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. SilverHair

    They look like real rapists as well. Full of women hate.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:00 am |
  2. Ted Ryder

    Because of their ingrained culture, these people only understand one thing. They only understand force. We must start applying this force in the most ruthless of ways.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:58 am |
  3. lullzy

    i'm burning a quran on youtube when i get home.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:56 am |
    • Burn Baby Burn


      February 22, 2012 at 7:58 am |
  4. Granger

    Christians are just as offended when Bibles are burnt; however, this is a shining example to show the uncivilized, and uncurable nature of Islam and it's fervent followers....and of course, CNN loves to heighten any story about the deviants of society, while crapping on the law-abiding, good American citizen..

    February 22, 2012 at 7:51 am |
  5. Richie

    Isn't burning our flag just as offensive? They do it all the time. Too bad!

    February 22, 2012 at 7:49 am |
  6. Yitzhak


    February 22, 2012 at 7:48 am |
  7. 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 justification for their actions.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:48 am |
  8. Jon

    This man has common sense. I suppose that means the Muslim community will probably ignore him.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:46 am |
  9. jnpa

    Any excuse to riot and kill!

    February 22, 2012 at 7:46 am |
  10. Tony D

    Burn the rag.....its evil...torch it..destroy it....we revel in its demise.........Islam is the evil empire that must be destroyed....muhahahhahahahahahaha

    February 22, 2012 at 7:44 am |
  11. Aid Worker

    I served in your country on a peace keeping mission. Not with the armed forces. I brought you food and clean water. Helped build schools and restore power. I live on the other side of the world, and far from home and through my kindness i watched you burn flags, beat women and children. Your religion is as misguided as the rest of them. In my opinion you are all dogs and have no place on this earth. You beg for help and then blow up what we give you. Your country makes me sick, you are no better than the drug addicts here in america. I only hope your god brings you home soon so the planet can be rid of your parasite like existence. I watched farmers shake hands with red cross personel then weeks later bomb the house they live in. You are all the same, i judge not from what i have read, but with what i have seen with my own eyes. May Alla have mercy on your soul, because i no longer will.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:40 am |
    • Jon

      Well said. Don't ever think that you're being ignored when you say these things. There are many of us who are listening.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:48 am |
    • Jim

      AMEN . . . these people should be left to the tender mercies of the Taliban. Not one more drop of US or allied blood should be shed to help these people.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:49 am |
    • eScribe

      You spoke the truth about these people. They kill, murder, destroy because they believe they are impressing God and making some brownie points with Him so they will be welcomed into paradise. Jesus of Nazareth, who Islam supposedly reveres in their Quran, spoke of these people when he said a day would come when people would kill because they believe they are providing a service to God. These people don't know God. Their religion is not one of peace. They love death and hate life.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:52 am |
    • G

      Exactly. Leave them to muder themselves and if they ever DARE to creep their extremists asses out of that craphole to infect the rest of the world with their lunacy return long enough to reduce the entire country to smoldering rubble.

      But we wont do that, we will kiss their neanderthal butts, repave their roads, build their schools, and pay them millions of dollars a year for the next 100 years.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • Dr. Loomis

      Well said.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:20 am |
  12. Richp

    These people are not sane.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:40 am |
  13. Rags

    It's just a bunch of paper sheets with black figures on it called a 'book'. The actual thing that was burned has no value rather the ideas within are of use and should have been learned.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:40 am |
  14. Andy Palochik

    CNN commentators at the 7AM news break should have read the above before adding their comments. The Quran is a Holy book. A defaced Quran can only be destroyed by a Muslim Cleric. The President of Afghanistan is acting correctly by condeming the burning of the Quran, and investigating the incident. Any other action would show radical Islam that President Karzi is not a Muslim. I am a Christian and I understand this. I am a Roman Catholic and I understand this. Andy, Ottawa, Canada.,

    February 22, 2012 at 7:39 am |
    • lol

      Catholics aren't Christian BA-DUM CHISH.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:44 am |
  15. Jonsie

    It's okay to disrespect our dead, but "for God's Sake" don't burn the Quran! I

    February 22, 2012 at 7:39 am |
  16. Yitzhak


    I think I might just burn one myself today.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:39 am |
  17. jiovanni

    That is a man made book that have no divine forces. These people are totally ridiculous I guess they think the book just became out of nothing. One thing about all these books, including the bible is that someone is getting rich by printing them and everything is of the fanatatic believer ignorance. Religion fanatics come down to the reality, the real life there is no one waiting in the afterlife.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • Asturiano

      Then I guess its ok to burn a box of bibles in front of St Patrick's Cathedral in New York.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:50 am |
    • Buddhist

      Asturiano: I bet people won't get killed for that.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  18. rcpr

    Peter – all of your respones have merit. You are correct in that we hear koran, we think radicals. i should read it before long. but the radical association is also brought to light when someone shows extremes to burning it. burn the bible, there are plenty more if i need one.

    February 22, 2012 at 7:38 am |
  19. pinkfloyd43

    Another example of the extremes religion can take you too! It's ok to have kid kill themselfs, it's ok to throw acid in the face of a woman who say's no! But wipe your butt...........you get it! No wonder we have so many problems with these folks and thank someone that they are ALL NOT LIKE THAT!

    February 22, 2012 at 7:36 am |
  20. Neutrophile

    It is wrong of Muslims to burn the bible or the flag. It is wrong of non-Muslims to burn the Quran. It is wrong of anyone to intentionally offend or provoke someones anger. Lets stop taking sides and unite as Mankind.

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


      February 22, 2012 at 7:39 am |
    • Jon

      You begin with the assumption that Muslims want to unite with mankind as it currently exists. On what do you base this? What if you're incorrect?

      February 22, 2012 at 7:49 am |
    • Kenan

      Very well said. Why hurt each other's feelings? I have visited over 15 countries and I really think that as we travel and meet people around the world it makes us more peaceful. Compassion, respect, understanding and care for everyone is so important. Solutions are easier than we think it is, if we can only be kind, patient and understanding to each other. I am a muslim from Turkey but I am totally amazed with all the great things have been achieved in America and I love all the people here. It would hurt me if anybody is hurt here. So I really think that the problem comes from ignorance. It is only normal that we are different but our differences are not reasons to hurt or hate each other. It is actually something to to enjoy. The essence of human being is love.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:06 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.