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. Shmohawk

    Better to use them for toilet paper

    February 22, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      To be a great leader of the world America has to be a grown up,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      February 22, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  2. OregonTom

    In a free society you can burn any book you want. Outdoor burning does require a permit sometimes though.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  3. Hera

    Muslims have burned more Korans while bombing Mosques then all non-Muslims combined.Not to mentioned the Christians and Bibles Muslims have burned while bombing Churches.I'm so tired of the hypocrisy and irrational behavior of Muslims.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  4. Steve from Wisconsin

    Put the Quran on the internet then no one can burn it. Problem solved.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      🙂 they don't have free internet ,,,,,,dude,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      February 22, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Hugo

      The Quran is already on the Internet.

      February 22, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  5. cha cha brown

    Suicide Bombers and Head Cutter-Offers and much less offensive if you ask me.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  6. John Ross

    This is such a non-deal. The protests are just to get a rise out of the western media, causing us to feel guilty and then appease them more in the areas that do count...like obtaining nukes, engaging in terrorism, attacking us everywhere and talking us all down in world. Imagine what might happen if we met force with equal or greater force? If we met their words with words equally incendiary? The west and the muslim world are on a collision course whether we want to admit it or not. It is coming and it is not because we weren't nice enough to them. You can either ignore it or prepare for it. Preparation for conflict has been historically shown to avoid conflict also.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  7. Meo Free

    The problem with Muslims is that they can't live in peace, there is always an excuse for war and terrorism. They always protests because they want their stone age society and culture be accepted in civilized nations. Send them back to their country of origin and let them kill themselves; then, the rest of the world can live in peace.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      So was Christian ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      February 22, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • dollydocker

      my friend its not just islam .all faith based beliefs are on a collision course ,how could they otherwise be given that each one touts that it is the true and only belief . the christian faith believes the bible ,in particular the new testament to be the inerrant word of god ,even religous scholars know that proposition to be a crock ,but they wont say so out of fear and blind ignorance .truth is applying the outsiders test for faith ,all faith based religions are wackier the hell .too much respect is given to religion when the opposite should be the case .just look at history and examine where religion has taken us and still is . when we are prepared to seriously abandon all of our faith based beliefs and conduct human affairs on a scientifically rational and reasoned basis only then will humanity be able to coexist peacefully ,you think they have wacky beliefs in islam just look at the christian fundamentalists in the USA ,better still try to rationalize the concept of the holy trinity now thats a wacky belief held by all of christianity moderate and extremist alike

      February 22, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  8. 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 11:44 am |
    • Matthew

      hahahaha now that's funny!

      February 22, 2012 at 12:16 pm |

    And who cares if Jihadist propaganda is burned?
    I would not worry too much about what the Moslims(
    sic) say– after all they have persecuted Christians in India, Pakisrtan and Africa for quite some time and the rest of the world have said absolutly nothing.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  10. Al

    What do they do with the books when they are so old they are falling a part???

    February 22, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Hugo

      Counting from the bottom of the article, read the 7th through 4th paragraphs. The answer to your question is there.

      February 22, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  11. MNResident

    Burn a Christian Bible-OK, that's free speech
    Burn a US Flag-OK, that's Free Speech
    Burn a Quran-That a riot causing offence that we shouldn't do.

    Does anyone else see the irony here??

    February 22, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      Be nice to these kids,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,they will cry if you burn their fairy book,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      You will not cry for a fairy book,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,you are adult,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      They are kids of GOD,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      February 22, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      Be nice to those kids,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,they will cry if you burn their fairy book,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      You will not cry for a fairy book,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,you are adult,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      They are kids of GOD,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      February 22, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      To be a leader of the world America has to be a grown up,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      February 22, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  12. ObamaJoe

    As God's messenger, Jesus explained, simplified, and demonstrated God's will and message, although the Jews did not believe in him. Jesus' "Good News" – the Gospel – is about God's love and forgiveness for all mankind. Muhammad's revelations, recorded in the Koran/Qur'an teach that:

    1. Jesus was sent by Allah, who supported him with the Holy Spirit to tell the world Allah's will (2: 87; 5: 110-117*).

    2. Allah gave to the world Jesus, exalted him above all others, and supported him with the Holy Spirit as proof of his sovereignty (2: 253*).

    3. Allah caused the miracle birth of John the Baptist to the aged Zechariah and his barren wife so John could be the messenger to announce Jesus as the Messiah (3: 33-41*).

    4. Allah appointed Mary to be the virgin mother of Jesus, the Messiah (3: 42-45; 19: 12-22; 21: 90*).

    5. Jesus would be righteous [sinless] all his life (3: 46; 6: 86; 19: 19*).

    6. Jesus would be raised from the dead (19: 33,34*).

    7. Jesus, Messiah and son of Mary, crucified, appeared dead and was taken up my Allah himself (4: 157,158; 3: 55*). He did not "appear to be alive" because he was dead. Crucifixion was the Roman method of execution similar to hanging. No one survived being crucified. See # 6. above.

    8. Jesus was a messenger of Allah, who is to be believed (4: 171*).

    9. Allah taught Jesus his religion and commanded Jesus to establish it (42: 13; 43: 63*).

    10. Allah caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow [the prophets], gave him the Gospel, and placed compassion and mercy in the hearts of those who followed him (57: 27*).

    11. Allah strengthened the group of Jews who believed Jesus and his message, so they overcame those who disbelieved (61: 14*).

    12. The true message of Jesus and the prophets was perverted by religious leaders who were condemned by Allah (9: 31*).

    13. Long before the Prophet Muhammad, Allah revealed the Torah and the Gospel for mankind's guidance (3: 3, 4, 48, 65*).

    14. Allah taught Jesus the Scripture and wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel. Allah would do miracles through Jesus and make him a messenger to Israel (3: 48, 49*).

    15. Allah gathered Jesus and caused him to be resurrected and ascended to Allah himself (3: 55; 4:158*).

    16. Allah bestowed the Gospel on Jesus to be a light (5: 46*).

    17. Observing the Torah and the Gospel brings nourishment from above (5: 66*).

    18. Those who went astray from Allah's commands were cursed by both David and Jesus (5: 78*).

    19. Allah inspired Jesus' Disciples to believe in Jesus and his message (5: 110*).

    20. Jesus and his Disciples were Allah's helpers (61: 6,14*).

    21. Believe in all that was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received (2: 136*).

    22. The Surrender, al-Islam, is Islam and Muslims are to be surrendered to Allah's will and guidance (3: 19*), as had been revealed to Abraham by God and explained by Jesus. (See http://www.abraham-101.org)/)

    *(All citations listed are from THE MEANING OF THE GLORIOUS KORAN, translated by Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall: A mentor Religious Classic, The New American Library, New York, New York, fifth printing, 1956.)

    February 22, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Michael Knight

      ObamaJoe-– You are so deceived by this false doctrine. I know more about your islamic history than you do. Mohammad lied to the people when he claimed he heard from his god. He took many stories from the Holy Bible and put his own twist to the stories in the koran. You and every muslim believer are worshipping a rock.____You heard me, correctly! Mohammad took an idol rock from an arab camp site and called the rock–allah. If allah is so great, then why does he allow so many of his people suffer?.....You worship a rock; Christians worship the true God. How can you call Mohammad great when he never performed any miracles. Jesus Christ performed great miracles and forgave men of their sins,___your false prophet forgave no one. All he did was kill; no love.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  13. pooh2

    Religious wars: mankind is behind schedule.

    February 22, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  14. SS

    So it's okay to deface a Quran by writing graffiti in it, and therefore altering the original message and teachings of the Quran, but not okay to destroy the defaced books?

    February 22, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • rlowens1

      You make a good point. But, I suppose, if Allah is real and He had a problem with it, He could have and should have done something about it, but didn't. So, either He doesn't exist at all or He doesn't care. I vote for the former over the latter.

      February 22, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Bill Miller

      SS! Just respect other people and their beliefs, it is not your business, keep your own home clean, do not judge because that my brother is God's job.. If they want to add or delete items from the Bible, Torah, Koran, etc, that is their choice and freedom to do so, not yous, mine, or anybody else's beeswax! UNDERSTAND?

      February 22, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Bill Miller

      SS! Just respect other people and their beliefs, it is not your business, keep your own home clean, do not judge because that my brother is God's job.. If they want to add or delete items from the Bible, Torah, Koran, etc, that is their choice and freedom to do so, not yous, mine, or anybody else's beeswax! UNDERSTAND? THERE ARE EXTREME PEOPLE in all faiths including science, atheists, etc.

      February 22, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Davethecanuck

      Is that some sort of cut and paste response bill?
      Your reaction to the question asked by SS is quite irrational.

      February 22, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  15. Bill Miller

    I believe all people have free will that God gave to all of us. I follow Jesus Christ as my Savior and Redeemer and is the true Messiah that God promised from the Old testament of the Holy Bible. We need to respect all people and all religions and faiths. Let God make the final judgement foe each and everyone of us. Why do you haters of other faiths have to be so mean and cruel. It is written in the Bible to love God with all of your heart and soul, this is the greatest comment, followed by love and respect yourself, and love and respect other people. We are made in God's Image, so when we look at one another, we are seeing God. All races, not just a white guy, or a red guy, or a brown guy, or a black guy, or an Asian guy, God is an all around type of man/woman, he is neither female nor male. So let's respect and love one another as we are and give the respect you would like to receive from others. Remember, Jesus, Son of God, and the Holy Spirit, are three in one called the Holy Trinity. It takes just one to change the world, want proof? Jesus Christ was born 2012 years ago by a woman called Mary. Mary received Jesus through the Holy Spirit. This was, is, and always be a great miracle that changed the world. Praise God that he so loved the world that He sent his one and only begotten son Jesus Christ to suffer and take our sins away so that we can be clean enough to enter heaven. The only way to heaven is through Jesus, and all one has to do to get salvation and grace is to welcome Jesus into your life, ask him to forgive you, and transform your life to reflect the life the Savior lived. In conclusion, find God in your own way and have love, peace, joy, happiness, and faith in the good that God intended for us to have before Adam/Eve messed it up for us all. Bill

    February 22, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  16. cb

    I have never seen so many bigoted comments. Most of these comments do not even directly relate to the article but are just people taking this article as opportunity to rave and rant about how much they hate Islam and Muslim people.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • rlowens1

      Pay attention to that and see if you can figure out what is behind it. If Islam (or Christianity) were really peaceful religions from God, why would so many people hate them and their followers?

      February 22, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Chartreuxe

      Human nature's appalling, isn't it? Give it a target and hatred bubbles up.

      February 22, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  17. Phil

    I can't wait to read the intelligent discourse this will bring into the comments section! No, wait...

    February 22, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Bubba America

      The problem is we are at war with muslim countries, they abuse women, murder our citizens, attack our country. Try doing a google search and see what comes up when you type in American outraged over something to do with muslim or islam. I wonder why huge amounts of articles come up when you do the reverse. Another issue is many feel their religion tells them to assimilate us or kill us and some say they already have a plan in place to take over this country from within. Author sees Islam's 20-year plan for U.S. http://www.wnd.com/2003/08/20098/

      February 22, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  18. rlowens1

    "God" is merely a power play. It is an attempt to steal the authority of an all powerful being. It matters not whether that being actually exists. What matters is that people believe He exists and that certain people speak/spoke for Him. Don't fall for it.

    As for myself, if there is such a thing as a "God" and He has anything to say to me, I have FAITH that He knows where I am and how to say it so I know it is really Him. Therefore, I ignore ALL the clowns who pretend to speak for Him – especially, if they lived and died thousands of years ago.

    And, religion is for those who would have others tell them how they should act, think, feel, and believe, That is counterfeit spirituality. True spirituality is figuring those things out for yourself.

    As long as there are those who would have others tell them how they should act, think, feel, and believe, there will be religions – and, those exploiting them for their own agendas.

    God believers fail to realize that, regardless of whether "God" (whatever that is) exists, or not, "it" will ALWAYS be a construct in their imagination that they created for themselves. And, "God" doesn't have to be anything like that. So, it's just an imaginary friend.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • clearick

      Right you are! Religion is about control over people, not enlightening them or bringing them to God. But you understand the appeal, everyone needs to find out about themselves and why they are as they are, and religion helps to satisfy that desire for the weak-minded.

      But you shouldn't disparage those who try to follow their religion, they don't know any better and the religions serve a purpose for people less gifted than you. Criticize them for what they do, not what they believe.

      That Islamic Scholar seemed to see what was truly important, so the religious belief doesn't appear to interfere with the process of human development.

      February 22, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  19. rlowens1

    "The first belief among Muslims of all types is that the Quran is the word of God,"

    And, upon this lie are all the problems with Islam based.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  20. David Brown

    Check me on this: it's a horrible thing to burn a Quran but OK to strap on an explosive vest, stroll into a market full of men, women, and children and blow everyone to smithereens, right? Got it.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • Bill Miller

      All extremist are dangerous, murders, haters, etc they come from all races, all religions, and all political people.

      February 22, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Frogman

      That pretty much sums up Islam. Thank you.

      February 22, 2012 at 11:41 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.