Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Church plans to burn the Quran on 9/11


The Holy Quran

Even now as several churches across the United States plan to burn copies of the Quran, Islam's holy book, it is suggestive of the flare of the pride that spread throughout Italy and Europe in 1497. disease, poor harvests and social and political strife escalated fear, distrust, intolerance and religious fanaticism.

Some Christians assumed the unfolding chaos surrounding them was God's wrath and punishment for their selfish and immoral behavior. They gathered what was thought to be vain objects, like secular books, works of art, mirrors, jewelry, combs and playing cards (sometimes even people), to be burned.

A half of millennium later and as the Sept. 11, 2001 commemoration draws near, several churches are preparing to ignite bonfires to burn Qurans. Known as "International Burn A Quran Day," church leaders and members want to send a strong message to Americans and the rest of the world that Islam is a violent and oppressive religion. Along with being responsible for the attacks on Sept. 11, they also claim Islam is a religion of the Devil and is causing billions of people to go to hell. They are fearful that Islamic governments and Muslims want to take-over and dominate the world, including the United States.

It is unfortunate that such thinking negates the numerous achievements of the Quran and Islam. The Quran states, "O mankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and a female and made you into Nations and tribes, that ye may know each other, not that you may despise each other." (Surah 49:13) Not only has the Quran provided hope, meaning and guidance for billions people, but it still offers a universal message of understanding and peace. Islamic cultures have been responsible for some of the greatest advancements in medicines, astronomy, health, literature, philosophy and math.

Some Islamic civilizations also uphold enlightenment ideas. While honoring the sanctity of life and justice: "...take no life, which Allah has made sacred, except by way of justice and law," the Quran encourages goodness and forbids killing: "Slaying an innocent individual is like slaying the whole people." (Surah 6:51/5:32) Regarding rights, the Quran secured freedom of conscience and worship where at one time they did not exist. "Whoever does right, whether male or female, and is a believer,...will enter the Garden," has guaranteed women the right to property, education, and to participate in public and political life.

The Quran also prohibited the killing of daughters and specifically ensured the protection of orphans and widows. In some Islamic cultures, everyone enjoys equal protection under the law. The Prophet Muhammad, who began his message with the words, "In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,..." established religious toleration by working with and recognizing other faiths. When he entered Mecca everyone was spared, ending cycles of revenge and retaliation that had dominated the region. Jihad, which has been distorted by the West, means an inner struggle to achieve spiritual peace and entails acts of charity.

While the churches plan to burn Qurans in remembrance of the 9-11 victims, fortunately the Council on American-Islam Relations (CAIR) will provide an educational "Share the Quran" dinner. The council believes American Muslims and people of conscience should support positive educational efforts to prevent the spread of Islamophobia. Some pastors and Christians have forcefully denounced the burning of the Qurans and are calling for a spirit of trust, understanding and religious unity. They are rejecting conspiracy theories too about Islam, that are either propagated out of ignorance or by political demagogues.

Regrettably, there are some who have always succumbed to hysteria and fanaticism, acting as if they were a divine judge and executioner. Still others have distorted the purposes and meanings of the major faiths in the world. When horrific events-like plagues or Sept. 11-are mixed with imagined fears, blame, self-interest, militancy and ethnocentric views, one's perception of God can easily be twisted into a destructive ideology. As Christians in Italy burned what they thought were vain objects, another Italian, just one of many Europeans, was enslaving and committing mass genocide against Amerindians. What was really vain?

When religious faith is intermingled with military and commercial empires, it has a way of hindering God's love and mercies and denigrating the "Other." In confronting the Roman Empire, Jesus said what comes out of the heart-murder, evil intentions, adultery, slander, fornication, theft, and false witness-is what really defiles a person. (Matthew 15:19,20.) Christians in Italy, not to mention other European imperial powers, should have readied bonfires to burn their deadly allegiances to materialism, racism and militarism, not books, artworks, combs and mirrors.

Can the same be said today? Hopefully, churches planning to burn sacred Qurans on Sept. 11 will reconsider their belief and behavior. Would it not be much better to burn the vanity of collaborating with a corporate-military and national security state trying to control the entire world and its resources? Would it not be better to set ablaze vain modernity and its technological superiority that steals human dignity, devalues others faiths and cultures, and commodifies individuals while producing economic, psychological and spiritual poverty?

These churches might want to try and distinguish between sacred and profane rights and laws, and how some Islamic republics are experimenting with toleration of mosque and state (versus a strict separation of church and state ruled by a secular military regime). At the same time, when highly valued beliefs are threatened or preemptively attacked, Islam and the Quran does justify using self-defense to protect their communities against external acts of aggression by non-Islamic populations. This important faith-principle is important to understand when collaborating with and empire and its many preemptive wars.

Perhaps the real fires needing lit are acts of charity, empathy, religious toleration and an historical awareness with regards to Islam. Has there not been enough acts of militancy, hatred, revenge and political ignorance-all of which preceded and then followed Sept. 11, and none of which mirrored Christianity or Islam, let alone the Quran or Gospels? If some churches and Christians do burn the Quran on Sept. 11, it will be a Bonfire of the Sacred instead of a Bonfire of the Vanities. It will cause more ill-will and division, not only with others, but maybe even with God.

Related News: Al-Jazeera
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