society is positive. Row Vs. Wade was good for society.

      Abortion is an important part of family planning. With the "morning after" pills they have now, most pregnancies can be dealt with, without a traditional abortion.

      September 12, 2010 at 7:34 pm |
  2. Charles Palmer Myerstown, Pa

    I've read the Bible and the Koran I don't think there is anything to be gained by burning the Koran. What would be the point. I think stop sending aid of any kind to Palestine and support Israel, Drill our own oil, build refineries stop aid to Muslim countries get out of the Balkans let those Muslims fend for themselves. Stay out of the wars in Africa where ever Muslims are spreading their religion of peace amongst themselves with bombs and guns perhaps they will peace themselves out of existance

    September 11, 2010 at 9:45 pm |
  3. Charles Palmer Myerstown, Pa

    You can burn your Bible, flag, Koran, or whatever you like. The difference between that and what the governments and others is they burnt other peoples books, flags, and whatever. If you buy your own and burn it that is up to you. When stuff starts to go bad I'll know who to stand with so burn what you like let your beliefs be known please

    September 11, 2010 at 9:31 pm |
  4. cheikh

    and how about the kkk and the red neck republicain i guess they r muslims too!!!!!!

    September 11, 2010 at 9:22 pm |
  5. cheikh

    Timothy mcvey from oklahoma was christian how about that

    September 11, 2010 at 9:19 pm |
  6. cheikh

    Hitler was christian so nazissssss remember that

    September 11, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
  7. Unconscious

    Is that a joke? They do so many things that are worse than that. Did you miss all the threats from all the muslim countries and communities if the Quran burning went through? We are a religion of peace, BTW WE WILL BEHEAD ANYONE WHO TOUCHES THE QURAN, HURRRR DURRR

    P.S. They burned Bibles aplenty, l2google

    September 11, 2010 at 8:53 pm |
    • K Mann


      September 11, 2010 at 9:35 pm |
  8. thewhiteshark

    Would a Muslim burn a Bible? That's a joke question isn't it?

    September 11, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
  9. Azzy

    What kind of fact checking geniuses does hanoi jane hire??

    says Chris van Gorder, a religion professor at Baylor University in Texas.....

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

    YOU Lie!!! it only takes a 2 secomd google search of "muslim burn bible"

    Christians in Gaza Fear for Their Lives as Muslims Burn Bibles and Destroy Crosses
    Published June 18, 2007 by:


    September 11, 2010 at 6:35 pm |
  10. tagnga

    @ Freewoman;

    You wrote; "no god no killing..." So, no atheist has ever commited murder?

    September 11, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
  11. Sashland

    This is a one-sided and deceptive article.

    muslins DO burn Bibles, as does the US Military.

    Did the Christians riot?

    September 11, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
  12. freewoman

    so a gay person is going to hell because they are not part of your mythic madness.

    I hope all your grandchildren are gay!

    September 11, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  13. freewoman

    exploding bombs is a muslims expression of free speech.

    September 11, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
  14. freewoman

    I wonder how long it will take the muslims to bomb the new ground zero memorial after it is completed?

    September 11, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
  15. TheRationale

    They will fly planes into buildings, deny millions of women human and civil rights, and wage war on progressive science, ethics, and freedoms. Who gives a flying crap if they burn a Bible.

    September 11, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
  16. peter

    i carve out a spot in the bible for my flask. in case i get thirsty 😉

    September 11, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
  17. Alex

    No Muslims do not burn the Bible, they don't have to, they just kill Christians and burn their churches.

    September 11, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
  18. William

    Bible's have not been burned??? Are you kidding me??? I have seen video of whole Muslim communities dragging head-less U.S. soldiers bodies thru the streets while cheering and laughing. American flags and effigies of U.S. presidents burning in the background. I'm sure that all Muslim's are not like this, but where are the one's that speak out against this type of behavior? Why are they so quiet? Yet, dare mention that some loon wants to merely burn a Quran and they speak out in unison!!! We may not be at war with them – doesn't mean that they aren't at war with us...does it?

    September 11, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
  19. Keith

    Kate, Looks like someone else is interested in hearing your response to my original question. Scroll up to 'Beware' at 9:55am. Please feel free to answer to the 'enemies foriegn AND domestic' question, too.

    September 11, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
  20. No Name

    God always throw something out there for all of us to think about. If the Muslim communities and scholars truly believe that burning a Quran or Koran is like destroying the soul of every Muslim people and the rest of the world communities believe the same thing. Then the world should burn the Quran or Koran for every terrorist act in the name of Allah. That this make sense?

    September 11, 2010 at 2:25 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.