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. frank sol

    Actually the right way to dispose of the Quran in case of necessity, is by proper burning. I don't understand why is so difficult to do so, my reply is the ignorance of some people.
    The respect to other people's right (traditions), is peace. Either way!

    February 21, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
  2. DanBoy

    In order to reduce the need for war and conflict, and to improve conditions in impoverished countries, the USA should be distributing unlimited volumes of the Koran/Quran (as well as the Bible and other popular texts) – but all the books should be written or translated into the languages of the local population. – – – – In most Muslim countries, the Quran is given great importance, yet usually hard to find, and cannot be read by the average person because it is only written in Arabic. This reduces indigenous literacy, forcing some non-Arab Muslims to study Arabic language and culture, and the rest to listen to the preaching and scriptural interpretation of an Arabic Imam. This is similar to the state of Christianity prior to the Reformation and the printing press, when the Bible was only in Latin, most people were illiterate, and the Church misused its power and influence. Making translated Bibles available in Europe lead to increased literacy, to the rise of the middle class and standards of living, and to the return of Christianity to its sacred mission. It also reduced the influence of Rome on world affairs. – – – – This is exactly what is needed in Afghanistan and the many other countries struggling with domination by Arabs and Arabic culture. – – – – Please don't destroy the Quran, instead let us print authoritative translations and distribute them, so that Muslims begin to worship God, not Mecca.

    February 21, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama

      Do you mean instead of distributing bombs and warplanes to impoverished nations, the USA should INSTEAD be distributing Korans and Bibles??

      February 22, 2012 at 1:02 am |
  3. Dana

    Muslims burn people with acid but won't burn a silly book.

    February 21, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • TruthTeller

      You are right. Unfortunately, Muslims deviated from Quran and the prophet's teachings and that's why they misreact and indulge in violence. You should go back to History few centuries ago where muslims ruled the earth from Spain to Indonesia and see how it was.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama

      they must have "deviated from the quran" pretty quick!! because they were already killing each other with less than 30 years after the advent of Islam. Battle of the Camel where two of the most senior companions of the Prophet were killed by fellow muslims and his wife Aisha narrowly escaped death herself. Some years later, the Muslims killed the Prophet's very own grandson in cold blood while the whole Muslim world watched from the sidelines.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:00 am |
  4. mickey1313

    they should spray the muslem rioters with 50 cal amo, blast them all

    February 21, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  5. Gawd

    Is it bad to take a dump on a quran? I think I did that a couple of times. Oops.

    February 21, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
  6. Dan

    I guess it is ok to write extremist inscriptions in the quran though.

    February 21, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • TruthTeller

      Nobody can write anything on the Quran which is the final testament and it exists without even a single word changed for the last 1400 years. check for yourself going to different mosques and different places and read the arabic word-word (do not say translations are different because ofcourse it will be) and it is all same exactly.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  7. kaffir

    It was ok for Uthman to burn all the versions he didnt like in the 7th century
    'Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur'anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt"

    February 21, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • TruthTeller

      Please know the facts before commenting. Uthman burned the copies because in those days there were not written format. Everybody agreed on the Quran orally. When people started to write, they started writing in their respective dialects instead of the Quraishi dialect (which the prophet and companions were speaking). That's why, Uthman called the companions of the prophet and asked them to verify the other copies that were dialectically different and acted on the different ones.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • kaffir

      Sorry "TruthTeller" your hadiths say different Bukhari: vol. 6, hadith 510, pp. 478-479; book 61.
      Also, your comment doesnt make sense. How does one burn copies that are not in written format in the 6-7th century?
      It didnt seem to make a difference to Mohammed if the Koran was recited in Quraishi dialect.
      Bukhari: vol. 6, hadith 514, p. 482; book 61:
      Allah's Apostle then said, "It was revealed in this way. This Qur'an has been revealed to be recited in SEVEN DIFFERENT WAYS, so recite of it whichever is easier for you."

      February 21, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama

      Othman burnt what he considered to be "mistake-filled duplicates" of the Qur'an. He did this in order to yield one universal version or one official version if you may. It is totally different from burning copies of the Qur'an out of hatred and ignorance.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:08 am |
    • kaffir

      Interesting. Why would Uthman consider the copies to be "mistake-filled duplicates"? If they were duplicates then they were not mistake filled but reflected what the original said. Or Uthman did not like what the original said perhaps and found fault with it.
      BUT, doesnt the Koran say that Allah's words cannot be changed??!!!?? If they were "mistake-filled duplicates" then they were not the words of Allah after all. The Koran refutes itself.

      February 22, 2012 at 2:02 am |
  8. Glenn

    Their reaction makes me believe the burning of a book is as painful as burning oneself. Another indication of how extreme religion can be. No perspective on anything else but the written word on a page.
    Live your fantasy without me.

    February 21, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • TruthTeller

      Any relegious book that you burn whether it is bible, bhagavat gita or any sacred book will cause reactions. All this shows how much love and respect a muslim has over the word of God compared to other people to their respective scriptures.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  9. Rullens

    Jesus is the only way to the Father. Every other religion will lead you to hell

    February 21, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Dana

      Your foolish religion is just as silly as the others.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • mickey1313

      ignorant hypocrite

      February 21, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • TruthTeller

      Please do not make a prophet(Jesus) as God. He is not more than a man and he always said in the bible "Hear O Israel! Your God! Your Lord is one" – Not 2 – Not 3 – Not Father/Son/Holy Ghost. Just because he was born without a father by the direct word of God, it doesn't mean he is God. If that's the yardstick, then Adam who was created without father and mother should be God also. Come on – Think.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
  10. The Final, Final Solution

    February 21, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  11. Faiza

    As a Muslim it really peeved me when this happened. I mean we are told to as well as respect the Qur'an, also to respect the Bible, the Torah and all other holy books . And this is the message soldiers are giving? i support the army but there is a thing called RESPECT for others who are different than you. and soldiers should be the epitome of respect, honor, and decency. Shame on them for desecrating a holy book and for disgracing their jobs. America doesn't need anymore reason for blokes to plot against us and you're just pouring alcohol on an already burning fire.Anyways, as much as I am angry and hurt by this, I agree with this scholar- we can print more and more and as Muslim we need to set the standard of rising up and REMAINING calm and not be the stereotype the world thinks we are of angry backward water buffalos.

    February 21, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama

      one has to make a distinction between Muslims in Islamic lands and Muslims in Foreign lands. Where Muslims have power and the ability to force the political establishment to act, they should rightly get angry and make a lot of noise and rioting over this issue. Here in North America, where Muslims are nobody and really here to feed off of the chrisitan capitalist system, they should just suck it up and keep quite. Thats part of the package, the easy jobs and fine accommodations and law and order they enjoy here comes at the expense of Quran burnings, adulterous neighbors and free consumption of alcohol far a wide. There is no heaven here on earth, every place has its pluses and minuses.

      February 21, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • mickey1313

      so, when you have 100's of books you need to get rid of, you cant burn them? and you cant land fill them? So, they want us to what build a building to hold them, why? They are just paper, they are not magical, muslems are stupid. Im going to go home and wipe my a-s-s-h-o-l-e with a page of the koran, the bible and the torah.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
  12. Salman

    Just saying, I also agree with this scholar. I'm indifferent about these Qur'an burners, it's their choice to do what they did.

    February 21, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  13. Tachoman

    Muslims should stay at their lands where they tolerate murdering on muslims, beating wives and violate everything the west stands for.
    Where Christianity moved on and detached itself from the state giving cue to the enlightment the muslims continue to live in the times of the crusades or when they tried time and time again to conquer Europe.
    Islam is dangerous and it should remain in the desert where it belongs, I pray for the day when Oil is no longer necessary and we can finally stop interacting with those barbarians.

    February 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • True Human

      Rightly said....when we move to the next source of energy for commercial usage...i.e a new technology fr energy....these extremists ll be the beggars..we would self sustain ourselves...they have been the prime reason fr th recession due to higher oil prices to indirectly stage war against america and the rest of the world...cowards...if ther was no oil...the time has come for the next era...we are not far away from that day...the world is changing...science is developing in exponential way...new species are still being found...ther is always a progress...and these extremists are travelling to the end of the road...which will form the next journey fr the major part of the other world...no oil...no islamist would be heeded anymore...those people ll crumble very soon

      February 21, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Kat

      ha! because Afghans are the ones invading American bases, killing civilians, and imprisoning Americas in bases where they burn bibles and crosses, right? according to the your twsited fundi christian mentality. I hate to break it out to you ignoranti but Islam has followers in all contentants from all races and nationalities. The Muslims who live in the desert are only 25% of all Muslims in the world, stupid. Go invade Canada for oil and leave Muslims oil for themselves, greedy scm bag

      February 21, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama

      the native indians also said the same thing to you Europeans. Go back to where you came from and leave us alone. But you virtually annhilated them from the entire planet instead of heeding their advice.

      Now you want Muslims to do the same, what you yourself did not do!

      Instead of praying to rid yourself of the Muslim oil, why don't you "act like humans" instead of consuming like barbarians, you won't need their oil. But of course you can't. You are greedy and un-christ like, so you are now dependent on Muslim oil. How ironic!

      February 21, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • TruthTeller

      My dear. Islam is the beacon for the world. All it says is to worship one God and submit to him totally. It says not to follow satan and live a live that is good to yourself, your family, your society and humanity. Muhammad (pbuh) did that. Jesus (pbuh) did that. Moses (pbuh) did that. Abraham (pbuh) ...... Adam (pbuh) did that. Please read Quran and God willing you will know what I am talking about.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • none

      We are all Connected;
      There is only One Humanity;
      We are all Responsible for it;
      Past, Present, & Future;
      See beyond the differences

      February 21, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
  14. jooj

    so the muslim extremists are okay with burining torahs and bibles but are angered by the burning of the quaran?
    good logic.

    February 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • tAN


      February 21, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • mickey1313

      Um, you are kidding wright? When the dogs of islam took over EVERY SINGLE PLACE THEY EVER CONCORED they burned the libraries. Muslems raised the library of Alexanderia, and they knocked down egyptian temples bulit 1000's of years ago to build their filthy moscs. Islam is evil.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • TruthTeller

      Where in the world did muslims burn Old testament or New testament. Muslims believe they are also scriptures from God but only thing is they are altered by human hands unlike Quran which is the same exact word-word book for the last 1400 centuries.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    February 21, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  16. Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
    Prayer prevents you from getting badly needed exercise.
    Prayer makes you fat.
    Prayer wears out your clothes prematurely.
    Prayer contributes to global warming through excess CO2 emissions.
    Prayer fucks up your knees and your neck and your back.
    Prayer can cause heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
    Prayer reveals how stupid you are to the world.
    Prayer exposes your backside to pervert priests.
    Prayer makes you think doilies are exciting.
    Prayer makes your kids avoid spending time with you.
    Prayer gives you knobbly knees.
    Prayer makes you frothy like Rick Santorum. Just google him to find out.
    Prayer makes you post really stupid shit.
    Prayer makes you hoard cats.
    Prayer makes you smell like shitty kitty litter and leads you on to harder drugs.
    Prayer wastes time.

    February 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Gadadhoon

      It appears that atheism gives you the irresistible urge to post long lists.

      February 21, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Tachoman

      Posting stuff like this tells us you live in you mother's basement and remain virgin at forty.

      February 21, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Truth

      Above all is from SATAN.

      February 21, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  17. Muneef

    Acts are based on their intentions... So when you burn a worn book to prevent it from being scattered is one thing, but to burn it in hate of it as in desposing of it with intended insult then that is another thing...!

    Understand that elder copies are being burnt in order to introduce a new manipulated versions that are supposed to be more peaceful not containing verses that were considered violent or extreme....unfortunately already such books are being printed in some Arabic country under the name of Quran and Furqan for distribution to the Islamic world to please some powers...!

    My fears are that one day comes by where they decide to wipe it from the brains of those who memorize it....!?

    February 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
      Prayer prevents you from getting badly needed exercise.
      Prayer makes you fat.
      Prayer wears out your clothes prematurely.
      Prayer contributes to global warming through excess CO2 emissions.
      Prayer fucks up your knees and your neck and your back.
      Prayer can cause heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
      Prayer reveals how stupid you are to the world.
      Prayer exposes your backside to pervert priests.
      Prayer makes you think doilies are exciting.
      Prayer makes your kids avoid spending time with you.
      Prayer gives you knobbly knees.
      Prayer makes you frothy like Rick Santorum. Just google him to find out.
      Prayer dulls your senses.
      Prayer makes you post really stupid shit.
      Prayer makes you hoard cats.
      Prayer makes you smell like shitty kitty litter and leads you on to harder drugs.
      Prayer wastes time.

      February 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Muneef

      Democracy means that you may have your views and I may have mine...but I do agree that Prayers alone are no solution if not accompanied with hard work...and that is not may idea as well it is of our religion that a hard working man is far more better than a man praying all day or night and doing nothing else in life for the benefit of others whether family or the nation...!

      February 21, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  18. marat

    What is FAR, FAR more remarkable (and perplexing) is that the world population is 20% Muslim...and yet with 18,453 people killed by ISLAMIC Terror merely since 9/11, virtually the whole Islamic world goes nuts over a political cartoon by an older Danish cartoonist (Westergaard), or a novel by a World Class MUSLIM AUTHOR (Salman Rushdie), and that years and years later, this so-called "religion" incites the murder of these people. What a nerve, to try to inflict their OWN warped value system on the rest of humanity. Meanwhile, they will tell you bluntly that the killing of a son, a sister, a relative "was a GOOD THING" because it "saved the family 'honor. " Some honor. This is a tribe that is totally fixated on DEATH rather than Life. Also, you can find Arab newspapers on line and find the most VILE anti-Christian/anti-Jew incitement you will find anywhere in the world coming from their so-called "clerics." Those clerics are SANCTIONED by the theo-political ideology that most people call the "religion" of Islam. I personally do not consider it a true religion, but an aggressive and expanisionist ideology–and one which not only CONDONES violence to achieve its ends but actively supports violence. Clerics under Sharia "law" (the oxymoron of the century) are SANCTIONED to call for the death of ANYONE who they deem to be "a THREAT TO Islam." Like the Mafia, these same clerics will most often offer huge, huge sums of money to have these individuals murdered. It is shameful and I cannot fathom how Muslims can rationalize this built in extreme violence. Ironically, the MAIN victims are Muslims themselves.....

    February 21, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  19. Jafar Berg

    Look here,, sunni-muslim Bahrani/Saudi forces shot the Holy Qoran... not a single one of them protested on the streets...

    This is just propaganda, the radicals use islam as an excuse to hate America and to increase the support for Radical sunnimuslims and terrorist... watch the video yourself please!

    February 21, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Muneef

      Because of being secular system in a war with whom are considered extreme Islamists such acts do happen under the brand of (War against Islamic Terrorists) or (Alqaida)... In such cases they are protected and allowed to kill innocent civilians and those holding Holy Books are taken as if holding Arm guns...!

      February 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  20. 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 5:31 pm |
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama

      Your grandpa Hitler had the same idea. Burning religious books and all. Look how that turned out!

      February 21, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • mickey1313

      Agreed, to BHO, you are a fool. And while itler did bad things, but he was not without his reasons, the jewish comunity pourposefully segrigates itself, and if you read the torah and learn what jews think of gentals (not jes) it is sick and sad. And even with that, it is still called anti-semitic to point out there filth and hypocracy.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Reality

      Conservative Jews in the USA have rewritten the Torah to reflect the myths therein basically making it a doc-ument of peace.

      Thomas Jefferson did an analogous rewrite of the NT. Ditto for the rewrite of the NT by the Jesus Seminarians, Professor JD Crossan in his over 20 books on the historical Jesus and related subjects and Professor Gerd Ludeman in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 694-695.

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

      The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

      February 22, 2012 at 12:04 am |
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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.