September 14th, 2010
11:57 AM ET

My Take: The Quran burning that wasn't: 7 lessons learned

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

1. There are extremists in every religion. Islam has them. Christianity has them. We shouldn’t let our perceptions of Christianity be determined by Pastor Terry Jones , or our perceptions of Islam by al Qaeda.

2. Don’t  let the extremists control the story. When Pastor Jones cancelled his 9/11 Quran burning and then abruptly neverminded us, you could almost hear a collective groan from the media:  How and why did we end up giving this nut so much air time? The more important question is whether we are going to let the fringe control the religion conversation. We have done that in U.S. politics to a shocking extent. Are we going to let it happen with Islam?

3. We need stories about interfaith cooperation to balance the stories about religious conflict.  Yes, conflict sells newspapers and captures eyeballs.  And God knows there is plenty of conflict to cover. But the hard work of religion is being done every day by people like Zeenat Rahman of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core, who challenges her readers in the Chicago Tribune to seek out their Muslim neighbors and ask them what they believe.

4. The religious world is flat too.  We can now gaze into the inner workings of a microchurch in Gainesville, Florida, not only from New York and Atlanta but also from Kabul and Jakarta. One reason Secretary of General David Petraeus felt he had to respond to Pastor Jones was that the story was gaining traction in the Muslim world.  No religion story is merely local any more.

5. Religion matters. Even if you aren’t religious you cannot avoid the power of religion, which continues to refuse to be relegated to the private realm either at home or abroad.  Religious beliefs and behaviors may or may not move mountains, but they move people. They turn elections in India and in the United States, and they affect economic behavior in Saudi Arabia and China.

6.  Religious illiteracy is rampant, not least about Islam. It is easy to wag a finger at Pastor Jones for condemning a book he has by his own admission never read, but Americans as a group admit to being almost ignorant about the world's second largest religion. According to a poll released last month by the Pew Research Center, 30% of Americans say they know “not very much” about Islam and 25% say they know “nothing at all.” Are we going to continue to get our “information” about Muslims and the Quran from Terry Jones, Franklin Graham and Newt Gingrich?  Perhaps it is time we started listening to Muslims themselves—to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Park51 project , Ingrid Mattson of the Islamic Society of North America, and Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison.

7. We need to have an informed conversation about Islam. After 9/11, that conversation died aborning, collapsing into uninformed platitudes about how Islam was "a religion of peace" or "a religion of war." We need to get beyond the platitudes by informing ourselves about, among other things, the Quran.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Culture wars • Florida • Islam • Opinion • Quran

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  10. Bernaba the Muslim

    Still, as Muslims, we believe that there are wise people in the Christian world


    October 6, 2010 at 9:27 pm |
    • Bernaba the Muslim

      This is an American pastor speaking about Islam in a wise way

      October 6, 2010 at 9:31 pm |
  11. Iqbal khan


    October 2, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
    • Muneef

      @Iqbal Khan. That is very interesting and shows how much Quran well advanced in science than human science which only prove that these are words of God speaking to us teaching the illiterate as to read Iqra and pass knowledge to the world that God Allah is one and only and that no corruption in creation and every creature or thing came for a reason and not by chance and if any thing about evolution it must have taken place after creation even before the water creature Dabat Almaa which is humans and living things. The earth before human's was inhabited by the creatures of Fire who are the Jinn was made from a blue flame of fire and their King was/is Ablees Devil who was sent out of heavens cursed by God for not kneeling to Adam father of all Human's in julousy and ego for which he swore to God that he will mislead human's except those faithful ones protected by God for their worship and prayers that shields them from the evil of Satans of Al-Anss and Al-Jinn.   
      Paste the link addresses as well when you post videos. Thanks.

      October 2, 2010 at 5:38 pm |
  12. HotAirAce

    @Iqbal khan

    I don't think I've seen you engage in any meaningful discussion.

    You are a one-way blog spammer. I watched a couple of your bits of propaganda (in another threas, not here), and asked a question, but no response.

    I've decided to not invest my time in your crap and suggest others do the same.

    Like "if tree falls in a forest and there is no one there to here it...", "if a fundie (from any house of silliness) posts stupid crap and nobody watches..." Bye Bye!

    September 29, 2010 at 9:54 pm |
  13. Iqbal khan


    September 29, 2010 at 9:41 pm |
  14. Iqbal khan


    September 29, 2010 at 9:37 pm |
  15. Muneef

    @Lloyd. Am sorry that you are seeing ghosts during the day and night. No Muslim wants to kill any one and this is happening in war zones but in America some want you to live these fears which enables them to keep you quiet from claiming your rights and to milk from you payers more tax money you are living a set up named the war against terror.

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  16. Lloyd Revalee

    Study the Qoran and the Sharai law (Islamic Law), and know that the Muslims are governed by them to the extent that common every day individuals will happily give their life to kill anyone that is not of their faith. Lying to non-believers is not considered a sin among Muslims. While our leaders(?) are telling us to learn to get along with them, they are thinking of ways that they can kill as many of us as possible. Total extermination of Christianity is their goal, and we should be preparing to defend ourselves, not trying to get along with them. That is what they want, and while we are doing that, they are figuraig out ways to strike us where it will do the most damage.

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  17. todders



    September 16, 2010 at 2:37 am |
    • Iqbal khan

      Do you know there is the big story about Mariam(Mary) PBUH and Essa(Jesus) birth and life story and John and David and Moses(Musa) and Noah and Abraham(Ibraheem) Peace be upon all of them.
      No go and read the Quran and find out what you have done in ignorance may God almighty forgive you

      September 29, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
    • Bernaba the Muslim

      Do you think that by switching off a lamp in your cave you made the world grow dark?????????????

      October 6, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
  18. Omar

    For those who are new to the study of islam and some of the challenges it presents (or for those who are simply having trouble reconciling the P.C. narrative with observable facts), this a a very good overview:


    September 15, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
    • Iqbal khan

      For your information Islam is the Fastest growing Religeon in the World!

      October 2, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
  19. ohyeah

    If we know our enemy half the battle is won. Try to learn about the enemy (Islam)


    September 15, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
  20. Omar

    I "informed" myself about the Quran and attendant texts five years ago – which is why I'm an islamophobe.

    September 15, 2010 at 5:49 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.