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. SixDegrees

    '"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'

    An excellent statement. Too bad there'll be a fatwa on Mr. Mogra's head by Wednesday morning.

    February 21, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  2. jordan

    Islam is not the Religion of Peace !!!

    February 21, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Kandie Rosales

      No they're not! But then neither is mostl religion's worldwide. Most are false religion out to control people. When 'The Almighty' is ready, He'll handle His business. He doesn't need puny mankind's interference. Human life, animals, plants– His Creations–are of value, not some paper with writing on it. If God is mad about this, He can do what needs to be done, not anyone else. Mankind is blinded and teach false doctrines of men. Few teach what is written in His Word. Look at them!!!! None of these act right with good hearts. Rather more like evil demons.

      February 23, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  3. btldriver

    So if the Quran is so important that one needs to wash their hands before reading it, what happens to people who write in the book? Will there be a punishment for them? And since there was writing in the book and has been defiled, is there a proper rite/ritual for destroying the book?

    February 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  4. Tony

    They are exactly right! I think that a far more appropriate response would be to soak them in pigs blood, dump human fecal matter on them, and finally, leave them out in the hot sun for the flies. By far, I think that this would be a much more suitable method to properly dispose of the TERRORIST HAND BOOK...

    February 21, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • zomg


      February 22, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • David

      scaphism.. nice, my favorite form of torture. 🙂

      February 22, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  5. Steve

    They're uneducated sheep that the 'islamic revolutionaries' can 'herd' at will ! When people can't think for themselves they are at the will of the so-called 'leaders' & are easily swayed. It's ONLY a book, & if you're a 'true believer', don't you think your allah will punish the offenders?? I guess when the only 'purpose' in life these people have is to breath air & wait to die, it seems like the 'thing-to-do', LMAO

    February 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  6. I.M. Rijus

    I'm sick of these barbarians and their rioting and physical violence over the burning of the Koran. They also don't care about women and think nothing of beating or stoning them. They are nothing more than barbarians, plain and simple.

    February 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Tony

      Amen to that brother!

      February 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Alexander the Great

      Dude, I said the same thing when I conquered Persia like 2 thousand years ago!

      February 21, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Hephaestion

      Alex, shut up and come back to bed.

      February 21, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Kandie Rosales

      Now we see what Israel has to go through. Twice, Israel gave the Muslim's land for peace. Still Palestinians/Muslim's want more. People don't get it. False religion's face can be identified by it's evil acts towards, 'All His Creation's.' God's true people, those doing His Will, have love among themselves, not hate.

      February 23, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  7. cons_are_loons

    Burning the Koran is ok. Now burning the US flag is another thing and should be outlawed and be punishable by death!

    February 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • sam

      What? And skip the rioting?? I was hoping I'd get to riot this time!

      February 21, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • zomg

      sam, i know, rite? =(

      February 22, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  8. paul.cos

    I see nothing different between santorum and the taliban..nothing at all.Fascism will come to this country wrapped in a flag,carring a cross

    February 21, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • HorseCentz

      Right. Because Christians come out of service and hold a 'Day of Rage.' Because Christians poison girls for the crime of going to school and being female. Because Christians fly airplanes full of innocent people into buildings full of innocent people. Right.

      February 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • sam

      LOL I'd buy tickets to watch christians hold a day of rage. What would happen, exactly? Would it end up looking like a bake sale?

      February 21, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • paul

      a christian day of rage would look like the federal building in oklahoma city.

      February 21, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • astarus

      uh except Mcveigh used the attack on the Davidians in Waco as an excuse for for his terrorism... not Christianity. Learn to history, the Davidians were not Christian.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:25 am |
  9. KevinE

    The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only TRUTH. Jesus Christ is coming soon for his bride! The signs are everywhere. I love you people who mock Jesus and hate him. Jesus loves you! <3

    February 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • mangus

      you mean the aliens that we mistook for Gawd thousands of years ago are coming back?

      February 21, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • LeFreak

      All religious nutcases are a bit off.... Doesn't matter the religion. Anything too radical is classified as radical for a reason. It is completely irrational. Almost as irrational as someone claiming a person that died a couple of thousand years ago is gonna come back cause he wants to get laid...lol.. eeffn nutcases

      February 21, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • sam

      Ok, I'll make sure and look busy.

      February 21, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • zomg

      you're a dumba ss and so are the rest of the people who put religion before common sense and the better interests of the common whole. get an education.

      February 22, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  10. VIP

    The war between us o crusaders , the war between us o americans , the war between us o atheists . the day that you will pay the prize in is coming , everything is written nothing forgotten

    February 21, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • HorseCentz

      price not prize...
      ...and they burned the book because of what it was being used for, not because of the scriptures.
      Finally, we recognize your threats, but we just don't bow down because you tell us to. Go threaten someone else.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  11. john cougar mellencamp

    you guys are so right! What some people do not realize is that studying the Quran is best in the original language which is Arabic. The inflections and nuances are lost in translation to other languages. The same thing for the Holy Bible. The original books were written in defunct languages such as ancient hebrew and aramaic. A good analogy is when Jesus last supper was translated into new guinea headhunter language. They had no words for "breaking bread" , instead, they wrote that Jesus "hung the jawbone", which somewhat gives the newly converted New Guinea headhunter the understanding of what breaking bread meant.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  12. Reality

    Actually, it is the Muslims who should burn their copies of the koran for the 1400 year old con job that is pulled on them daily by the imams and ayatollahs. Christians should burn their copies of the NT for the 2000 year old con job that has been perpetuated on them by popes, bishops, priests, ministers and evangelicals. And Orthodox Jews should burn their copies of the OT/Torah for the 6000 year old con job pulled on them by their past and current rabbis.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • timmyK

      does that mean christians can keep the OT? cause we believe in that too.

      ignorance is unbecoming of you. educate yourself first, then troll the forums. May the LORD bless you and keep you 🙂

      February 21, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • george

      @ last!!! – someone else who's awake! – i was begining to feel lonely!!

      February 21, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • LeFreak

      Agreed! free people of religion. It separates people more than brings them together.

      February 21, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Reality

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
      ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      (References used are available upon request.)

      February 21, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  13. Brandon

    But if it is endorsed by a vast majority that technically does make it Islamic right?

    February 21, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  14. Cindy

    Thank god! A calm, rational voice above the noice!!

    February 21, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Darkon

      Yeah, too bad it won't last. This imam is the exception, not the rule. Men like him have come and gone, and they've all paid the price for their progressiveness.

      February 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  15. Jack

    "I adopted the son of a friend and raised him as my own beloved child. When he married, I found his wife overwhelmingly attractive, so I disowned my adopted son, and he agreed to become no son of mine. He then divorced his wife so that I could legally marry her, such was his devotion to me."

    Who am I?

    February 21, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • scoobypoo

      Newt Gingrich?

      February 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Smithy

      You're a pervert Jack...lol...just kidding, you're writting an excerpt of the Quran

      February 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Jack

      Close, but no, that's not in the Quran. Muhammad is only mentioned five times in the Quran and never in biographical detail.

      February 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama

      .... him as my own beloved child. When he married, I found his wife ....

      your passage above needs correction!

      .... him as my own beloved child. I convinced one of my old lady friends to marry my adopted son, only to later find his wife

      February 21, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • Alan

      Not worth responding to such ignorant claim

      February 21, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  16. MNfree

    This is exactly how I wish all Muslims would view their faith. A book is just a book. Burn 1000s, but tens of thousands can be printed in their place. Help one another. Love one another. I'm a Christian and I'm comfortable with saying that this is admirable he is open about his opinion. I hope many other Muslims will stand on that view and condemn all the violence.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • face

      same argument over burning the flag, but this man is correct. A quran which has been damaged is to be destroyed to keep the message contained within clear. These books had writing in them, and extremist writing as well. This changes the meaning of the Quran, and should be destroyed.

      Sadly, this man is also saying he would rather people destroy hundreds of books for no reason if it would save a life. Neither is really acceptable, especially as people are killing themselves and each other over a book. Not even going to get into people fighting and dying over the message contained within this book, but to riot over paper being burned, as it should be, is ridiculous. Islam needs a single figure to interpret the book and steer them correctly in some regions where the populations aren't getting the point. Same needs to be done in the western world.

      February 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • MHS

      This is exactly how 99% of the muslims think but its only the 1% that make the headlines! The word of God is more important than the pages themselves. Plus millions of muslims have the Koran memorized word for word all over the world. This is a common practice. Even if the all copies of the Koran were destroyed in the world within a few hours new copies would be created by these people known as hafiz who have it memorized and in most cases even learned the proper scripts to write it in. I think it is the act of desecrating such a powerful symbol is what ticks people off which is understandable but to kill someone because of it goes against the same book they are defending!

      February 21, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • zomg

      in the quaran it promotes the destruction of other religions and killing of non-muslims. kids are brainwashed with this every day overseas, to the point that it's all they're taught. they're taught to believe that by strapping vests of explosives to themselves, god will make sure they don't die when the explosives go off. the teachers and followers are sick people, and dangerous – because the word in this piece of toilet paper of a book – is taken to be "law". get it together people, they're not our friends.

      February 22, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  17. anotherone

    Afghanistan was used as a base to hatch a plot to attack the U.S. They are paying a heavy price for doing that. I recommend they stop whining, act like men for once and get it over with.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Muneef

      This proves how right you are;


      February 21, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  18. Brad

    When people feel like all they have in the world is a book and the things that come out of it, I'm sure they will be upset by desecration of the book. Everyone should take a page from the Buddhists and apply the principle of non-attachment – certainly to things like holy books and artifacts.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  19. matt houston

    @hippypoet -in case this isn't sarcasm...ditto for the Bible. furthermore...the original biblical language was Hebrew or some strain of it...but of course you knew that already.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  20. fearisenemy

    "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?". There we have it, the smartest thing I've seen a muslim write in years.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • face

      Agreed, but I object to the overall tone he uses, suggesting that we want to burn 1000, and as well that we are killing their innocent people, wives and children. Sadly, this can happen, but it's hopefully a mistake.

      February 21, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
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