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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. Wilfred

    How many pages are in the koran? ie. how many squares of toilet paper would that make?

    February 22, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Wilfred

      Sorry peeps, that was a trick question. Pages are double-sided. So if the koran is say 1000 pages that's actually only 500 sheets of (single-ply) toilet tissue hehehehehehe

      February 22, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  2. LAIBACH

    As long as nobody burns 'THE GOD DELSUION' (by Richard Dawkins).

    February 22, 2012 at 8:24 am |
  3. 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 22, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Fartagh

      Said the fireman from Fahrenheit 451, eh?

      February 22, 2012 at 8:39 am |
  4. Tom

    This kind of response is engineered by the extremists. Those same extremists bomb churches and mosques where people are killed and Bibles and Qurans are burned but, strangely, there are no uprisings and/or protests about that. Terrorists twisted thinking is being allowed to lead real believers around by the nose while the supposed real religious leaders are afraid to intervene, or have been replaced by extremist front men. Because so many haven't actually read or studied the Bible or Quran they are easily led about by extremists who give the impression of having "true" knowledge and this isn't likely to change soon. Think and study for yourself or be used by others at your own peril.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  5. G

    To hell with Afghanistan and the Afghani people, to hell with ALL of them.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:21 am |
  6. Mike

    Those people are incredibly primitive. It's the 21st century and they are still living in the stone age intellectually........... which is why we can't allow Iran to get the bomb. That would be like putting a loaded assault rifle in the hands of a monkey and trusting him to make rational decisions with it.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:21 am |
  7. Anonymous

    Thank you for reporting on the sane, reasonable response, rather than seeking out the most extreme ("newsworthy"?).

    February 22, 2012 at 8:19 am |
  8. maff

    there are things that you "can" do, that you shouldnt do. this is one of those thing. So if some "terror" happens next...maybe its not terror...perhaps revenge

    February 22, 2012 at 8:18 am |
  9. myob666

    It wrong for me to burn the Koran, its wrong for me to burn the Bible, and its wrong for me to burn the Flag. Why? The planet and the human race would be much better off without all this nonsense.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • maff

      and you would be better off without cookies and cake. But no one is trying to stop you. Thats your choice. You cant force people to think like you. And if you dont want them to blow you up, dont burn their book

      February 22, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • LAIBACH

      And millions agree with you! ALL religion is utter nonsense based on non reality.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:26 am |
  10. Sadtimes7734

    The book is printed by people not their god. I know this comes as a shock to some but it is true. If you burned my Bible I would be mad only because it cost me money. The Words are Holy in my Bible not the book itself. I, because I am civilized would not even think of killing over the burning of the Bible. A peaceful religion does not think in the manner that the Moslims do. They just want to kill everything that they do not like. Once again IT IS ONLY A BOOK PRINTED MY MAN!

    February 22, 2012 at 8:18 am |
  11. TKH

    Just another example of how the Islamic extremists still think we are living in the 9th century!

    February 22, 2012 at 8:18 am |
  12. uisignorant

    Why can't military people keep their mouths shut. No one ever needed to know.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  13. JoeOvercoat

    Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra rocks!

    Thank you sir. I am certain we disagree on many things, but on this point it is great to hear you speak out. I hope your words find receptive minds.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:14 am |
  14. Cindy

    Every religion feels that their books are the holy word of GOD. Christians belive the bible is holy. But, if someone does something stupid to a bible, that's where it ends. They are zealots.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:10 am |
  15. zomg

    I think the only time these people invoke the "washing of the hands" is when the book is picked up. They're lucky to shower once every couple of weeks. It's a hate-filled book that doesn't belong in society. Congrats to the coalition troops.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:09 am |
  16. Chandrasekar

    The reason why burning the koran is offensive is bcoz it will pollute the air. Let the crap stay in the book and be used as toilet paper.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • Minnu

      You Mr Seekar an ignorant hate filled IDOL worshipper. How about you use human written concocted story GITA for toilet paper instead. By the way, garbage comes out of your mouth.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • zomg

      Minnu, i'll use yer mum instead. kthxbai.

      February 22, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  17. Yup

    I blame the parents LOL nice way to raise your kids. At least you wont be alone in hell.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:08 am |
  18. Buddhist

    Get educated cavemen.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:05 am |
  19. notrel

    So it's not okay to burn this religious text, but it's okay to write violent, non-religious content in it's margins? Sounds hypocritical to me.Sounds like the people getting angry are angry at the wrong people. The burning may have been accidental, but the desecration of the pages was deliberate, assuming we have the story right.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  20. Adam

    Burning the Koran is the stupidest thing coalition forces could have done. Apparently we want the Taliban to recruit more sadistic terrorists to kill our troops. This is a smack in the face to all Muslims throughout the world. We will NEVER win a war against religion, thus we will never officially declare victory in Afghanistan. As a conservative, I considered the wars in the Middle East justified for the first 8 years or so, but there really is no plausible cause for staying there. The Taliban don't come to America to kill soft targets; Al Qaeda does. The Taliban goes to war with foreigners in their territory. We should just get out of there and increase our homeland security. It's not worth the death or the money. Get the hell out of there.

    February 22, 2012 at 8:00 am |
    • Burn Baby Burn

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4XJQO3qol8&feature=player_embedded

      February 22, 2012 at 8:05 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.