Christian Century Editorial–A desecration

American Christians would be understandably outraged if they learned of Muslims burning the Bible. Muslims have an even greater reverence for their holy book. Omid Safi, who teaches Islamic studies at the University of North Carolina, notes that Muslims look at the Qur’an the way Christians look at Jesus. “In an Islamic universe . . . the word becomes not a person, but a book,” he says. “For a Muslim to see the Qur’an burnt . . . it would look and feel like someone burning Jesus, or a crucifix.”

Christians should at least understand and respect the way Muslims look at the Qur’an. Most Muslims have a higher regard for the Bible than most Christians have for the Qur’an. It is unlikely that a Muslim would ever burn a Bible.

Read it all.


Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Other Faiths, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

19 comments on “Christian Century Editorial–A desecration

  1. justice1 says:

    While in Calcutta in 1994 on a YWAM outreach, a couple of us met some Muslim men who thought we should all meet while we were in India and discuss our faiths, which we did for about four weeks. At one meeting, I happened to be eating a mutton role and had my Bible in my lap. Some juice spilled on Revelation chapter 4 by accident. These Muslims did notice, and said something about the sanctity of the Bible, but none of them attacked me, or warned me, or tried to kill me (that I know of).

    It seems to me that in our culture (world?) today, one can say what one wants about Christians, and their book, and their Lord, but you can’t begin to level the same critiques at Muslims, their prophet, or their book, without it being fanned to flame by radicals and then the media, who may be in the end the real culprit in these situations, allowing the flames to be fanned, where the fire would have been easily extinguished.

  2. Christopher Johnson says:

    “It is unlikely that a Muslim would ever burn a Bible?” Really? One presumes that the Christian churches Muslim mobs have attacked and burned in Egypt and other places had Bibles in them.

  3. Second Citizen says:

    Some people understand the Muslim reverence for their holy book as idolatry. Just sayin’…

  4. clarin says:

    This piece ith a silly an unfounded comparison. You can burn all the Bibles (your own) that you like. It didn’t bother the (true) Prophet Jeremiah when that happened and it shouldn’t bother Christians.
    Only people with a magical or superstitious mindset about signs on paper (and ones they often don’t understand, either) get upset about this. Time to grow up!

  5. clarin says:

    “It is unlikely that a Muslim would ever burn a Bible.”

    The author has obviously never been to Saudi Arabia.

  6. Eastern Anglican says:

    I wish we had the intestinal fortitude to call what is happening by its true name, “barbarism”. There is a huge disconnect between respect for “the book” and such disrespect for life that taking one would be the appropriate avenue for expressing outrage.

    As long as we make excuses for barbaric behavior we surely enable it to continue.

  7. francis says:

    These books had already been desecrated by subversive notes written and hidden in them. The notes had nothing to do with the words of Allah, but only how to bypass their captors.

  8. Anastasios says:

    Disproportionate sensitivity is not restricted to the Moslem issue. A recently installed statue at the entrance to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center here in Albuquerque depicts the Pueblo Revolt leader Popé beating a drum and holding a totem fetish. At his feet is a crucifix broken in half, supposedly symbolic of the 1680 protest against “imposed Catholicism”. Most of the contemporary Pueblo Indians, however, are at least nominal Catholics today. When I commented that this was a desecration of a symbol of a living religious tradition of the Indians themselves, not to mention any Christians visiting the center, I was told that I was being insensitive to Native American history.

  9. AnglicanFirst says:

    “Some people understand the Muslim reverence for their holy book as idolatry. Just sayin’… ”

    It is idolatry.

    Although Islam has many accretioins that have come from Judaism and Christianity, this “idolatry” is one of many reasons why Islam cannot be considered to be a sister-religion of Judaism or Christianity.

  10. Terry Tee says:

    Moreover, when Muslims blow up mosques (as has happened when Sunnis have bombed major Shia mosques, eg Karballa in Iraq) then Korans (not to mention men, women and children) are destroyed.

    Also we in the UK have been disgusted by video showing war grave headstones, and an associated cross, being desecrated in Libya a few days ago.

  11. Daniel Muth says:

    #9 – Actually, I don’t think it is necessarily idolatry. Islam believes that the Koran is directly dictated by God, as is not the case with the Jewish or Christian understanding of the Bible, which is inspired (and thereby preserved from error) rather than dictated. Hence, the Koran cannot be translated and is treated as divine in a way that the Bible isn’t – or at least shouldn’t be. Christianity, being an incarnational religion, recognizes not only the goodness of the world God created, but also the holiness imbued via Christ’s gracing it with His incarnate presence. Man likewise takes on a special significance for Christians because Christ became man. Islam was invented expliticly to deny the Incarnation (and really only rejects the Atonement as a secondary result of this first denial). God’s relationship to His creation means something completely different in Islam, which as you rightly note, actually has very little in common with Christianity. It may seem odd that a religion that strains so hard to keep God separate from His creation should insist on so direct a divine hand in political affairs, while the religion that celebrates His establishing an organic connection to that created order should be so ambivalent about involvement in worldly matters. But for Islam, the closest they get to an Incarnation is the Koran itself, which then dictates their political order. We know God Incarnate Himself, who declared His Kingdom not to be of this world. Regardless, this is a disappointingly one-sided article.

  12. Sarah says:

    RE: “American Christians would be understandably outraged if they learned of Muslims burning the Bible.”

    We would? Who? Where? Which ones of us? What am I missing? If Muslims burned the Bible I’d treat it the same way as a toddler burning the Bible.

    RE: “Christians should at least understand and respect the way Muslims look at the Qur’an.”

    Au contraire. I can’t say what Christians *should* do regarding another culture acting like two-year-olds, but this particular Christian has come to a new-found disdain for their behavior. It’s really made me understand that they’re basically the equivalent of the Hittites — no more sophisticated, and still as primitive as the tribesmen of 3800 years ago.

  13. Tired of Hypocrisy says:

    Christian Century: While we revere the Word, we do not “understandably” get outraged if a bible is damaged or burned. Where did you come up with this baloney? Of course we should show respect, but we do not kowtow to Muslims, or should we say people who use their Muslim faith to justify tyranny. We Americans are not obsequious. As my son, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan put it: “They don’t need an excuse like a Qur’an burning to kill us. They are more than happy to kill us already.” Let’s quit pretending there is something we do that causes these malevolent people to be so murderous.

  14. Karen B. says:

    In terms of how Muslims view the Qur’an and the reverence they have for this book as “the uncreated eternal word of God”, perhaps the more apt comparison is how Christians would feel if the consecrated Communion elements had been desecrated?

    I’m not in any way justifying the response, but just trying to help folks understand it a bit better.

  15. Deborah says:

    Desecration of Communion elements is probably an apt comparison. Who knows exactly how Christians would express their horror of such a thing, but I would argue that a proper Christian response would be horror but that the responsibility for punishing the wrong doer belongs to God, not to us. Certainly, it would be inappropriate for Christians to riot & pillage. That said, Christians have done that but they were acting against their own faith’s teachings & were equally wrong as Muslims who have wreaked havoc over the Koran burning.

  16. Katherine says:

    clarin points out correctly above that Bibles and any other Christian religious objects are confiscated and destroyed by Saudi customs authorities.

    The editorial actually quotes a Muslim professor who says the better analogy for Christians is to Jesus, the Word Incarnate. I have to agree with them also that it is amazing after a decade in Afghanistan that Korans were treated as trash in a country where that isn’t done.

    Understanding the Muslim point of view doesn’t excuse murder, though.

  17. Karen B. says:

    Absolutely Conley & Katherine. I agree with both of your responses.

    Conley, your words about a proper Christian response remind me of Romans 12:17-19 – I think they give very good counsel indeed as to what response would please God whenever anything we hold dear is attacked or destroyed, or any evil committed against us:

    [i]Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”[/i] (Romans 12:17-19 ESV)

    I’m not a good enough Qur’an scholar to know if there is any remotely equivalent passage in Islamic teaching… I’m not aware of there being one, and I’ve not heard or seen too much Muslim criticism of the violent response, but I may have missed something as it’s been a busy two weeks and I’ve not paid very close attention to the news.

    Even if there were explicit Qur’anic commands to love one’s enemy and repay evil with blessing, I frankly don’t know how on earth we could expect Muslims to obey them without the grace of Christ and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives.

    Here where I work in Africa I see so much evil and darkness and sometimes I’m tempted to hate this culture and those who practice evil here… and then I remember that this people group has virtually NEVER had any exposure in 2000 years to the light, witness or truth of Christ. And it reminds me why the darkness is so dark.

    So I continue praying and working to see the light and Truth of Christ shine brightly in this darkness…

  18. bettcee says:

    I wonder if some Muslim leaders use talking points like this to misrepresent Christians to their illiterate followers and to justify riots.

  19. NoVA Scout says:

    “Talking points” like what? There is no link to anything.