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. Another dumb non-christian

    It seems that most people on this blog have forgotten about the Crusades. Christians killed innocent Muslims for hundreds of years for not accepting their religion. Its just Islams turn. The problem is that most religion at its core is good. But human beings corrupt the entire point of it (love and being a good person). And whoever tells me that the Bible is the word of God obviously doesnt understand that King James is just one of the many people that changed it for his own purposes. Just as radical Muslims have changed the Koran for their own purposes. Ancient texts of Muslim and Christianity were completely different. And yes, a true Muslim would not burn a Bible. Thats the whole point of this article. Any Muslim that did would be "sinning" just as any Christian that burns the Koran is "sinning". Dont be mad at Islam. Be mad at arrogant people that want to control everyone (example: extremists that use Islam as a reason to kill. Or the many Christians that did the same in the Crusades). Please be true to your faith and still an intelligent person at the same time. It is possible. I promise.

    September 13, 2010 at 2:57 am |
  2. JAMES

    esus fulfilled 62 prophecies from hundreds, even thousands of years prior. The odds of that happening is less than 1 in a trillion, scientifically speaking, determined by scientists. He said He was God and proved it. He was sinless – the only man who was ever sinless! He performed miracles none have been able to duplicate except the apostles. His teachings were deeper than any other. None can compare! He gave His life on the cross to die for you. And He was resurrected, seen by many eyewitnesses – including various writers of the books of the NT such as Matthew, Paul, Peter, John, James, and others. No less than 12 times was Jesus seen resurrected to various group sizes. Even one group had 500 people present. The brother of Jesus did not believe Jesus was God until he saw him resurrected after He died on the cross. Others (Mark and Luke) who were virtually first-hand accounts wrote books of the NT and testified to these teachings. There is one verse we suspect was Mark seeing Jesus before he died. Luke was close to the action also. They both went on missionary journeys with Barnabas and Paul. There were many others mentioned in the Bible who were put to their death for faith in Christ (e.g. Stephen), spreading the Word and giving the Gospel. Then the apostles were all killed for their faith in Christ, admitting seeing Jesus resurrected. James, the brother of John, was the first to be martyred. Many others in the first century were mentioned who believed in Jesus and gave their lives to Christ on the cross, especially women. And many other biographies of martyrs in Christ are recorded from Christian writers in the first century as well as from non-Christian sources too.

    September 13, 2010 at 2:37 am |
  3. John

    hummm... well, Larry David peed on a picture of Jesus


    anyone seen Christians promising to kill David? Threatening his life?
    Can anyone imagine what would happen if he happened in pee on a Koran?

    Yeah... that's the difference.

    September 13, 2010 at 1:46 am |
  4. JAMES

    @David Johnson – Once again someone makes statements about the bible with no understanding of it what so ever Christ could not have come back until recently because there were many things that had to happen before that day took place some of which have only happened in the last few years its funny people say the the bible is fiction when it has predicted everything that is happening it is true what the bible says people will be willfully ignorant in the end times

    September 13, 2010 at 1:28 am |
  5. sonia

    This is what I think is truth in the end all religions have God and God is love...all humans no matter where we're from are capable of love. It's the few extremists, which all religions have, that get the most publicity these days...when did what the media reports become the complete truth?!?! I am a Catholic and I have studied the Quran and wow, what a peaceful religion. 🙂

    September 12, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
  6. NL

    "If you don't want a man unhappy politically, don't give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none." FAHRENHEIT 451

    September 12, 2010 at 8:05 pm |
  7. NM

    please check out http://www.islamicsolutions.com/what-does-god-want-from-us/

    September 12, 2010 at 8:04 pm |
  8. Haley

    Burning things does not help at all, in fact, it destroys. I am LDS and it would make me sad if someone burnt the Bible or the Book of Mormon. So why would I do it to another religion that is persecuted just about as much as mine. In fact, there are people who still hate us. All in all, if someone started burning a sacred book, it just makes you sad. The only real threat in this world is not being kind and accepting. Come on America, this is what this country was founded upon.

    September 12, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
  9. SomeTruth

    Perhaps all religious texts should have a warning label on them:

    "May cause irrational thinking, violence and death."

    September 12, 2010 at 5:32 pm |
  10. Jay

    How come when someone who proclaims to be christian does something unsavory then all of christianity is mocked pubically and looked down on and that seems ok with everyone. But when someone who proclaims to be another religion does something then people get defensive saying," oh its not all of that religion, just a few bad apples". Say what you want but muslims or any other religion have yet to be mocked as much pubically as christians are in this country and you don't see christians threatening to kill people over it. I'm just saying.

    September 12, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
  11. Jacques

    we should stop treating this as a "retaliation" thing. what a minority of muslims (violent extremists) do does not represent the entire muslim community, it just attracts the most attention, THAT'S WHY some insensitive people treats the entire muslim religion as a violent religion, because the only side they see is the violent side.

    similarly, this terry jones guy is just some attention seeker. and now muslims are getting angry at christianity because this is what attracted their attention, although it obviously does not represent the entire christian community.

    if we keep seeing this as "they did it, so why can't we?" thing, there would never be peace. there are over a billion muslims in the world, not over one billion radical extremist islamic terrorists.

    September 12, 2010 at 11:31 am |
    • Jay

      Exactly right. If we stoop how then does this help anything? People have a tendacy to base their feelings about any religion on the actions of its believers instead of the teachings of the religion. This should be a conviction for believers to conduct themselves in the way we are suppose to. As a christian I am suppose to want to draw people to the Word of God not run them away from it. Yet, people need to realize you can't base an opinion about christianity or any other religion based on the actions of believers b/c people are fallible and that is why we are not to put our faith in their actions and words but in the words and actions of the Lord. Not all muslims are extremists and not all christians are hipocrites.

      September 12, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
  12. Cassie

    I really enjoyed reading this article. Since hearing about the FL pastor, I wondered what people would say if someone made mention of burning the Bible. The people who are posting on here are so ignorant. You have extremists from every faith. These extremists don't represent all the people of that faith. How many murderers are in our prisons... holding their Bibles and speaking of their love for God and Jesus? Do we then say all Christians are murderers? I'm not religious but have studied the teachings of sacred books. I only believe that people should do no harm to others no matter what belief system you follow. History is filled with acts of religious intolerant. You're just ignorant if you participate in repeating that history!

    September 12, 2010 at 10:53 am |
  13. AFajr Ameena Asghar

    Why do not other religions get as upset when their religious books and faith are mocked? I have never seen Buddhists, Mormons, Jews, or Christians react the way Islam does when things like book burning occur. Why is that?

    September 12, 2010 at 10:22 am |
  14. Jack

    This article is utterly misinformed!!!

    Muslims don't just burn Bibles, but actual Christians, and their property. This goes on in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, et al.

    Here is only one example from Gaza:

    Please retract this article.

    September 12, 2010 at 5:52 am |
  15. Fiver

    That's right, christians, use isolated examples of evil to justify your own. I mean of course muslims had to be behind the catholic inquisition, the oklahoma city bombing, hiroshima and nagasaki, and the witch hunts, right? Christians can't be extremists AT ALL!!!! Ignorant morons.

    September 12, 2010 at 2:14 am |
  16. ex-hindu

    Hinduism is worse, it worships demons and idols and kills it's own low caste people.

    September 11, 2010 at 10:52 pm |
  17. Why?


    Your name doesn't fit your expressions..ie..

    Ahhhhh must be the 'pipelayer' keith starting hate and trouble again. Wearing, as you say...."ignorance, intolerance, bigotry, hate, and wing-nut christian fundamentalism....to say the least..... "as a red badge of courage"(and proud of it) And now you are trying to claim using your .... 'brain' Come on...get real here..

    Why is it necessary to sling nastiness in this way?

    September 11, 2010 at 10:42 pm |
    • peace2all


      Shorthand.... @Keith has admittedly in other posts expressed himself as a ..."bigot, racist, fundamentalist, etc...etc... and wheres is as a badge of courage.

      Now he is out attacking people with his ignorance, that he proclaims is o.k...

      I have no respect for the wicked......


      September 12, 2010 at 2:19 am |
    • peace2all


      Obviously, given the posts..... this isn't the first postings between Keith and I......

      But.... Peace to you....

      September 12, 2010 at 2:21 am |
  18. Concetta

    Ok, This is a serious queston for athiest people. Since none of you believe in God or devil or anything, have any of you ever had a supernatural expierience? Does any believe that we are energy, and could leave behind what people call ghosts? Please, no funnys or sarcasms, I am really interested on your thoughts on this. Thank You!

    September 11, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
  19. Mark

    Bibles smuggled into middle eastern countries to be given out are routinely destroyed.

    September 11, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
  20. Skyflyer


    September 11, 2010 at 10:29 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.