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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. Give Me A Break

    I have found that using it to wipe can be more satisfying than burning it.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • common sense

      The problem is that if you use the koran to wipe, I find it kind of abrasive. See what I did there 🙂

      February 22, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  2. mudbone9

    They should have burned the bible as well as korans. Religious fundamentalism is going to be the downfall of this world. People think their religion makes them closer to god then anyone else therefore they feel like they are more rightious. This stupid kind of thinking is what makes religion dangerous.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • common sense

      Please remind me...were Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Pol Pot, Ceaucescu alll religious?? No, and they killed 100's of millions. Its humanity that holds the ability for evil. They just use religion to justify their ends. Religion doesn't kill people. People kill people.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • 1221

      Religion isn't the problem. People are the problem. Take away religion and this cultural conflict would find something else to be divisive over. My science is more right than your science or whatever.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • mudbone9

      I didn't say that religion was the only problem in this world. Religion is just one form of mind control. It's just one way for one individual or group to control another individual or group. Religion is not used by god to control human beings. Dictators use different forms of mind control to force their control over the masses. Most times at the point of a gun barrel. It's all about the abuse of power to control another human being.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • common sense

      As long as you're not in a cult like Mormonism, Jehovahs Witnesses, Islam in context of sharia or complex family structures as seen in islamic countries etc. you're not under any mind control. I am a Christian and nobody controls my mind or volition. No church, man, pastor or organization controls me. Therefore, to follow Jesus is not being under mind control. However you do see controlling environments in the organizations and social structures I listed above. That, to me, is religion.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • William

      CLEARLY you fail to understand human nature. This has nothing to do with current forms of mainstream "religion" and everything to do with man's need to know the "unknowable". This need will ALWAYS influence man's behavior. Watch South Park, episodes "Go God Go" and "Go God Go XII" and EDUCATE yourself, you clueless simpleton.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • mudbone9

      The most successful forms of mind control are the ones that control the minds of individuals without them even realizing they are being controlled. Just the fact that you feel your religion is better than someone else’s tells me that you are being controlled. Resistance is futile!

      February 22, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • common sense

      So says mudbone9 and william. Thank God that I dont need to take your opinions seriously.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • mudbone9

      @Common Sense – No problem:). I believe in god also but I will not have any church tell me what I have to believe. I personally don't know how you could exist on this planet and think like a normal human being and not feel that there must have been something that created all of this. But that is just my opinion and everyone else has theirs.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  3. cultural flow

    These cultures have never had freedom of speech in their lives. If somebody, especially from the "West" draws an image of Mohammed or burns a Koran, people simply don't know how to react and it turns into an extreme emotional response.

    We are used to this type of dissention in America. We are used to people burning flags, mocking religion and leaders. Muslims in sheltered countries do not yet have that desensitization. This does not excuse the killing, just helps explain.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  4. denny

    I've no problem burning a quran as long as i can toss a bible in the fire too.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • common sense

      It wont matter. If you burn 5 bibles a day, they'll print 10,000. Its an exercise in futility

      February 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Ryan

      Amen.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • common sense

      That's right. And if it were me, I'd drop bibles into the middle east by the millions.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Bill P

      denny – Burning the Bible is of no consequence to God. It only offends people here on this earth. How is the Word of God impacted because someone sets a torch to it? While maybe offensive, it has zero impact on the words of the Creator of all things, infinitely powerful, and infinitely knowledgeable. Burning the Bible is an exercise in futility. A Christian, a firm believer in God's Word (Bible, not Koran), understands that God's Word will stand forever. Why the Muslims go haywire over the writings of Mohammad is beyond me, save that there is no confidence in it authenticity. Here is a test: Have you ever heard of "John 3:16"? Now, quickly, provide a quote from the Koran that is of equal impact on humanity? In fact, you cannot quote anything form the Koran because it is so unremarkable. No salvation, no love, just hate, violence, jihad, etc. Hence the violent frenzy to "protect" it. It needs such protection because it is not the Words of the Creator.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • common sense

      Amen Bill

      February 22, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • William

      TRANSLATION: I'm a clueless liberal imbecile who doesn't understand the first thing about human nature or reality.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  5. William

    Every decent, rational, freedom-loving human being on the planet should set a goal of personally burning one Quran per week.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • mudbone9

      ....and one bible. All religions suc.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  6. amee3

    I don't think we should burn anything that is represents a belief to anyone, that inclludes Bibles, but even though they would burn it, it would not stamp it out. It is still in the heart of every Christian here. We wouldn't go out and kill someone because of it.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • common sense

      I can burn what ever book I want to burn. Its called the 1st amendment.

      February 22, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Jim

      No more offensive than say knocking down a couple of building and beheading people and blowing up things just to prove a point. My dad always said that those with no argument yell the loudest...

      February 22, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • amee3

      this is to common sense, I didn't say you COULDN'T, I just said you SHOULDN'T

      February 22, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  7. Give Me A Break

    Burn them all you want. It will never offend me.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  8. William

    Every decent, rational, freedom-loving human being on the planet should set a goal of personally burning on Quran per week.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Give Me A Break

      I was thinking of posting videos of a weekly burning. I also wanted to post a video of the rebirth of Mohamed, really just my dog taking a dump.

      February 22, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  9. naeco

    Muslims need to calm the F_ _ k down. Rioting and killing over something like this is IINSANE.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • heresy

      exactly

      February 22, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  10. Dr. Dan

    Although this may have been a hate directed incident, it is standard procedure to burn all waste at US military bases and shiploads of bibles that were sent to afghanistan by the Gideons have also been burned as it is the standard disposal method.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • amee3

      And you don't see any christians protesting and rioting in the streets.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  11. fidgetwidget

    The hypocrisy of islam is off the scale. Christianity isn't much better, but at least christians don't riot when muslims burn bibles. Having read the bible and quaran, and studied sharia (at least to the limits of my tolerance), I've concluded that Islam is a genocidal psychosis (the delusion that to serve their "god" muslims must exterminate anyone who refuses to embrace islam) and not a religion.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  12. ruth

    Muslims want Americans to start thinking the way they do....please go back to your country and we will not have this problem........

    February 22, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Phearis

      Exactly how is that any different from Christians?? Christians have an old saying: "Believe what I say or I'll hurt you."

      February 22, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • amee3

      I agree with you 100%

      February 22, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • BRC

      @Ruth,
      While I agree this is a completely unnecessary overreaction, you realize that we were in THEIR country where these Qurans were burned right?

      February 22, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • J.W

      What if they are Muslims that were born in the US?

      February 22, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  13. Mike

    Muslims would rather see a Muslim burned than their "holy" book. "Holy" cities. What a joke. Written and distributed by man.....believed by the masses.......and used as a controlling tool by the authorities.......a total joke.....and don't get me started on the Bible. LOL. Stop living in fear......only then will you be totally free.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Jim

      Awesome! Well said...

      February 22, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • amee3

      Mike, I am not living in fear, but I do believe the Bible.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • common sense

      Nice characterization of Christianity. I'm a bible believing christian and I dont live in fear....

      February 22, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  14. momoya

    Where are the riots when a muslim extremist bombs a mosque or other site where Korans get burnt?

    February 22, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  15. ObamaJoe

    have fun 🙂

    February 22, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  16. Maria

    It is not right ,under not circunstances should NOT be burn any religious book ,that is a insult to any religion,and not one should be allowed.This people is doing it to start a riot again and again we know that the Muslims life revolve around their religion and specially the Quran.Try to burn a Bible from a Christiaan believers it will start a riot too.Why is this happening? When Tim Mcvey bombed the child care in Oklahoma? NOT ONE BURN THE BIBLIE REMEMBER HE WAS A CHRISTIAN?and he said before he die" the children were a BONUS",he was a Christian!

    February 22, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  17. heresy

    it just a stupid book. who cares. there are more out there i am sure. if it was the original copy or the last copy. yeah get mad. but it wasnt . so cool it

    February 22, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Maria

      Tell that to a Muslim,or burn the Bible and tell that to a Christian you are such a moron I am a agnostic but I respect others beliefs ,something you don't for sure !

      February 22, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • David

      It is not just a "stupid book" to those who consider the readings sacred. For a minute, don't think of yourself, but others. You are the problem with humanity. You are the reason that there can never be peaceful correlation between various groups of people. Bigots like you set the world back and will ultimately destroy it.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • heresy

      i have nothing against other religions. i myself dont belong to one. i am just saying...i dont understand gettting upset over an object being detroyed........you dont need the book to believe or be religious. yes be angry. but you dont have to riot like a bunch of animals.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  18. 1221

    How to loose a war in one easy step... Put not offending your enemies religion above security. This war will never end or worse be lost due to many peoples inability to get their hands dirty by doing what is necessary to end the conflict. To me, that is a far worse crime than any "atrocity" thus far committed. This war should have been over a long time ago, but it was never designed to be truly won. Too many Bolsheviks infiltrated the US in the early part of the last century I guess.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  19. MagickUndies

    Nazi's burn books

    February 22, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  20. statman29

    Islam is a cult, not a religion. It should be universally shunned.

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

      you are

      February 22, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Brian

      So is Christianity.

      February 22, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • JustSaying

      I agreee religions are cults and they should all be shunned.

      February 22, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      You sir, are an idiot.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • denny

      Yes it is. Along with mormonism, catholicism, baptist, methodist, you get the point.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • David

      Any organized religion is a scam to control people, not just Islam.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
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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.