Thursday, August 26, 2010

Qur'an Burner Hasn't Read the Qur'an!

I was reading this morning about Terry Jones, the Gainesville, Florida pastor who has garnered national attention--and international disdain--for planning a Qur'an burning on the ninth anniversary of 9/11.

The New York Times reports that Jones is organizing the conflagration because he believes that the Qur'an is "full of lies." His claims, previously ignored, come at a particularly sensitive time, given the national debate over the Muslim community center set to be built in Lower Manhattan.

However, for me this story of mind-blowing bigotry morphed from tragedy to farce when I discovered one fact: Jones has never read the Qur'an! The Times quotes him, “I have no experience with it whatsoever. I only know what the Bible says.”

Pardon my French, but holy shit.

So let me step away from my usual harangue about reading the Bible and scream to Jones and anyone else who might be listening, READ THE QUR'AN TOO, especially if you're planning on ignorantly slandering it. One of my dirty little secrets is that I'm not just for Biblical literacy--despite the subject of this blog--but for all literacy. And that includes familiarity with the Qur'an--the other world-shattering scripture of the monotheistic West.

Maybe if Jones read the Qur'an, he'd learn that the Prophet Muhammad promulgated a religion of tolerance--one that promoted an unprecedented level of spiritual dialogue among Muslims and people of other faiths.

Indeed, Muslim scripture holds special regard for Jews and Christians, calling them "People of the Book," or Ahl al-Kitāb. In the first centuries of global Islam, Jews and Christians living in Muslim lands were granted special status as dhimmi. Dhimmi were offered protection and were allowed to practice their religions freely, without compulsion to convert.

Indeed, the Qur'an reads, in 2:256, "There is to be no compulsion in religion. True direction is in fact distinct from error: so whoever disbelieves in idols and believes in God has taken hold of the most reliable handle, which does not break." Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike "disbelieve in idols and believe in God," and Muhammad lauds all who join his crusade against idolatry.

(This translation is Thomas Cleary's, from his Essential Koran, a distillation of some of the most important passages from Muslim scripture. It's not a comprehensive volume, but it's great for those looking to get a foothold.)

If only Jones would take Muhammad's lead and treat American Muslims as dhimmi in his own land, we could stop talking about burning scriptures and start talking about reading them.


  1. While fully admitting my own ignorance about texts I haven't read (like the Qur'an), I work very hard to not despair at such flagrant ignorance. The lack of tolerance staggers. This reminds me in many ways of folks -- who may or may not even know someone who is gay -- who pour valuable brain power and financial resources into fighting gay marriage in states they don't live in .... to what end?


  2. Hey man, hope you don't mind, but I linked this entry to a few friends. It really was an excellent read.

  3. Quran (29.46)
    And dispute not with the People of the Book unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender.


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