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. Arizona Yankee

    It's a book and nothing more....burn them all you want.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      Dream yourself an American dream!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      they just don't,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      February 22, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  2. Paul

    Lol it doesn't matter if they toss all the holy qurans in the sea.... lol my friend is a muslim and he memorized the whole quran! millions of muslims around the world! i don't know any one who memorized the bible. The fact that there are so many versions of the bible.

    got to give em props for that

    February 22, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Jimmy

      Very thinly veiled lol

      February 22, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Jimmy

      Many of us are smart enough to see your poorly hidden agenda.

      Oh and anyone who would spend enough time to memorize either the Koran or the Bible is an idiot.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  3. Obama'sQuran

    Nothing offends Obama more than the burning of his Quran!

    February 22, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  4. LevelHead

    Amazon.com – you can buy them online. Geez. It's a book, written and published by MAN. Get on your cell phones and download it. Same as Bible or anything else religious or facsimile thereof. People, find something more substantial to protest, something that actually can change your lives in a positive way. And maybe instead of protesting anything and everything, you might want to get a job, make yourself useful in the rebuilding of your country's infrastructure, do anything that will benefit your fellow countrymen in a positive manner. Ever think of that???

    February 22, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      are you sure they can ????????????????

      February 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  5. Don

    Nothing more than another excuse to kill more innocent people. They continue to blow themselves up along with innocent bystanders and think it is a just act. Seems to be some problem in knowing what is right and wrong.
    It's a book people.....

    February 22, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  6. mattmchugh

    Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra: "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,"

    An enlightened opinion that is difficult to get the rabble (be they American or Afghani) to grasp.

    - mm

    February 22, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      they are kids,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,they don't know what is more important,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      February 22, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  7. Ed

    What a bunch of stupid people. There is no god and Mohamidid is a joke and myth. Give me those Korans and I will use them as toilet paper and they will be sent down a flowing stream of water.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  8. ReligionIsRootOfAllEvil

    Barbaric zealots that are brainwashed are always a detriment to society.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • maverick

      Hows bout we send more of taxpayers $$ over to pay them and muhalahaas off and be on our side. Great idea Maverick...U should be Santiraiums runnin mate! Praise be to Ahahalhaaa and all those little imaginary friends.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  9. DP

    Why should we even be concerned about what the Muslims say or think? They can all go back to where they come from if they don't like the way we do it here in the U.S.. Besides, the Koran plainly states Muslims should exterminate all infidels (non Muslims). If we aren't careful Muslims will take over the U.S. the way they have France & England. Get real people & wake up.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  10. maverick

    Hows that little Alahahaaaa working out for U now?

    February 22, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      they are learning what is really important,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      February 22, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  11. ObamaJoe

    They cry ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,they are not the leader of the world,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    February 22, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  12. Andyoo

    Muslim's Allah or Christian's God are all powerful. They don't need a human book.
    Even if the books are burned by accident, it does not affect them a bit.
    It's only the stupid human that will fight over it.
    And if they died of this stupid act of fighting over it, it's God's will that they should not had lived.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      that's called learning,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,for human being,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      February 22, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  13. RGZ

    No book or collection of words or symbols is as important as a human life. The true Word of God (whether it is found in Islam, Judaism or Christianity) is the eternal Spirit which can never be extinguished by fire, water or other means. We should all remember, however, that when we desecrate another's holy books we do disrespect to that person. So, no matter what you or the other believes it is simply common sense and a matter of respect to treat all holy books with simple reverence.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  14. RobM

    You know what I find offensive? Burning the American flags and effigies of our leaders even the ones I dont like. I find it offensive that some middle eastern countries would rather kill thousands of they're own people just to stay in power of a desperately poor county and that the religion dictates that women be stoned as punishment, forced into marriage or not allowed to go to school. I really dont support burning of the Quran simply because it only fuels more of that previously mentioned non-sense.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  15. Fred Evil

    And how would xtians react to an occupying Muslim force burning Bibles?
    About the same way, if you can be honest about it.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Joe

      Just the crazy ones would react that way.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  16. Epic Waste of Time

    Proof: Innocent people, children, are forgotten and dying in Africa. Protest that.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  17. TC Williams

    It's not actually offensive. In fact, Qurans that are old and brittle are supposed to be burned. The problem is that Middle Eastern and South Asian people are extreme rubberneckers. If a person is digging a ditch in his backyard, don't be surprised if a dozen or more people gather around to watch, just for the sake of it. It's the same thing in this case. A handful of extremists start protesting because a Quran was burned and you'll get several thousand people gathered around in less than an hour. The easiest thing to do in these countries is get a rally or protest together.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  18. Puddle jumper 5000

    The reason they react with much emotion is because of the built up tension with us being there and all the associated activities that come with us being there. We would react the same if we were in their shoes. I have to say this though, our military should have known the proper way to dispose of the koran. When you are in a different country, you must respet their beliefs and traditions. You dont have to like it but I believe you do have to respect them.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  19. return to God

    O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor, Allah is a Better protector to both (than you). So follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you avoid justice; and if you distort your witness or refuse to give it, verily, Allah is Ever Well-Acquainted with what you do.
    ( سورة النساء , An-Nisa, Chapter #4, Verse #135

    February 22, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • RobM

      Allah is the better protector? Apparently you haven't noticed the tens (hundreds?) of thousands of Islamist that have been killed in the last 10 years.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • JAB62

      Send me your Bibles, Korans, and Torahs. I need to heat my home.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Joe

      Who protects the children that the radicals trick into blowing themselves up for some lunatic cause?

      February 22, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  20. Time Bandit

    The Quran is a book, the bible is a book. Nothing more.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • thes33k3r

      Right on.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:25 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.