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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. Arawak

    These demonstrators are all hypocrites and terrorists. Lest you forget, we didn't ask you for permission to enter your country. You used your country to attack us and we took your country over with American blood, sweat and tears. You should be thanking us for showing you mercy and giving you freedom.

    Where were you demonstrating idiots when the sunnis bombed the shiites golden mosque in Iraq?? Why didn't you demonstrate then?

    You are all a bunch of racist muslims. Its okay if the sunnis bomb a mosque, but its not okay if a U.S. bomb accidentally blows off a roof tile from a mosque.

    You don't like us and I don't like anyone who don't like us.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  2. chris

    Ok here is the part I am trying to understand. They are angry because in their eyes our troops did something horrible and offensive, yet they kill each other in protest? What kind of logic is that?

    February 22, 2012 at 8:46 am |
  3. humtake

    Muslims have to find something to get violent about. If they don't, then they turn on each other and kill each other. This is nothing new.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:46 am |
  4. whatwhat

    Muslims burn christian churches. then blow up christians and jews with bombs. and then the us burns acouple of books and they get mad. first it is a book . muslims have made the world very unstable, and no before now it wasnt all their fault. but of late it is . iran is the horseman of the east, america is the horse man of the west, egypt is of the south and russia of the north. and the battle field will be israel, and the saying is israel and the horseman of the west brings destruction upon the three others, why would iran want this to happen

    February 22, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  5. Christen

    what has been happening when someone burned or disposed a Bible? Offense anyone?

    February 22, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • JDavis

      Let's say we were under occupation by a foreign army, and they gathered up Bibles and set them on fire. You think we might object even more violently than these people?

      February 22, 2012 at 8:48 am |
  6. Wade

    Well I am glad to hear their is at least one sane Muslim however remember this MUSLIMS kill Christians all the time everywhere int he world not just burn books but burn people so I feel no respect at all for any Muslim. When I see a Muslim defend a Christian against his insane Muslim brothers then that Muslim will become my brother. When I see a Christian embrace a Muslim that Christian will become my brother until then they can all go to hell because they have no clue at all about god.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:41 am |
  7. Muhammad

    Wow, drawings of Muhammad, how bigoted and offensive! How about every Humanist and Equalist out there being offended by your dogma ? And how about the millions of people being oppressed by the said dogma and suffering because of it right now ?! Gimmie a break

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGbynOi9tIY&feature=related

    February 22, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • Julian

      Remember 911. Send 'em all to Allah and let him sort them out.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  8. stacey

    Why don't they send the Muslim Holy books to a Muslim chaplain in our own armed forces to be disposed of in a respectful manner. Why is there no common sense? I am a BAC but respectful of other's beliefs. Why can't common sense be found anymore. Send the books to a military base and from there FED EX them where they need to go. Everyone is happy then. You can't tell me that we have no experts on Islam in the army.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:39 am |
  9. Awabnavi

    "Why can't military people keep their mouths shut. No one ever needed to know" - It is Allah that makes things known that which you try to hide -like Bagram, Guantanamo and that Iraqi prison the name of which slips my mind at present

    February 22, 2012 at 8:39 am |
  10. Realist

    Wonder why this story hasn't been more reported on? Oh yeah, perspective. We are in general a christian nation.

    “[T]he power of evil, the devil, is certainly looking everywhere where the power of evil can make a difference.” “And that’s why we’ve got to stand up and violently oppose this" said Bishop Walter Nickless, archdiocese of Souix City. Stated on a FRC webcast.

    http://www.care2.com/causes/bishop-calls-for-violent-opposition-to-birth-control-mandate.html

    February 22, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  11. Adevilson Silva

    Burning the Quran is offensive because Muhammed and Allah are wimps, wooz chickens who can't defend themselves!

    February 22, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • JDavis

      Yep, they're wimps. Now if they burned one of our guys for every book our guys burned, then we might stop.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • Tony

      So you're ok with bible burnings cus Jesus is such as badass..? Muhammad was actually a warrior.... heck i'm not even muslim...

      February 22, 2012 at 8:46 am |
  12. maff

    k

    February 22, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  13. Ben

    Funny, several times a year, CNN allows a story about Christianity on its site, either as news or an "opinion peice," and no one dies.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  14. Tony

    I was watching a comedy standup show on TV the other day and the comedian asked, have these people every just sent an angry email? They take everything to such an extreme. Obviously why they are called extremists.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Ben

      Yet commedy shows in the US are STILL not allowed to make fun of Islam or Moe-hamed

      February 22, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  15. Mike

    I mean....don't be upset about muslims killing muslims everywhere.....be freaking out about a book written by man and distributed. A bunch of children.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  16. Adam

    These people are looking for an excuse to be angry–an excuse to riot and kill. What the NATO forces burned was illicit and dangerous communications between terrorists in jail. Not a single Christian would raise a stink if a US prison had to destroy its entire library upon finding dangerous communications among gang members. It's no longer sacred, it's just a tool to find ways to hurt, destroy, and kill. We didn't render the Korans in that jail unholy, criminals did. Go riot and scream and yell about them.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • SafeNHisGrace

      I totally agree with Adam, if burning those Qarans would help prevent a terrorist attack, then NATO had EVERY RIGHT to destroy them. I am saddened to hear about the 12 that lost their lives shortly after the pastor in Florida burned them, it sounds like he acted in the flesh & not by the Holy Spirit. If burning them is the proper waay to destroy them, then NATO did the right thing. The criminals/terrorists ARE the ones that made the Qaran unholy...because God is a God of love, not hate. It says in Scripture that we are to LOVE OUR ENEMY, LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR...pray for them, not kill them. GOd HATES EVIL!!!

      February 22, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  17. scott

    why burn them in the first place.leave people alone.every human on this planet has the right not to be run by other people.people are created equal.wake up world and stop letting the rich and powerful ruin your lives.The rich and powerful would eat their own children before losing that wealth and power.Do any of us think they care about us?Rich make wars.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  18. Burn Baby Burn

    Muslims need to be desensitized.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDmaFehshys

    February 22, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  19. 4commonsensenow

    Too much.What moron made that decision?Or was it intensional? Start burning bibles outside the churches in the west and see what happens. The whole story reminds me of a bart simpson quote "If don't watch then how can you get desensitized"
    More behind this story than whats being told Im sure. Whatever frakin satanist rituals

    February 22, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  20. 4JULY1776

    I'm a little bit confused here.....the article states:

    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.

    Well......that's exactly what coalition troops did.....burned some of the Korans.

    So if that's already considered an "acceptable" way to dispose of Korans that are torn, tattered, or defaced or whatever.....then what's the problem?

    February 22, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • agathokles

      It matters who does the burning and why.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:43 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.