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. Terry Docker


    February 22, 2012 at 7:31 am |
    • Islam is one sick crew

      Where have you been ,the ragheads are here

      February 22, 2012 at 7:34 am |
    • Peter

      Gosh, I can't imagine why a law abiding, second or third generation American citizen who happens to be a Muslim would get offended by being called a "raghead". Low class moron.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:39 am |
    • Dr. Loomis

      Burn all the bibles you want, I think you'll find that the Christian faith remains intact afterward. By the way, your caps lock is on.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  2. John

    Just out of curiosity, is it offensive for a human being to write in a Koran, as apparently was the case here? What would be the punishment for writing in a Koran? And having found that this Koran was defaced, what would be the proper method for disposal?

    February 22, 2012 at 7:29 am |
    • JR

      Trash can

      February 22, 2012 at 7:37 am |
    • Frank

      I am wondering the same thing. I understand that this book is very holy and requires the utmost respect be given to it at all times. So what about writing in it? Is there a set of actual rules that govern how this book is handled? What happens when a copy of the book is accidentally damaged? How can you properly dispose of a book. If you accidentally burn the book (as is suggested here) it appears that if the belief is that it was done on purpose or with malice a faction of Muslims will consider this highly offensive and will riot and etc. I don't know enough about the Muslim faith to determine whether or not this is over reacting fueled by people trying to make a statement or otherwise. Bottom line, it appears a mistake was made and people have apologized ... too much tension there for clear thinking.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:45 am |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    February 22, 2012 at 7:29 am |
    • JR

      I'm an atheist. And I am happy.
      I raised my kids the same way. They are happy.
      "religion is the opiate of the masses" Who said that?

      February 22, 2012 at 7:47 am |
  4. aol@aol123.com

    Guess what, I burn this retarded book once a month underneath a Satanic Altar.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:27 am |
    • Peter

      Yah, right. I'll bet you are a real religious scholar.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:31 am |
  5. Joe

    Religion is offensive to intelligence.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:27 am |
  6. William Johnson

    Religion of peace, my ass.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:24 am |
  7. Josteinn

    It amazes me that people are actually using "but they did it" as an excuse for muslim behavior in these comments. Bad behavior by one group does not excuse bad behavior by another. "The bible is intolerant" and "christians are mean too"? Oh, I didn't know that. Riot away muslims, it's okay because christians are bad too.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:23 am |
    • Peter

      "Riot away, Musliims"

      For the umpteenth time, WHICH Muslims are you talking about? There are a billion and a half Muslims in the world and I don't see most of them rioting, just like I don't see most Christians as white power members, or IRA terrorists blowing up buildings.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:29 am |
    • Dr. Loomis

      Yes Peter, not all Christians are klansmen, not all white people are skinheads, not all clowns are scary, etc., but there seems to be an obvious trend here with regard to Muslim behavior. I've lived in Muslim countries, have Muslim friends, I know they're not all bad, we get that and you're beatiing that point to death. However, the stories of irrational, violent reactions by Muslims toward things that non-Muslims and most rational, sane people would view as a trivial matter are commonplace and are NOT the result of unfair media hype or an underlying hatred of Muslims no matter where they are or what they do. There's something broken in the Islamic world, something wrong in a deep, widepsread and pervasive kind of way and to ignore that or to act like it isn't happening is the height of naivety, stupidity. Many atrocities have been carrried out in the name of Christianity as well, yeah, I get that and I don't care because I'm not trying to defend Christianity and I'm aware of the fact that it has nothing to do with what's going on here and now.

      February 22, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Peter

      Dr. Loomis:

      I am not disagreeing with most of what you say, especially that there are good Muslims out there, and that there are aspects of the religion which can easily be radicalized.

      I am simply trying to counterbalance what appears to be a mountain of people who suggest that all Muslims are evil and should be destroyed, period. Am I beating this point to death? Maybe. But reading one red meat post after another is disturbing and reveals that many Americans can be as irrationally bloodthirsty as anyone else.

      I am simply trying to bring some

      February 22, 2012 at 9:17 am |
  8. God's slave

    unlike Bible these day or Torah (new tastement or old tastement) or hindu / buddhist Scriptures which are words already been altered by human, Quran is preserved generation to generation for the authenticity from the first revelation. You can do research for the history yourself, don't take my word. I and all muslim believe it literally words of Allah – my God, your God, God of all human. And I believe only evil who against His Words.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:20 am |
    • Andrew

      Now here's the million dollar question, when you 'researched' it yourself, did you even bother to examine sources critical of the quran in the first place? Confirmation bias is a dangerous thing.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:27 am |
    • John


      February 22, 2012 at 7:28 am |
    • allah sucks hot dog

      burning the koran pollutes the air.
      it would be good toilet paper if it werent so full of excrement already

      February 22, 2012 at 7:37 am |
    • Bobs your uncle

      wait, so humans didnt originally write it, study it, or interpret it to their own language once in 1500 years? Woooowww...

      February 22, 2012 at 7:42 am |
    • Peter

      "allah sucks hot dog" wrote: "burning the koran pollutes the air. it would be good toilet paper if it werent so full of excrement already"

      With posts like the above, it looks like our national IQ is dropping like a rock.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:49 am |
  9. Fototinks

    In my opinion people should respect other people's religion regardless of whatever faith it is.. and respect the other person's holy book .. Let us sit and think of what if it happen to our own's faith book.. and how we felt about it... Burning of the Quran should be handle with tact although burning it is one method of getting rid of the damage Quran.. am a Muslim.. and I do burnt mine if it's damage, but I myself handle it with care.. so it's all about tolerance.. as we do not live on this earth by ourselves.. but amongst others.. so tolerance and respect of other people are very much the important of us as humans and not animals..

    Just my two long cents..

    February 22, 2012 at 7:20 am |
  10. rcpr

    the koran is just their excuse for being stupid...

    February 22, 2012 at 7:19 am |
  11. rcpr

    like the muslims have respect for other religions – abababababa jihad! phooey on their koran!

    February 22, 2012 at 7:18 am |
    • Peter

      Which Muslims are you talking about? The radicals? Most of you people have no idea what you are talking about and are operating from fear and stereotypes. Am I to believe that all Christians are racist because the KKK burns the cross of Jesus Christ on my front lawn, or that most white power groups invoke the name of Christ in a twisted way when spewing their hate? Stop it.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:25 am |
    • wyatt

      Yea, characterize the whole religion by the actions of the extreme fringe. By that logic, everyone of German heritage or association is a Nazi sympathizer and hates all Jews, and all Christians are represented by the Westboro Baptist Church's actions (should be noted that they are not actually affiliated with the Baptist religion).

      There are a whole lot of peaceful Muslims in the world. Do you really think we'd still be alive if they all hated us?

      February 22, 2012 at 7:58 am |
  12. kharazubian

    Those who say the Qur'an is just ink and paper and burning it is no big deal are really very naive, to say the least. When you burn the Qur'an, your motive, symbolically, is to show your disrespect towards Muslims and to provoke their anger, because deep in your heart you are burning their faith.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:11 am |
    • Dan

      Yet we don't see westerners riot when Muslims burn flags, bibles, effigies, etc.

      It's called maturity. I keep wondering when the Islamic world is going to join the rest of us adults in the real world.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:16 am |
    • jesse

      good. It is just unfortunate that we cant ACTUALLY burn their faith, rather than just do it "symbolically".

      February 22, 2012 at 7:19 am |
    • Peter

      You are seeing the behavior of the radical Muslims. You just read (at least I HOPE you read) the above article from a mainstream Muslim who is more representative of modern Muslims, especially those in the west. I could show you videos of radical, fundamentalist Christians burning books and that would hardly be an example of the behavior of most Christians.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:21 am |
    • Yitzhak

      Oh PLEASE spare us the false outrage and less-than-sincere righteous indignation. We see PLENTY of video showing Muslims desecrating holy books of Judaism and Christianity. And, we've ALL seen how the Taliban shows respect for other faiths. Grow up and grow a thicker skin.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:27 am |
    • John

      Worth repeating...

      Yet we don't see westerners riot when Muslims burn flags, bibles, effigies, etc.

      It's called maturity. I keep wondering when the Islamic world is going to join the rest of us adults in the real world.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:29 am |
  13. richunix

    It’s a book, nothing more. It is words written by MAN on paper created by man.. Get over it…..Hold it I’m cold…let me burn this copy of the Quran I found and using pig-fat to start the fire….and boy does it burn!

    February 22, 2012 at 7:08 am |
    • Peter

      Do you burn a bible, too? Why not?

      February 22, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • Dan


      February 22, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • Hank Tuesday

      Has the burning of the book changed anything? Has it lessened their god? Has it caused the muslims to loose their faith each time someone burns one?do all Muslims pitch in to have them printed up, so every time one is burned they get mad because they gotta order another book to keep a certain amount of them in print?do they worship the book itself?

      February 22, 2012 at 7:28 am |
    • cecilia

      nice – I bet you are an outstanding, intelligent, sensitive human being in all aspects of your life

      February 22, 2012 at 7:31 am |
    • richunix

      Actually, I'm very nice, but I refuse to have respect for ANYONE that uses religion to justify murder and subjected a gender to point of slavery. Then I have real issue, if I sound disrespectful, then I’m…but considering I have three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, so I know firsthand. My last tour an enemy soldier was shot by my squad as he lay dying and as all solders will do, I stayed with him. Went as far to get him a copy of the Quran and a prayer beads from the Army chaplain, while he was dying I held his hand. The point is IT IS PEOPLE that do evil and use religion for justifcation.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:46 am |
  14. J

    Who cares if it's offensive? It's offensive to burn the American flag or to do a million other things. The bottom line is people need to not over-react to one persons "offensive" behavior. Deal with it.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:06 am |
  15. Dr. Loomis

    There is no curse word that I can think of that would properly convey the visceral contempt and loathing that I feel for a culture that would look the other way while little girls are mutilated for attending school but are able to muster such outrage over the burning of a book.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:05 am |
    • Peter

      Are you equally outraged by the numerous petophile priests who the Catholic hierarchy knew about for years and did nothing about?

      February 22, 2012 at 7:13 am |
    • ladydi


      February 22, 2012 at 7:16 am |
    • Dr. Loomis

      Yes Peter as a matter of fact I am.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:29 am |
    • John

      No Peter... but your sobbing is quite an annoyance.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:32 am |
    • Peter

      "Sobbing"? What the hell do you mean by that?

      So many posters on this site have no idea that there are many, law abiding send and third generation American citizens who happen to be Muslims. Google "muslims against terrorism" and learn something. Did you know that the FBI receives numerous tips about radical Muslims from mainstream Muslims? This is hardly "sobbing", my friend. I am simply trying to present some facts to a crowd that seems to want to destroy every single Muslim based on fear and ignorance. "Sobbing". Yah right.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • Dr. Loomis

      I'd love it if my comments stopped disappearing. Evidently someone doesn't like what I had to say.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  16. BogusPeavy

    There always comes a point at which one has to ask: "WHO wrote that book?" In history, it's always man that writes the books filled with words handed down to him from ?? Fiction clearly is that and labeled as such as are all the other kinds of books.

    But then we get to that special batch of books, religious texts. Torahs and Bibles and Qurans and on and on. These books were supposedly NOT written with the words of men but with the words of Gods handed down to lowly men to jot down.

    IF you are a professional book handler, HOW do YOU handle problems with 'those' particular books? No problem if that Stephen King novel gets trashed but what about a Bible? Worse, what about that Quran? Ha, how about being that book handler and having to insure your business. "Hello, I need to purchase fire insurance coverage for my book business where I handle Qurans".

    I thought it was about the words themselves and whatever YOU happen to get out of them? Not their brand or classification but their conveyance. What do they bring you? And how could you resort to violence over them? I worry about these people and their Qurans.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:05 am |
  17. Ahmed

    Obama should go to Afghanistan and personally apologize.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:02 am |
    • Yitzhak

      I think I might just burn one myself today.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:38 am |
  18. Islamic Pork

    islamic scholar is an oxymoron, the quran is nothing more than a terrorists manual.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:59 am |
    • Peter

      The bible is full of intolerance regarding non-believers, too.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:15 am |
    • ladydi


      February 22, 2012 at 7:15 am |
  19. joel woods

    if the afgan people got that mad when the twin towers came down or at the number of people that die from their heroine crop or at the way they surpress women then I would stay and fight for them but they are a backward people and they deserve the taliban

    February 22, 2012 at 6:55 am |
  20. moonster

    Burning anything that is considered sacred is foul.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:54 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.