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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. I kan spel betterer than my IPad

    To the author: you restated a quote by Golda Mier from long ago:

    When they love their children more than they hate [..], then we will have peace.

    Problem is, just like on the states, "leaders" call on nationalism (here), religion (Islamic countries) to further their own political gain, power and wealth.

    we should all love our children more than we are willing to be manipulated into letting them die to make our politicians rich.

    Put leaders who talk war into a ring and let them duke it out. Do you seriously believe bush couldn't find Osama? I could find him with google maps. It was the deliberate intent to wage war that would enrich them the Bush started this.

    We are every bit as gullible to let him do it or, loving war, every bit a guilty as these men who murdered over a stack of paper.

    Time the world were a different place, but too many would prefer to fight and kill.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  2. Observer

    Apparently, there was no malice and no intent to burn these Korans. Why resort to violence to protest ? Does your book teach you to retort using violence and blood shed?

    February 23, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  3. Dave

    Perfect excuse to pack up and leave that cesspool.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  4. Corneliusone

    The soldiers burning those Qurans should have remembered that each time news leak out that Qurans are burnt, some radicals in the muslim world would rather burn their cities than allow "infidels" burn their holy book. It's still part of the backwardness of people misguided by their clerics who like to whip up fikkleness and small mindedness among less educated and totally illiterate and improverished followers. Instead of seeking to advance their lives, they keep on teaching that America is evil, Christians are "unbelievers" and western culture, until Osama Bin Laden told his daughters to embrace it, is adulterated.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  5. keeeleee001

    We burn books, they kill people. I guess it tells us those books, in fact, should be burned.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  6. cnn bs

    You mean Un-american, not Un-islamic. What a desperate piece of BS from CNN this is.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  7. tonyl

    Most of the people rioting are uneducated and twisted. The fact the beliefs are in your hearts no matter who says or does anything to your beliefs, it does not not change the belief. The leaders are making the uneducated masses to create chaos for political reasons.
    What amazes most people is how the US military leaders can be so stupid knowing the past problems and still aloowing this kind of action? Maybe there are some other reasons and ulterior motives behind such unexplainable misstep.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • I kan spel betterer than my IPad

      Considering all the other lives lready lost because people tried to provoke them, just shows the military leade here was uninformed, or stupid. The whole thing s stupid.

      This article verges. The bush Cheney war profiteers are out of offic, can they come home now?

      Mericans would rather leave these peace loving people to their own tribal warfares and the religious persecution and slaughter of girls.

      Get out already.

      February 23, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • jon

      How stupid can we be? Oops, don't answer that.

      February 23, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  8. Proud American

    After these actions I can honestly say that I have no respect for the muslim faith. Don't want to hear about the peaceful muslims or any of that. They act with the highest lack of respect, or lack of peace. Don't want to hear about it anymore, your just pieces of s***.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  9. A Muslim

    There is a colossal ignorance in understanding these Burning Quran episodes… unfortunately by both sides.
    As a muslim who has been brought up in an environment that respect and revere the Holy Quran, we have been taught from an early age that to prevent violating or mishandling the high status of the holy Quran, burning the Holy Quran is a valid option to protect this revered status. If there are copies or quotes of the book that are not going to be used or face the risk of being mishandled, such copies should be burned. This is the recommendation of scholars… Muslim scholars.. I do not understand what all the fuss is about.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • dd

      I think you know what the fuss is all about. The Middle East has a large block of ignorant Muslims who are living with the norms of the 7th century. Indeed, most people would call those norms uncivilized and inhuman. As civilization grew, the respect for human life grew. Many countries have completely abandoned the death penalty. Some countries now only kill innocent unborn babies as they still struggle with the respect for human life against their self and ego. Other countries kill anyone that violates their "self", their "ego". It is time to call this behavior inhuman! Killing should be declared inhuman; taking any human life should be considered inhuman. And the people doing it should be eliminated as vermin and be caged.

      February 23, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Abdul

      The small detail that is omitted in these Scholarly Discussions of goat-Poping and Koran burning is that only Arabic Scholars if anyone actually READS the Koran, since it is written in ancient Arabic, and of those maybe 1 percent have any clue about the actual thinking behind the words. So yes, let me deliver my deeply knawlidjabal Fatwa on the matter and say that if it generates more heat than burning soggy wood, hey, by all means, use it. Since they don't use toilet paper over there, this is probably the best use. By the way, isn't PAPER an Infidel, haraam, degenerate western-corrupted material? Ain't no bamboo or wood in Arabia, is there?

      February 23, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • NorCalMojo

      Ignorance is ignoring the daily reports of violence. Islam has a problem with violence. Owning that problem is the first step to fixing it. It doesn't really matter what the Quran says or doesn't say. If Muslims continue to riot over silly nonsense, you're going to be judged for it.

      February 23, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • jon

      We are stupid – and you are crazy.

      February 23, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  10. euplover

    Obam had offered his deepest regrets for burning the Koran.

    Has he offered his deepest regrets to the family of the border agent killed by guns from Obama's FAST and FURIOUS gun running scandal? Has he even spoken to the family?

    February 23, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  11. Dana

    If that "word" is so sacred to them why don't they follow it and spread its "peace" instead of persecuting other religions?

    February 23, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  12. AtheistoMachisto

    I oppose burning the Quran or the Bible. There is a better use out of those... Toilet papers...

    February 23, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  13. Amom

    I am waiting for the outcry from the "good" muslims to condemn this type of violence and hatred and I want to see the guilty brought to trial for their murderous acts. How long will we have to endure murderers being hailed as heroes?

    February 23, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Jerry

      Don't hold your breath waiting. These people kill just for the sake of killing. The burning was just an excuse. If it wasn't the book burning they would have found some other idiotic reason. As soon as a youngster is old enough to listen, they will be taught to kill. There is no peace in their world and never will be.

      February 23, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  14. NorCalMojo

    These articles aren't constructive. We've seen too many like it before. Nothing changes. They just seem like two-faced doublespeak now.

    If you want to convince people Muslims aren't violent, you'll have to convince Muslims first.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  15. yolanda

    What a waste of lives and money. Can anyone explain what it is that we (USA) are accomplishing in Afghanistan? They don't want us there, and the majority of Americans don't believe that we should be there. Bring our soldiers home.

    February 23, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Damo

      In theory, we're in Afghanistan because the extremist Taliban were close allies with the terrorist organization behind 9/11, even openly harboring Bin Ladin, and the only way to truly defeat the Taliban and remove their influence was to go in and remove their brutal regime, allowing more moderate Afghan people set up a new government.

      In practice we haven't done a very good job at this (at least in part because so much of our time and resources were wasted in Iraq, a country whose own horrible regime had nothing to do with 9/11).

      February 23, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  16. It's actually no surprise

    OK, riots are un-Islamic. But what else can you expect from a country brimming with rock-throwing peasants?

    February 23, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  17. malick

    respect ones belief please. it s d bottom line.

    February 23, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Proud American

      If your belief is to kill because of a book being burned, then I do NOT RESPECT YOUR BELIEF. I do not respect these people or the way they act. And for that matter if you are cool with it I don't respect you either!!!!

      February 23, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  18. Amom

    These people so desparately need Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can change their hearts.

    February 23, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Thinker

      And they would say you desparatly need Mohammad (sp?).

      Just because you believe you are right does not mean otheres share your belief. And with no way to prove one way or the other, you just have to learn to live with it.

      February 23, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • pflatman

      I was thinking these angry individuals would prefer jeebus in their lives.

      February 23, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Amom

      @Thinker. Perhaps you should pray that I don't convert. At least that I would not convert and become one of the extremist Muslims! All kidding aside, it is not me that would be able to convince them to know Christ. It would be the work of the Holy Spirit. Remember that when Jesus ascended he promised that the Holy Spirit would come. He is real, my friend.

      February 23, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  19. BL

    No material object in this universe is inherently "holier" than any other. When you're a spiritual person, every object is a manifestation of God in form, connected and sacred. Only your egos and conditioned mind give these objects significance.

    February 23, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • shahzad

      Not from muslims perspective, if you were not ignorant to know more about that perspective. Quran is the most sacred book in the universe as they are literaly the words of God. It has notthing to do with ego, conditioned mind, it's about faith! period!

      February 23, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • BRC

      @Shahzad,
      Sorry, but that doesn't track. Just because the WORDS are from Allah, doesn't mean that specific book is. I understand being upset about the percieved disrespect of a holy object, but to cause physical violence because of it is unreasonable. How about this, demand that the facility have comissioned and printed a new copy of the Quran for every copy that was destroyed, wouldn't that be a reasonable compromise?

      February 23, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  20. ITELLYOUWHAT

    The problem here is that the Afgans don't view U.S. troops as muslims. Thus for a non muslim to burn a koran in their own back yard would be like USSR kicking our but opening a base in washington and burining a bible.

    February 23, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Amom

      Or like Islamic terrorists hijacking a couple planes, flying into tall buildings, killing thousands, and then building a mosque on the site. Hmmm...

      February 23, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Doublespeak

      So it's OK for a Muslim to burn a Koran. Right. The problem here is that the people there are uncultured, ignorant, hypocritical louts.

      February 23, 2012 at 10:59 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.