Thursday, September 9, 2010

Reading the Qur'an

Picture I took in the Museum of Berlin-books are stuck to the floor and videos are shown of Nazis burning books they disagreed with. I didn't even like walking over them on the floor...
Even though I’m loathe to give Rev Terry Jones (this link is to is "church' site and has been difficult to access recenty due to heavy traffic) any more publicity, my crossness has driven me to blogging about his demand that we (as apparently right minded Christians ought to) burn copies of the Qur’an on the anniversary of the September 11th bombings, as some sort of message to Islamic extremists.

The Irish Times has reported today

US president Barack Obama today warned that a Florida pastor's plan to burn copies of the Koran is being used as an al-Qaeda recruitment tool and he urged the minister to reconsider the decision.

"This is a recruitment bonanza for al-Qaeda," Mr Obama said in an interview with ABC's Good Morning America program.

"You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan or Afghanistan. This could increase the recruitment of individuals who would be willing to blow themselves up in American cities or European cities," he said.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair also issued a plea to the evangelist not to go ahead with his plan to burn copies of the Koran on September 11th.

Mr Blair added his voice to those of the White House, the Vatican, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan General David Petraeus and film star Angelina Jolie, who all urged pastor Terry Jones to call off his protest.

But the pastor, who leads a tiny Florida church, insisted he would stage “International Burn-a-Koran Day” on Saturday, despite receiving more than 100 death threats.

Sky News reported that Anjem Choudary, former leader of the banned Islamist organisation Islam4UK, is calling on radical Muslim groups around the world to burn American flags outside US embassies in retaliation.

The pastor’s supporters have been mailing copies of the Islamic holy book, which Muslims believe should be treated with the utmost respect, to put on the bonfire at his Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville to mark the ninth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. The church has less than 50 members.

“Instead of us backing down, maybe it’s time to stand up," the pastor said. "Maybe it’s time to send a message to radical Islam that we will not tolerate their behaviour.”

In a statement, Mr Blair, who founded a Faith Foundation after leaving office to promote understanding between the world’s religions, said he "deplore" the act of burning the Koran.

“It is disrespectful, wrong and will be widely condemned by people of all faiths and none. In no way does this represent the view of any sensible person in the West or any other part of the world," he said. “Those who wish to cause religious conflict are small in number but often manage to dominate the headlines.

“You do not have to be a Muslim to share a sense of deep concern at such a disrespectful way to treat the Holy Book of Islam.

“Rather than burn the Koran, I would encourage people to read it.”
Now loathe as I am to agree with much of what Tony Blair has to say on matters of keeping people getting along with each other, he does have a point here. So on Saturday I shall make a point of reading as much as I can of the Qur’an. And hopefully lots of people will do the same. Sacred texts are sacred for a reason and special to a particular group of people. I love reading and studying the Qur’an as I’ve always been fascinated with Arabic (I learned basic Classical Arabic to read the original text). I also love the text itself as it uses a beautiful and poetic language which you can even see and hear in and English translation. I also love how when reading it, lots of the images and language remind me of biblical passages I’ve read-we’re not that much different! I’ve also found that by studying the theology in the Qur’an, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of my own, Christian theology and how we understand “our” God.

A Muslim mate of mine listens to his Qur’an on his IPhone on the way to work. I have an app on my phone that recites the different suras (chapters) so there’s no excuse! Have a look at the Yusuf Ali translation on Google Books and for more info have a look at Qur’an Explorer. The National Geographic has an excellent article on the Qur’an as a book of peace.


  1. We can all agree that reading about people burning, is far superior to burning books.

    Chapter 111 of the Koran
    The power of Abu Lahab will perish, and he will perish.
    Abu Lahab will die and be plunged in flaming Fire. His wife will have on her neck a halter of palm fiber.

    Your Muslim mate will listen to stories of people burning in Hell on his I-phone and say it is the Word of God.

    His wealth and gains will not exempt him.
    He will be plunged in flaming Fire,
    And his wife, the wood-carrier,
    Will have upon her neck a halter of palm-fibre.

  2. If you want me to start listing the occurences of people burning in the Old and New Testaments go right ahead Steven. You might like to have a look at the Oracles against the Nations in Amos. Or Revelation.
    I'm not sure what "point" you're trying to make, particularly in relation to assumptions about what my friend believes but feel free to clarify.

  3. Oh and James McGrath (as usual) has a great blog post on the subject

  4. Maire is correct.

    The Old and New Testament do indeed have examples of people burning.

    If you write a book which explains how enemies are going to be burned, you will be writing the Word of God.

    If you burn a book, you are a monster.

    Personally, I would no more burn the Koran than I would claim that a book was Holy when it devotes space to descriptions of how enemies are going to be burned.

    But I am in a minority when it comes to praising books describing people burning. Most of the world sees nothing wrong with such books.