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. HRPufnstuf

    If their korans were so holy, then why were they writing incindiery stuff in them?

    February 22, 2012 at 6:53 am |
  2. joe

    funny that you should mention that since a lot of Qurans were burned in the terrorists attacks of 9/11. there were many muslims in that building.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:49 am |
  3. Angelo

    I despise all religions except budhaism because it focuses on something that other religious groups can't do, PEACE.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:48 am |
    • Troy

      Budhaism is not a religion, it is a way of life

      February 22, 2012 at 6:53 am |
  4. Brandt

    regrettable incident and I understand the outrage, however, the people who are so "outraged" might be better served if their energy was spent rebuilding their country into an example of overcoming severe adversity

    February 22, 2012 at 6:41 am |
  5. Joey J

    One of the issues of the Abrahamaic religions is the insistence of elevating Yahweh to the rank of God. Surpassing the rest. To consider is the prior practice of human sacrifice. Which was largely successfully abolished. Hence most pagan societies gladly came to Christ. Since Judaism, Christianity or Islam would save their sons from the knife and their daughters from the volcano.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:40 am |
  6. DH

    The point of the article was not to over-react. It is a good point. Worry more about saving lives and raising children than what happens to certain pieces of paper. Amen.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:36 am |
  7. John the Prophet

    The Qur'an maintains that the Bible is the word of God and no distinction is to be made between any of the holy books. Therefore if you are a Muslim you should not attack the Bible – the Qur'an upholds it!

    The Bible is taught to be a source of guidance for Jews and Christians who wish to know the will of God, and so the Qur'an encourages Jews and Christians to obey their scripture and never asks them to deny it. The Qur'an says the Bible foretells the coming of Muhammad and it never says that faithful Jews or Christians have corrupted their scripture.

    The Qur'an never asks a Christian or Jew to accept it because their own scripture has become corrupt, rather they are asked to accept the Qur'an because the Qur'an claims, 1/ to confirm the teaching of the Bible, 2/ that Muhammad is foretold in the Torah and Gospel, 3/ the Qur'anic teaching makes clear what the Jews and Christians could not understand properly from their own scriptures. If the Qur'an is to be taken seriously then the claims it makes must be examined. If its claims are true then that is good evidence for accepting it as the Word of God. If its claims are false then it fails its own test and should be rejected.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:36 am |
    • Momhmd

      Yes, what you said is correct. But the Muslims also believe that the Bible in today's world is not the true, original bible. So who was this King James who approved the bible? Was he like another Jesus? What about the non-King James versions? Throughout time, the bible has been altered. There's some bibles with chapters that the King James version has removed. So Muslims do believe that there was an original bible, but today's bible is not the original one. Not to say that Muslims should go ahead and destroy it violently- there are things in the bible that agree with Quranic verses so Muslims can assume they're probably the original ones but not sure. But, in the end of the day, this sort of violence, whether burning Bibles or Qurans, is unacceptable. The Prophet Muhammad used to invite Jews to mosques for peaceful discussions.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:05 am |
  8. rs1201

    who care who gets offended by the burning of the koran...I'm offended by 9/11 and all the other terrorist acts committed against my country and my fellow Americans...loss of life is what offends me. What the muslims have done to the world and to my country can never be forgiven...nor forgotten.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:35 am |
  9. Duane

    What hypocrisy! Nobody gave a damn when the Palestinian’s used the Church of the Nativity as an outhouse. I could care less about Muslim sensitivity.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:33 am |
  10. ithinkthat

    It's just ink and paper.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:33 am |
  11. nepawoods

    If it's your property, you have the right to dispose of it as you wish. Nobody is obligated to act according to another's religion, and that includes acting as if some book is "sacred", or is anything more than paper and ink.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:32 am |
  12. Arawak

    99% of people who riot over the burning of the koran are hypocrites. Where were these rioters when the shiite were bombing the mosques of the sunnis? I would assume hundreds of korans were burned in the debris? Why are'nt these hypocrites rioting when assad is bombing Homs? I would assume thousands of korans are being burned in the debris. But God forbid, an American bomb ACCIDENTALLY touch a mosque, then these hypocrites riot and carry on like imbeciles.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:31 am |
  13. zafar

    I don't support the idea of desecration of any religious book of any religion. The problem burning Quran is re-occurring in this part of the world. There are cases against believers as well. The politicians and legislators should learn lessons and come forward to make a law on disposal of religious material including Quran, Bible and other religious books. There is no uniform procedure for disposal of religious materials. After all such materials need to be disposed of.
    Secondly, God himself has taken responsibility to protect Quran. It is written in Quran. There is no reason for Muslims to protest against such inadvertent incident. Let God protect Quran.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:25 am |
  14. abdc1

    Since all believe in God ,why make a big deal . There is suppost to be only one God . We Americans pray to God And you do the same in all other country .What is written ,is wrote by man regardless where it comes from !

    February 22, 2012 at 6:19 am |
    • zafar

      I agree with ancd1.

      February 22, 2012 at 6:28 am |
  15. spybird

    burning qurans being fat and stupid is no way to go thru life son lol

    February 22, 2012 at 6:14 am |
    • Bob

      And neither is hanging out on CNN message boards, rehashing an internet meme that grew stale two years ago.

      February 22, 2012 at 6:27 am |
  16. Smart...

    Burn em all....thx CNN for such a worthy story. Truly patriotic.

    February 22, 2012 at 5:58 am |
    • Burn Baby Burn


      February 22, 2012 at 6:03 am |
    • Islamic Pork

      What a waste of good toilet paper.

      February 22, 2012 at 6:56 am |
  17. Paul

    The Quran is not worthy of use as toilet paper. It would defile my sh!t.

    February 22, 2012 at 5:51 am |
  18. Nii Croffie

    The true test of character is reaction not activity. If Moslems were being allowed to read the Quran in their native tongues so that more of them understood it then supersti.tions which lead to such violent reactions. i wonder if the religion can survive such a reform though.

    February 22, 2012 at 5:50 am |
  19. Islam is the only True Guidance

    Those, who reach Quran with pure intention that he or she be guided to the right path and be cured, then this is the book, that will surely lead him to the path of Paradise, but those who have disease in their hearts and approach it with the evil intention, then he will gain nothing, but the wrath of Allah in this life and as well as everlasting disgrace in Hell. Whosoever is guided to the right path, it is for his own good, and whosoever seek the path of devil, he or she will not harm anyone else, but himself and his final destination is burning Hell.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • reason

      And if I am good Santa Claus will bring me presents at Christmas.

      February 22, 2012 at 5:58 am |
  20. Blessed Geek

    Dear fellow Americans who is serving my country in Afghanistan,

    I know how angry you are at times. And how distraught. And frustrating. It is not like Iraq where they lop your fellow soldiers' head off or blew them up with a bomb but next week comes back to your superiors to apologise that it was all a misunderstanding. They were just trying to get your attention.

    But not in Afghanistan. You have no idea what turned them on you. May be it was your beard in the picture before jointed the marines, looking more handsome and more islamic than theirs – and they became jealous. May be, one of them thought you were glancing at his sister too intently when you were actually looking at the sunrise. (Whereas in Iraq they were so proud they brought you home made cakes for appreciating the beauty of his sister).

    But anyway and anyhow, burning and destroying Qurans is really bad idea. BAD bad idea to express your frustration. Or nonchalance. You cause difficulties for your fellow Americans. Worst of all, you make the life of your superior officers difficult and purgatory – look what your supreme commander has to do now? He has to apologise profusely lapping around Afghanistan like a dog. That is no kind way to treat your superior officer.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • BG

      Tokyo Rose. Hanoi Hanna. Baghdad Betty.

      You're in good company. Now all you need is a catchy name.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:51 am |
    • s

      shut up you MORON

      February 22, 2012 at 6:21 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.