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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. Jimbo

    Everytime something like this happens there is always some scholar saying this is not islamic. Cut a head off – not islamic, honor kill your wife – not islamic, don't let women drive – not islamic, blow up innocent people – not islamic, sell herion – not islamic ect. ect. ect. You can only hear it a few times and then watch videos of thousands of islamic people rioting over a book or chanting to kill some women becuase she spoke down about isalm before you just don't believe the scholars anymore.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  2. Steve

    LOL – Getting rid of worn books – "So is throwing it into deep water so that it disintegrates." – Just like they did with Bin Laden – LOL

    February 22, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  3. sane in FL

    The comments here are hilarious. Believers of one fictional book making hateful racist comments denigrating someone else's fictional book (note the sarcasm and irony here).

    February 22, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  4. chris

    I'm burning 5 qurons tongiht

    February 22, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Steve

      Make sure to take pictures & post on the internet – that'll show 'em, lol

      February 22, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  5. TRUTH_HURTS

    Not sure what's more dumb! The fact that Muslims get so angry over burning of a book, or that the Americans don't get it that it's a stupid idea to burn Quran, especially when fighting a war against Muslim countries and trying to establish that it's not a war on Islam! Idiots are running galore!

    February 22, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  6. Dave A.

    Hi there Craig
    You must be one of those Christian types. Doesn't Jesus say something about not judging?
    Oh, okay...you leave that part out! Gotcha!

    February 22, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  7. rick santorumtwit... America's favorite frothy mix

    Would it be okay to smear santorum all over the Quran ?

    February 22, 2012 at 9:21 am |
  8. Barney

    Because they are more interested in getting angry about the burning of a physical item than acting on the words inside that item. Turn the other cheek brothers, and come to Christ.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  9. vinni gambini

    What a bunch of monkeys!

    February 22, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  10. Bob

    This is ridiculous. If Muslims were burning copies of the Bible in the US, would Americans not get angry and riot? You have to be kidding me. Why are they burning the Quran anyway? Purposely trying to start something? I don't get it.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Elliot

      No the would not riot, christians may be ignorant also, but they aren't animals like this.

      February 22, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  11. Paul Magd

    Though many believe that Jesus Christ father is the same God Islamic Muslims believes in, Imams and Mullahs and Ayatollahs and Muslim Clerics and extremist preaches the radically different belief. For all violation and desecration of anything Islam related, death must be administered to all infidels. The Islamics remains in the 6 Century AD belief that "Prophet Muhammad" commanded to fully comply with the Quran. Peace between all religion and Islam will never be achieve unless all leaders of these sect are told to be more tolerant.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  12. Elliot

    Bunch of monkeys. I want to go burn a bunch of Qurans just becuase they make such a big deal about it. I guess they don't understand that mentality over there, the more you act like a fool from someone elses actions the more people are going to bring that foolishness out of you. It's like the nickname thing, you don't choose your own nickname, someone calls you something and if it bothers you and you complain, bam, that's your new nickname. Same here, if you are going to run around like a bunch of primates becuase of a book, then of course I'm going to want to make you do it some more. Let's burn some more Qurans!

    February 22, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • Steve

      Wanna really pi$$ them off? Draw a cartoon character of mohammed, LOL

      February 22, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  13. Mike Mc

    Anger at the burning of a book is a display of ignorance. Plain and simple. It says a lot about a culture when inanimate combustible materials that contain printed words go up in flames and people literally want death to the person who did it.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  14. Mahmoud Abass

    thanks for explaining WHY burning the Koran is so offensive...nowSTFU and light some more up!

    February 22, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  15. craig

    When Muslims start acting like civilized human beings, then maybe they, and their beliefs, will be treated that way too. Until then (in other words, never), they should be treated as the misguided dogs that they are.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • Maurice

      Dogs?. 1,500,000,000 Dogs and counting? racist ignorant bigots everywhere 🙂

      February 22, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  16. john

    Because the are monkeys

    February 22, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  17. fleiter

    Muslims are cavemen who can't control their violent nature. The Koran is a book of war against non-Muslims. It should be treated as such.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:10 am |
  18. micook

    Burning the American flag is offensive too!

    February 22, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Elliot

      Yes, but you don't see americans running around foaming at the mouth like rabid dogs after it happens. These people are nuts.

      February 22, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  19. chris

    ISLAMIC SUCKS, THEY ARE NOT WORTHY TO LICK MY TAINT

    February 22, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  20. Bill

    I think any book, it nothing more than paper and ink, so people placing such significance on paper and ink, is a great reason they ignore the suffering of their own citizens and women as a whole, not religious but hateful and neglectful.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Rich

      I'm not so sure most of those rioting can actually read it. They can RECITE it, perhaps; but not read it. They have turned their book into an idol.

      February 22, 2012 at 10:15 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.