Burning the Qur’an

Pastor Terry Jones is using an argument that I’ve heard over and over again while discussing Islam. Which is that the Qur’an is hateful and thus Islam itself is evil. The latest surah someone used as an example of that in a discussion was the following:

Qur’an 60:4

There is for you an excellent example (to follow) in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people: “We are clear of you and of whatever ye worship besides Allah. we have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred for ever,- unless ye believe in Allah and Him alone”

Not a very nice passage if you’re a christian. However, if you read a bit more of the very same surrah:

Qur’an 60:7

It may be that Allah will grant love (and friendship) between you and those whom ye (now) hold as enemies. For Allah has power (over all things); And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Qur’an 60:8

Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.

Which puts a slightly different perspective on verse 4.

But hateful passages are not only in the Qur’an, the bible has also a lot of hateful passages. For example:

2 Chronicles 15:13

Whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Isreal should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.

And there are many more verses like that in the bible. Using the same logic for the bible would make all of christianity evil, vile and something that should not be tolerated.

You cannot condemn an entire group of believers because of hateful passages in their holy book. It’s how the individuals themselves interpret and act upon those verses. And this is exactly why what pastor Terry Jones is doing is so utterly assinine, his own holy book contains enough hateful passages he chooses to ignore.

However this does not mean you should wear gloves when criticizing Islam, or any other religion. By all means criticize people if you think they are wrong, but there is a line between valid criticism and just being an ass about it.

Also lumping everyone from a religion together with the most extremist elements from it, and actions carried out in it’s name, does not do justice to the people of that religion that are moderates and actually want to get rid of those elements. Especially considering the reasons why there is such an hatred towards the western world, and the united states in particular. It’s not only because there are hateful passages in a religious text that are being used to justify this. It also has to do with a geopolitical legacy the United States and the western world has created.

For example the U.S. gave weapons and training to the Mujahedin in Afghanistan to fight the Russians. And now people are amazed that extremists are using that training and those very same weapons against us?

Or lets name another example, Iran. The United States and the United Kingdom were involved in a coup that overthrew a democratically elected government. Which set the stage of 25 years of dictatorship under Mohammad-Rezā Shāh, who relied heavily on U.S. weapons and support to hold on to power.

These are big contributing factors that gave rise to the current political situation and anti western sympathies. These countries did not turn out this way just because they have a predominantly Muslim population.

Personal library pictureAnd as someone who is a bibliophile I cannot stand it when books get destroyed. I love and cherish the books I have. And I have quite a strange collection as I have the “communist manifesto” setting right next to “The wealth of nations”. Or for example the Qur’an, the bible, “Paradise lost” and “The unauthorised version, truth and fiction in the bible” setting right next to each other on the very same shelve. Currently I’m even on the hunt for a German version of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”.

All of these books represent ideas, religions or ideologies. And with some I will never agree with as I find them stupid, dangerous or just plain wrong. But all of them give me an insight in the minds, lives and ideas of other people. And as such they are valuable assets to us humans, as knowledge and understanding is what brought us to where we are today.

That’s why I will never agree with the destruction of a book, especially when you decide to do it by burning it. An act that has become ingrained in a lot of people with the destruction of ideas and persecution of people. The Nazi’s where known for it for doing it with books written by Jews. And lets not forget what we lost in the middle-ages thanks to Christianity in Europe. I can almost weep for what has been done to the works of Leonardo in the name of a religion. We only have about 1/3 left of what he has written down, the rest is lost to us forever.

If you want to change Islam into something more to your liking or change the ideas of people who are Muslim. You don’t do it by burning their holy book. You do it by learning about them, their history, why they see us the way they do, and by learning what place islam and the qur’an have in their lives. And then opening a dialogue and challenge them where necessary.

Lets work together to create a better world, and not pointlessly antagonise each other.

Collin Maessen is the founder and editor of Real Skeptic and a proponent of scientific skepticism. For his content he uses the most up to date and best research as possible. Where necessary consulting or collaborating with scientists.