A pastor from a small non-denominational Church in Florida has received unprecedented world wide coverage for his plan to burn a few copies of the Quran.
Whether he decides to carry out this stunt or not the fact that a person who claims to be a man of God, wants to burn a sacred scripture of another faith is despicable.
Mr. Terry Jones, the pastor of this church believes that the Quran is from Devil and hence the devil should be destroyed. Little does he know that he is desecrating and lighting fire to the spirit and essence of the great teachers of humanity, Jesus, Moses and all the other prophets.
This Florida church has only fifty members yet the impact they have created all over the world is immense. Even though we wish our "free press" had not given so much attention to this insignificant group but let this be a teaching moment.
This small band of radical Christians claim that they are the true Christians the same way as those who destroyed the Twin Towers in 2001 claimed that they were true Muslims.
The Muslim community all over the world is outraged at this attempt of burning the Quran. The best way to respond to such an act would have been to ignore it, but it is too late for that and now the leaders from the USA to Indonesia have been forced to jump in to this circus.
What is significant in this situation is that a large number of faith leaders from all traditions and government officials in the USA have voiced an emphatic condemnation of burning a sacred text.
Muslims must appreciate those religious and government leaders who have come forward to condemn Terry Jones. Muslims should not fall in the trap most Islamophobes have fallen in to by equating a faith with the deviation of a few.
Muslims must remember that Islam demands Muslims to show respect to people of all faiths and promotes a pluralism that is not defined by the politics of the day.
Anyone who wants to burn the Quran can not burn the message of Quran. The Quran is preserved in the hearts and minds of people and there are millions of Muslims all over the world who have memorized the Quran.
Muslims must maintain their high moral grounds and when others talk about burning the Quran, we must spend time memorizing a few more verses of the Quran and filling our more important obligation to read and understand the Quran.
History of Burning Books
It is not unusual for clergy, invading armies or other people to burn books as is witnessed in our human history. Such an act may be done because:
- People may have a paranoia of emerging ideas that challenges their understanding of the world or
- People may have insecurity in their understanding of their own faith.
A look at the history of the burning of religious text will give us an understanding of the hatred and ignorance that has existed in our religious and secular circles. Here is a review of some prominent incidents of book burning.
History has witnessed the burning of Library of Alexandria by Christian forces, Library of Baghdad by Mongols, the burning of books and burying of scholars under China’s Qin Dynasty, the destruction of Mayan codices by Spanish Christian conquistadors and priests, burning of Muslim and Jewish books by Catholics during the Inquisition, Torah burning by Christians in Germany, destruction of the Sarajevo National Library. In 1193 after defeating Jai Chand the army of Ghauri, mostly Muslim, is said to have burned the library of Nalanda, known as Dharma Gunj, Mountain of Truth.
It is recorded that in AD 367, Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, issued an Easter letter demanding that Egyptian monks destroy all books except what constitute the ‘New Testament’.
In his 1821 play, Almansor, the German writer Heinrich Heine, referring to the burning of the Qur’an, during the Spanish Inquisition, wrote “Where they burn books, so too will they in the end burn human beings.” (“Dort, wo man Bcher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.”) Heine’s books were among the thousands of volumes that were torched by Christians in Germany.
New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, founded in 1873, inscribed book burning on its seal, as a worthy goal to be achieved. The Society destroyed some 15 tons of books, 284,000 pounds printing plates and nearly 4,000,000 pictures. The society also successfully lobbied the United States Congress to incorporate its objectives in the Comstock Law.
At the advice of Minister Li Si, Emperor Qin Shi Huang of China ordered the burning of all philosophy books and history books. This was followed by the live burial of a large number of intellectuals who did not comply with the state dogma.
In 168 BC the monarch Antiochus IV ordered Jewish ‘Books of the Law’ found in Jerusalem to be burned.
About the year 50 AD a Roman soldier seized a Torah scroll and, burned it in public. This incident almost brought on a Jewish revolt against Roman rule.
The Egyptian alchemical books of Alexandria were burnt by the emperor Diocletian in 292. In 303 Diocletian also burned Christian books.
In 1242, The French crown burned all Talmud copies in Paris, about 12,000, after the book was “charged” and “found guilty” in the Paris trial.
In the 1480s Tomas Torquemada promoted the burning of non-Catholic literature, especially the Jewish Talmud and also Arabic books after the expulsion of Muslims and Jews.
In 1490 a number of Hebrew Bibles and other Jewish books were burned at the behest of the Spanish Inquisition. In 1499 about 5000 Arabic manuscripts were consumed by flames in the public square at Granada on the orders of Ximenez de Cisneros, Archbishop of Toledo.
In 1526 William Tyndale’s English translation of the New Testament was burned in London by Cuthbert Tunstal, Bishop of London.
Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible was burned in Catholic-dominated parts of Germany in 1624, by order of the Pope.
In 1656 the authorities at Boston imprisoned the Quaker book in public..
In 1731 Count Leopold Anton von Firmian – Archbishop of Salzburg burned the Lutherans books.
In 1933, Christians burned works of Jewish authors, and other works considered “un-German.”
On May 10, 1933 Christian youth influenced by Nazi philosophy burned copies of the Torah.
On the 23rd March 1984 hundreds of copies of the New Testament were ceremonially burnt by Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem.
In recent history there have been several incidents of burning of Music CD’s and other books of fiction and non-fiction.
There have been several incidents of Harry Potter books being burned, including those directed by churches at Alamogordo, New Mexico and Charleston, South Carolina. The burning of Beatles records after a remark by John Lennon concerning Jesus Christ. In 1988, a group of Muslim British citizens burned Salman Rushdie’s book Satanic Verses in London which was followed by the burning of Yusuf Islam’s music CD’s after he made some statements about Salman Rushdie. In May 2008, a group of Jewish youths burnt a large number of New Testaments in Or Yehuda, Israel.
This is a dark side of our humanity. Let us all work to extinguish the fire of hate and intolerance.
Dr Aslam Abdullah is director of the Islamic Society of Nevada, Vice president of the Muslim Council of America (MCA) and the President elect of the Nevada Interfaith Council. He has authored several books and published more than 400 papers on issues related with Islam and contemporary issues. He has taught at colleges in India as well as in the US.