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.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

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.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

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. chris

    MOMO --> (_l_)

    February 22, 2012 at 9:05 am |
  2. Joel

    Burn every one.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  3. Bob

    We hear that burning a particular object is offensive to Afghans. Let us note that Afghanistan's Taliban welcomed Al Qaeda and provided a safe harbor for Al Qaeda's operations against the United States and its interests. That's the only reason we are there, because, quite frankly, Afghanistan is a horrible place whereas America is a very nice place. No one would want to travel from American to Afghanistan unless they had to.

    We hear that burning a particular object is offensive to Afghans. Hijacking passenger jets and flying them into buildings occupied by thousands of people is offensive to Americans. Afghanistan offered safe harbor to the people who did this. They see their continued protection of these people as a moral obligation under the code of Pashtunwala. I think they should take their Pashtunwala and shove it up their burnt Korans.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  4. Rachel

    Now if people were to burn bibles and christians acted this way, people would be outraged. Instead, we have to put up with these crazies who feel they're superior to everyone.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  5. boater

    Some guy named Mohammad gets high and has "visions" of an angel and 2000 years later, people are still dying for it? Drugs kill, people!

    February 22, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  6. boater

    So, we were following to proper "disposal" methods and they're angry about it???? Hypocrites!

    February 22, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  7. ILoveJesus


    February 22, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • handy

      And how do you know if bible is word of god? Hypocrisy enough? Your both religions are based on fantasy books, IMHO.

      February 22, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  8. Mr.Data

    We are in the 21st century. Muslims continue to practice stoning people to death, beheading people, and other barbaric rituals. they will burn the American flag, drag dead American bodies around the streets or hang them in public for display.

    No one says anything.

    Yet, a few Quran get accidentally burned and tens of thouands riot in anger.

    This is one example of a world that is filled with too many illogical, radicals looking for any reason to riot or protest.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • Chris

      Your logic is sound Mr. Data

      February 22, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  9. RV

    Burn baby Burn

    February 22, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  10. Bob

    Holy @##@ these poeple are crazy, they kill each other because a Quran was burned. They are destined to stay in the stone age where they belong.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  11. Hasher Iva

    Their 'holy quran,' or whatever they want to call it, invokes violence anytime they 'believe' it has been desecrated. Yet at the same time they, they as in the muslim believers they, use it as a means to transmit extremist material. You can't have it both ways. I'm still confused on why we are even bothering with these people. Like the one cleric said, "It's only words. We can print more." Jeez, why waste any more assets on these people.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  12. GinnyH

    I agree with agathokles. A way of getting rid of a damaged American flag is to burn it, but that doesn't mean that we want those who hate us to burn it as protest. There's a saying, "Don't expect of others what you don't expect of yourself." Or as the Golden Rule says "Do unto others as you want them to do to you." Do what you know is right.......hopefully we all know right from wrong. We can't control others actions but we can control ours and we should be doing what's right and honorable.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  13. Devon

    Burn it baby! Burn baby burn! We should burn down these ancient civilizations who're
    still throwing rocks and stones in the streets. The world would be a better place without
    them. Without all of them!

    February 22, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  14. txjew

    The questions about Quran disposal and the relative importance of text vs. human destruction all touch upon the point but miss the point – which is that they riot because there is no built-up good will here. We've failed to win hearts and minds, and the situation isn't getting better. We came in with caus bellum, but the Bush administration dropped the ball for 5.5 years by diverting resurces and attention chasing its fantasy in Iraq. The window for truly pacifying the country passed and now no amount of force or money can fix it. Time for us to put our names next to Macedonia, Persia, Mongols, Muhgels, Britain, and Russia at the exit signs, and get outta Dodge. And mark "Princess Bride" as the most prescient film of the 20th Century: "Don't fight a land-war in Asia."

    February 22, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Jim in PA


      February 22, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  15. Jim in PA

    So... how come there is no outrage that a Muslim defaced the book with extremist inscriptions? Reminds me of a funny episode a couple of years ago when news photographers snapped pictures of some US politcian autographing an American flag for somebody. I guess defacement is in the eye of the beholder.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  16. 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


    February 22, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • Duke5343


      February 22, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  17. MyPictureOfMuhammad


    February 22, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  18. HarryE

    Wrong question. To a muskim, anything non-muslim is OFFENSIVE and must be destroyed. Have you ever seen an offensive muslim when they beheaded a non-muslim publicly? The answer is never. You guys better put your perspective right about muslim, This is not "racist", this is fact.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  19. Jim in PA

    Huh. This all reminds me of how conservatives lose their minds when an American flag is burned.... so much so that they have forever wanted to actually outlaw it. Well conservatives, is burning an inanimate symbol ok or isn't it? Because if you think it's ok to burn the Koran then I don't see how you can be outraged at a burning flag. (Hint, the correct answer is that it should be ok to burn an object because it doesn't destroy what the object stands for.)

    February 22, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Duke5343

      Hey Liberal Jim in PA, funny when i left the state their were lots of conservative people- place went to hell i guess- is one of the largest groups of KKK still located in PA??
      I could care less if someone burns the US flag, they want to show how ingnorate they can be then i can use pages of Koran in the rest room to clean my ass

      February 22, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  20. Brad Neff

    There is a vast difference between our religions. If a US citizen witnessed a group of muslims buring a copy of the Bible, would we vow to kill them, and then follow through with that threat. Highly unlikely.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Duke5343

      Brad read up on the history of Mohammad and how he wrote the Koran from the Christian bible and Hewbrew bible & how it wae written around their Culture-

      February 22, 2012 at 9:05 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
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.