Threat to burn Koran scorches very heart of Islam


Burning their holy book would be more than a symbolic attack on Muslims’ beliefs, writes Michael Jansen

THE PLAN by a 50-member Florida evangelical church to burn copies of the Koran tomorrow, the ninth anniversary of the strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, has outraged Muslims around the world. The holy book is revered by Muslims as the living word of God, sacred, immutable, eternal. Indeed, to say in this context the Koran is “revered by Muslims ” is sensitive for the devout who say, without qualification, “The Koran is the word of God.” The Koran elaborates the Abrahamic revelations and provides believers with a framework for daily life and a guide to the correct path to follow on their journey in this world.

The Koran is revered as a miracle by Muslims. It was revealed over 23 years to the Prophet Muhammad, who was illiterate, then memorised by his followers, and written down by his companions. An authentic text was only agreed after his death in 632. The determination of Muslim faithful to interpret correctly the verses of the Koran compelled scholars to clarify written Arabic, making the Koran the basic reference for this world language.

The Koran is the foundation of Islam, the mainspring of the faith of Muslims, the source of their identity, and the backbone of Islamic civilisation and culture.

Devout Muslims treat their holy book with veneration and respect. A Koran is given pride of place in a Muslim home, nothing is placed upon it and those who handle a Koran are asked to perform ritual ablution before doing so.

Many Muslim households have elaborately carved or beautifully decorated wooden stands on which the Koran rests. Korans are only burned or buried if they are damaged or defiled.

Given the centrality of the Koran in Muslim life, even if the Florida congregation does not carry out its plan, Muslims regard the threat to incinerate Korans as an outrage against God, denial of the legitimacy of Islam, and an affront to 1.5 billion people. The fact that this action is contemplated by a Christian church expected to respect other religions makes Koran-burning all the more hurtful, condemnable and immoral.

Muslims make the point that the Koran calls upon them to respect the “People of the Book”, followers of Judaism and Christianity. In Verse 136 of Chapter II, the Koran says, “Say, We believe in God, and in what was revealed to us, In what was revealed to Abraham, to Ishmael, to Isaac and Joseph and the Tribes, In what was revealed to Moses and Jesus, In what was revealed to prophets by their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them.”

Other verses also call for respect, reverence and tolerance.

While Muslims have not always followed these commands, the Koran lays down the behaviour Muslims should adopt. Therefore, many Muslims ask why the pastor of a church should seek to destroy Korans rather than castigate Muslims who do not adhere to Koranic teachings.

Muslims see abuse of the Koran and Muhammad as attacks on the global Muslim community.