By Anis Chowdhury
SYDNEY, Aug 22 2023 (IPS)
Qur’an burning has become a symbol of intolerance and “Islamophobia”, especially in some Western countries. Following the public burning of a Quran in front of Stockholm’s largest mosque on June 28 during the Islamic Eid al-Adha festival, a copy of the Qur’an was set on fire in the Danish capital on 24 July. Naturally, these events provoked protests from Muslims all over the world, including in Sweden and Denmark. The Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson is “extremely worried” that such protests could result in more burning of the Quran – thus creating a vicious circle – as the Swedish police received a large number of applications for anti-Islam protests.
Burning a copy of the Qur’an itself is not what angers the Muslims. In fact, burning is one of the preferred options for disposing damaged or unusable copies respectfully.
The Muslim anger is due to the disrespect and desecration of the Devine Book which have become a mainstay of far-right extremists in the West.
The Qur’an haters demonstrate their disregard for the Book by throwing it to the ground, sometimes wrapped in bacon or soaked in alcohol – both prohibited in Islam –ripped it apart and spit on copies of the Quran, and dragged it around on a leash like a dog before burning. Some called it “The Whore Book” and “Shit Book”, and told people to urinate on it.
Far right ignorance
The Qur’an is the only source that confirms the previous Scriptures – the Torah and the Gospel; “…this divine writ [Qur’an], setting forth the truth which confirms whatever there still remains [of earlier revelations]” (3:3). The Qur’an is “… bestowed … in confirmation of whatever [of the truth] you [Jews and Christians] already possess” (4:27).
It is only in the Qur’an where we find unblemished stories of the past prophets and messengers. It purges the perverse narrations, for example, about two daughters of Prophet Lot, or of a sinner female prostitute some describing her as Christ’s wife.
The Qur’an devotes one full chapter to categorically establish Mary’s chastity and virgin birth of Jesus by God’s will. It honours Mary: “O Mary! Behold, God has elected you and made you pure, and raised you above all the women of the world” (3:42).
The Qur’an also devotes one full chapter on Prophet Joseph to establish Joseph’s righteousness and upright character even when Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce him.
Contrary to the common belief that the Qur’an promotes violence and intolerance, the Qur’an declares sanctity of life: “do not take any human being’s life, which God has declared to be sacred other than in [the pursuit of] justice” (6:151; 17:33; 25:67). Therefore, “if anyone slays a human being [unjustly] …it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind” (5:32).
The Qur’an promotes tolerance: “O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another” (49:13). It commands believers: “Do not insult those they call upon besides God, lest they insult God out of hostility and ignorance” (6:108); and to declare, “… we make no distinction between any of them [God’s messengers]” (2:136, 2: 285, 3:84, 4:152).
The Qur’an guarantees freedom of religion: “Unto every one of you have We appointed a [different] law and way of life. And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but [He willed it otherwise] in order to test you … Vie, then, with one another in doing good works!” (5:48). The Qur’an declares sanctity of “monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques … – would surely have been destroyed” [if not protected by God] (22:40).
The Qur’an prohibits female infanticides (81:8-9) and establishes the human dignity of women (17:70), including their rights to own properties, earn income and alimony (2:231, 2:233, 2:240, 2:241).
The Qur’an is a Guidance for mankind. The Qur’an opens by referring to God as the Lord of all creations (1:1) and concludes by calling God as the Lord of mankind (114:1). Nowhere it refers to God as exclusive to Muslims.
A Book for pondering
The Qur’an says, “there are messages indeed for people who think!” (13:3; repeated 20 times). This is a Book for those who have knowledge; who understand (38:29). Thus, the Qur’an was revealed with the first verse commanding, “Read in the name of your Sustainer; … Read – for your Sustainer is the Most Bountiful One; who has taught [man] the use of the pen; taught man what he did not know” (96:1).
Therefore, burning the Qur’an is a foolish act. Only the fools are oblivious of what is lost if the Qur’an is vanished as they wish. Thus, the only way to avert the risk of violence spiralling as the Swedish PM feared is to create awareness about the Qur’an. The State must bear the responsibility to educate and prevent spreading of misinformation, hate and prejudice.
IPS UN Bureau