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. Robin

    Good to read someone from Islam coming out and talking sense. Wait was he a convert?

    February 21, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  2. hamsta

    i agree this guy who calls himself a scholar is a moron.if that was un islamic why dont you see islam(muslims)publicly denouncing the rioters or the 9/11 hijackers or muslim terrorism as a whole?maybe thats because the so called moderate muslims just arent as extreme as the terrorists but still take their side.

    February 21, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  3. Steve the Goat

    Pancake soup for all! Free potatoes and llamas!

    February 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  4. kharazubian

    Burning the Quran would gravely endanger the lives of U.S. troops abroad. The American public should not support this heinous hate act if they care about their loved ones who serve their country in Muslim lands.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      There should be no burning of the Koran or Bible. Mosques or Churches or the American flag. Perhaps that message should be delivered so we don't feel like tolerance is a one way street.

      February 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Joseph

      You are right. It proably would endanger american lives, but what youy don't seem to understand is that it shouldn't! If faith were married to love and intelliegence – it wouldn't!

      February 21, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • LogicLand

      Shouldn't the Muslim mob be demonstrating against the extremists who desecrated the Quran by writing in them? Sounds like a trumped up display of anger over a necessary attempt to disrupt terrorist acts and the deaths of actual people.

      February 21, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  5. Joseph

    Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra thank you for your rational prospective. I'm not sure about Allah, but the God I serve does not need me or anyone else to shed blood or riot in His name to protect His book. His word will live on and be spread no matter how many bibles are burned. And make no mistake I love my bible and the words that are contained therein every bit as much as those idiots rioting in the streets over the Qur'an. And to kharazubian – ones faith can not be "burned". If you truly have faith then relax in the fact that Allah can take care of his own word.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • FightEvil

      Maybe being muslims is so weak that they require murder and violence to keep people muslim. A true sign of a fake belief is just that.

      February 21, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  6. Jacob

    Re: AlienShark (Do they really exist!?)

    Your ignorance about Christianity is FAAR more so than Islam, take a religion class sometime or learn Arabic. I can tell you were at dunce corner at school.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  7. Trent

    As long as Muslims butcher people over what happens to a book they will never find acceptance in civilized society. This is an issue only Muslims can fix.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  8. Me In Austin

    Look people upset over another asinine storybook. Christians, Muslims...any religious believer = delusional and quite possibly mentally ill.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  9. Jacob

    Re: Imam/ Ameer al Mumineen Ali (Upon whom be peace)

    You want evidence from the SUNNAH!? Are you illiterate? The Messenger allowed the lawful killing of Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf! And many more, in one narration he had a 100 year old women mounted on two horses and she was pulled from both sides of hear body until she was RIPPED APART! This is the Sunnah, and I gave you Ibn Taymiyyah's stance on the issue.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • AlienShark

      guys like Jacob have these small town hate-filled psuedo-Christian preachers that send them out into the world and get them to make themselves look like clowns using big words off hate websites.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • FightEvil

      A 100 year old woman murdered by the prophet? More like the prophet of Death and Murder. So this is OK? You muslims are proud of this murderous man? Evil has many faces and in Arabia it looked like mohamed. Why do you suppose they don't allow pictures of him? Then we might know what the Devil looks like.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • jimtanker

      If a lot of radical Xtians had their way then we would be under a theocracy and using the laws of the old testament, which aren't much different than the koran.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Jacob

      Re: FightEvil (Fighting the Good Fight?)

      He said: "Ana an-Nabi al-Malhama" Which means "I am the Prophet of massacre."


      February 21, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  10. Skorpio

    Muslim clerics are the source of all the riots, violence, hatred, terrorism and discrimination. They are the ones who use their interpretation of the Koran to transform millions of brainless Muslims into irrational beasts committing all kinds of atrocities without experiencing any remorse or guilt.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • jimtanker

      No, the silly, brain dead belief in something that doesnt exist is the root cause.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • rog

      Actually if you read the story you will see that two Muslim clerics are calling for calm.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  11. kharazubian

    "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?"
    This is a naive statement. To Muslims, burning the Quran is an insult that penetrates deep into their hearts. When they burn the Quran, it's like burning their faith. They know millions of copies can be printed; they are not so naive like Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • sumguy

      Isn't showing someone the sole of your shoe also a grave insult?
      It seems to me like they just need to lighten up a bit.
      They should also be thankful Americans don't take their chants so seriously.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • kharazubian

      sumguy: Wouldn't an average American get insulted if someone burns the American flag? Millions of copies of the flag can be made. Your comment is also naive.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  12. Hiyan

    What a stupid response by the so called Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra. It is not about a loss of printed books of the Qur'an, it is about the irresponsible and provocative acts of NATO's blood suckers. Believe it or not, a true Muslim (the one who surrenders to the Will of his Creator) would rather die but not to keep silent about the disrespect of God's Words which take place at a country that had enough of disrespect to human life for more than a decade of aggression and atrocities.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Me In Austin

      Die for a book. Then that It's what you deserve for believing such nonsense as a story book like the Qur'an. You are a sad delusional brainwashed idiot and the world would be a better place without the ridiculousness of "Faith", which by the way should be replaced with the word "Fear". Fear of dying, so you delude yourself into thinking you go somewhere else. Welcome to stupidity people.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • sumguy

      Look up the word "Accident".
      If it was done on purpose, I would agree with these people being upset.
      Words of wisdom.... "LIghten up Francis!"

      February 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Jeff

      Why don't they show the same outrage when radicals use kids as suicide bombers aged 6-10 years old. If anything in this world is unjust and deserves condemnation it is that. The one sided hypocrisy gives your religion no credibility.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • FightEvil

      A true follower of God would do no evil since God is anti-evil by default. What muslims do is EVIL! I don't care what is written in that silly book of gibberish they call the koran. If it taught Love instead of Hate and killing, I might consider it a book from God. Trash belongs in a trash heap.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  13. Triple A

    Twin Towers fall Muslims world wide cheer
    Muslims behead innocent people, Muslims say nothing
    Muslims kill their own with suicide bombs, Muslims say nothing
    Muslims use children in suicide attacks, Muslims say nothing
    Muslims use the mentally ill in suicide attacks, Muslims say nothing
    A few Quran get burned by mistake, Muslim world wide chant death to America
    Says all I need to know about Muslims.....

    February 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Jason Blair

      That's not true, the Muslims speak out against these attrocities... but the News Media rarely posts anything about it as they have their own agenda.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Malcolm Xcrement

      The Final Solution was most definitely applied to the wrong people.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • kharazubian

      Your prose masterpiece sounds like diarrhea.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Me In Austin

      And it would take a towel head to spot diarrhea.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • AlienShark

      actually dude, not for nothing but Muslims speak out against violence and terrorism every day. It just doesn't make it to CNN or FOX.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Malcolm Xcrement

      You're right, Jason. After years of OBL calling on all Muslims to kill Americans, I guess we missed the Muslim Million Man March to send a message to the radicals that they don't speak for you. You'll have to excuse me, but I've seen plenty of Bush likenesses burning in effigy. I have yet to see an OBL on fire. Your silence speaks volumes...

      February 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Dado

      Muslim scholar says riot un-islamic.
      Muslim imam says revenge!
      Muslims listen to imams not scholars.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Rosstrex

      I Love the misinformation that Muslims always push:

      Muslims speak out all the time against these acts. The media just does not report on it.

      You do realize that the article above is yet another attempt by CNN to apease the Muslim Lie of the evil media is to blame for all of the people murdered everyday in the name of Islam. The media ignores Muslims when they speak out do they.... Go to the CAIR website and please direct us to where CAIR has specifically said anything other than some generalized statement about terrorism. CAIR and Muslim orginizations do not track the atrocities committed by Muslims or Muslim Governments. Muslim orginizations do however record every slight, every supposed discrimination against Muslims real or false and threaten to sue or assail the US government over it.

      Bottom Line: If Muslims cared at all about others outside Islam they would be tracking the Death and Mayhem created by Islam all over the world instead of constantly claiming it does not exist.

      February 21, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  14. Jason Blair

    This man makes a very good point. In Islam life is more sacred than anything and should only be shed in self defense, to free the oppressed and to protect the freedom of religion. Muslims are told to accept peace when it is extended to them without restraint and to always strive for peaceful relations with others. That is the true message of the Qu'ran!

    February 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • FightEvil

      By that definition, real muslims should be avenging God on those imams who are going against islam and the prophet by killing the innocent.

      February 21, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  15. Malcolm Xcrement

    If this is true, I hope you don't mind if our boys defecate in the books and wrap them in bacon before burning them.
    Oh, and dancing around the fire as they sing "Onward Christian Soldiers" as these hateful pieces of trash are incinerated.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • AlienShark

      You sound like a hateful piece of trash yourself. I hope you don't think you are a Christian!?!

      February 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • face

      I'm disgusted to live in the western world with people like this are my neighbours.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Malcolm Xcrement

      I assume that since you are an alien you are not aware that there haven't been too many Americans kidnapping Muslims and burning or beheading them, all in the name of the "Religion of Peace".
      Here's a quarter. Go get yourself a clue.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • face

      a few bad examples in the millions of peaceful muslims?

      February 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • AlienShark

      Mr Excrement. You cannot use the actions of others to justify yourself being a hateful piece of trash. Their deeds are theirs and yours are yours. At the end of the day they are responsible for their actions and you are only responsible for the words and actions of Mr. Excrement himself. and so sayeth the alien

      February 21, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    February 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • face

      but the freedom to choose what to believe in, and to love those around us even if we feel they are wrong, is paramount.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Me In Austin

      Yes prayer changes your status from sane to insane.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      Show me a sane Texan and I will show you George W Bush.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  17. AlienShark

    The Islamic scholar made the most rational and common sense points in the entire story. First off, it is not ok for corporate fascists to be sending American kids to foreign countries to die to financial and political interests (which is absolutely what is happening). Secondly the military spokesman sounds like a babbling buffoon apologizing for this and the people on the street in Afghanistan should be outraged by the invaders killing women and children. Even if you burned every Qur'an in the world, the very next day there would be more copies. Millions of people around the world have memorized the entire book letter for letter, which is one of the reasons it is unchangeable. People of all ages in every country in the world can recite the entire book exactly the way it is written without even looking at it. The scholar is right, the murder of innocent women and children at the hands of NATO and or any other group (Muslim or non- Muslim) is the real tragedy happening.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  18. DL

    What's so bad about burning a comic book?

    February 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  19. DeeNYC

    It's true, rioting is un-islamic, any real islamic would start suicide bombing.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • AlienShark

      people in NY are usually cooler and more intelligent than what you portray here. I can understand cool aid drinking bumpkins acting like that but you should know better.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Girl4Peace

      Wow, seriously? If you knew anything about the "real" Islam then you would know that suicide of any kind is not permitted in the religion. Please do your research before making false assumptions. You are only making yourself looking ignorant.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • durundal

      shouldnt you be making out with your cousin or something? Leave the discourse to the intellectuals, and go watch tv like a good little peon – but not fox, your fragile little mind cant take much more of that

      February 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  20. ruemorgue

    Allah is a pig and Mohammed is his excrement.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • AlienShark

      I feel sorry for you. You only disrespect yourself when you say such things.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • face

      he disrespects all of western society.. just like we label all muslims insane because we see one doing something stupid.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
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About this blog

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.