February 21st, 2012
01:14 PM ET

Rioting over Quran burning is un-Islamic, scholar argues

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

(CNN) - Muslims believe the Quran is the word of God, so holy that people should wash their hands before even touching the sacred book, which is why Quran burning incites such fury.

But with angry demonstrations against Quran burning taking place in Afghanistan, one leading Islamic scholar urged Muslims not to react violently to desecration of the book.

"What is captured on the pages can be printed again. If they burn 1,000, we can print 10,000. What's the big deal?" Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra asked Tuesday after hundreds of demonstrators protested reports of the burning of Qurans and other religious material by NATO troops.

"A NATO soldier killing innocent people is far more painful than the burning of a Quran. I would rather they burn 100 Qurans than to hurt one woman or man or child," Mogra said.

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The commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force admitted that the burning did take place, and he apologized.

"It was a mistake. It was an error. The moment we found out about it, we immediately stopped and we intervened," Gen. John Allen said.

The material that was burned at Bagram Airfield was removed from the library of a detainee center "because of extremist inscriptions and an appearance that these documents were being used to facilitate extremist communications," a military official said Tuesday.

"Additionally, some of the documents were extremist in and of themselves, apparently originating from outside of Afghanistan," said the official.

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It's not the first time that damaging Qurans - or even the threat to do so - has provoked angry Muslim reaction.

Terry Jones, the pastor of a tiny evangelical church in Florida, announced plans to burn the Muslim holy book on the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

He was persuaded not to do it at the time, but he made good on the threat a six months later.

Two weeks after that, protesters in northern Afghanistan attacked a U.N compound, leaving 12 people dead.

Muslim scholars say that the Quran is holy, revealed by the Angel Gabriel to Mohammed over the course of 23 years of visions.

"Symbolically and literally this is the most sacred reminder of God on Earth for a Muslim," said Akbar Ahmed, the chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington. "More than a mosque ... more than any other symbol it is the Quran that symbolizes the word of God for a Muslim."

"The first belief among Muslims of all types is that the Quran is the word of God," said Shainool Jiwa, of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London. "The words themselves, the typing, takes on a level of sanctity. There is a sacredness about it."

But, she said, violent reactions to its burning are as much a sign of the times as an expression of faith.

"There is a history behind this. It's much more reflective of the times we are in, the protests and anger," she said. "This whole issue has become politicized."

Mogra, who chairs the mosques and community affairs committee of the Muslim Council of Britain, said burning a Quran is in fact an appropriate way to dispose of one that is damaged.

"Copies of the Quran that are torn, tattered or falling apart can be disposed of in a number of ways" so that the word of God is not "scattered" or "thrown away with the rubbish," he said.

Burning, burying or even using a paper shredder are all acceptable, he said.

So is throwing it into deep water so that it disintegrates.

The Muslim community in Leicester, England, where he lives, holds an annual burial of damaged Qurans in a graveyard, he said.

So while Mogra said he could understand the anger about burning a Quran, he called for perspective.

"Our reactions are totally out of order. It's totally un-Islamic. What the pages of the Quran contain is much more important than the pages themselves," he said.

"The pastor in the States who threatened to burn a Quran - I felt, 'Give him a truckload of Qurans to burn.' People in the far east and the Middle East were dying just because someone has threatened to burn the Quran," he said. "I would rather they saved their lives and cared for their children."

-CNN's Zain Verjee, Barbara Starr Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Afghanistan • Islam

soundoff (818 Responses)
  1. Interpretation of the quran

    Its such as you learn my thoughts! You seem to understand a lot about this, like you wrote the e book in it or something. I feel that you just can do with a few percent to power the message house a little bit, however instead of that, that is great blog. A fantastic read. I'll certainly be back.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
  2. Pope_Inquisitor

    not long ago here the church burned witched at the state. Xtianity is no better than Islam ... both are sick cults Catholic cult hs sick history of torture. read God's Jury by Murphy

    March 7, 2012 at 8:08 am |
  3. Muneef

    Keep on your state of Denial;

    Secret £14million Bible in which 'Jesus predicts coming of Prophet Muhammad' unearthed in Turkey

    Vatican 'wants to see' 1,500-year-old ancient script
    Has been hidden by Turkish state for 12 years
    Handwritten in gold-lettered Aramaic
    By Daily Mail Reporter

    Last updated at 5:14 PM on 24th February 2012

    A secret Bible in which Jesus is believed to predict the coming of the Prophet Muhammad to Earth has sparked serious interest from the Vatican.

    Pope Benedict XVI is claimed to want to see the 1,500-year-old book, which many say is the Gospel of Barnabas, that has been hidden by the Turkish state for the last 12 years.

    The £14million handwritten gold lettered tome, penned in Jesus' native Aramaic language, is said to contain his early teachings and a prediction of the Prophet's coming.

    February 26, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  4. Muneef

    Guess Pres.Obama should ask who's interest was to spark such a riot...knowingly that is inexcusable act for some pretending to bring peace in to the area...! If Taliban had shot individuals then such an act has shot a whole nation...!

    Any way as it seems this will be the beginning of the end for Foreign troops in Afghanistan since now it is becoming more like a Holy War were every one there will be glad to give his life and die as a martyr. For the sake of his religion & beliefs..!

    Who ever ordered the burning was either trying to speed up the withdrawals of the foreign troops from Afghanistan or some one who wanted the wars there to be heated up and extended heavily as with ((Wars means good business for some))...!

    It was intended to humiliate beliefs of those and all Muslims while to find excuse to commit mass murders of angry Afghan Muslims...! If that act was of the supposedly friends then who needs enemies...? Obviously those Afghan soliders will have no alternative now but to fight foreign troops rather than their own people who are angry out of a religious prospective and not politics...! What a shame...

    Surveillance of Muslims is only an introduced advanced precaution to an act of burning of Quran in Afghanistan which of course is not an insult or humiliation to Afghans only but to the whole Islamic nation...! Them lunatics do all such ignorant and arrogant acts and then complain that Muslims are being violent....?! just wonder who are behind all these plans bringing up Islamic rage to boil up...?!

    February 25, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  5. Muneef

    Seems to be the beginning of the end for Foreign troops in Afghanistan since now it is becoming more like a Holy war were every one there will be glad to give his life as a martyr...!
    Any way who ever ordered the burning was either trying to speed up the withdrawals of the foreign troops from Afghanistan or some one who wanted the wars there to be heated up and extended heavily... Wars means business for some...!

    February 25, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  6. Anon

    Nothing new here, just religiotards killing each other in the name of imaginary friends (Yahweh,Jesus.Allah,etc) like always.

    February 24, 2012 at 2:02 am |
  7. Kandie Rosales

    Many of those professing belief in God, or Allah, etc., are disrespecter's of other's faiths. The Almighty, The Creator of all things in the Universe, doesn't need puny mankind to handle His business, or murder anyone. We are not judges of mankind. We can't peer into the heart. The Bible spoke of false religion and He also said we would know those who have the real truth by the "...love they have for one another"

    I would think God, and/or, Allah, cares a little bit more about human life than words on some paper from a book. People, animals and plants, all livinge things, His Creations, are of more value. There's so much hate in this world today people can't even see. They are blind and decieving themselves. Our Creator has a time-table set for ending the evil. He won't be late.

    February 23, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Anon

      Nah, all religiotards are screwed up in the head, including you.

      February 24, 2012 at 2:01 am |
    • Pope_Inquisitor

      Thou art sick, my child. Get the to a physician for a lobotamy. Atheism is myth understood.

      March 7, 2012 at 8:10 am |
  8. Rely

    I am absolutely embarrassed by a great many of the comments here. As a patriotic American who trained US Army and just happen to have friends who are both Christian and Moslem...I am ticked off when I see my country's flag being burned in the filthy street. What a sign of utter disrespect! Likewise, it would appear from the comments that both Christian and Moslem take offense at having their religious artifacts burned–in this particular situation by persons who are not of Moslem faith. While I don't condone how they have reacted to it by any means, it would behoove those of you claiming to be Christian to work out the hypocrisy with your "judge not lest ye be judged" and to further inform yourselves that the mere fact you are Moslem doesn't make you a terrorist extremist. Nor does being a Christian necessarily equate you with intelligent, common sensical, or one of God's chosen. We might all want to remember that not so long ago Christians were responsible for massacres in the name of God. The difference? Education and modernization. Note that Afghanistan has had little of that. Mind your mouths and your manners. People can always debate an idea; people have always killed each other over their belief systems.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Kandie Rosales

      So true! False religion is everywhere and is lying to people in order to control them. It has for centuries. They have started most wars, commiting horrible things before executing them. The Bible says, Love will be the identifing mark of HIS people, not hate, violence and murder. He does have the power to stop it. If He chooses to wait, perhaps because He has an agenda–a time-table. Mankind needs to allow The Almighty to handle His affairs. He sure doesn't need man's help. Never has!

      February 23, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Pope_Inquisitor

      no gods, no demons, no angels, no dragons, etc ... all pretend and mythical

      March 7, 2012 at 8:11 am |
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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.