Today, I bought another Quran.
I already have two of them. Translated by different people. They’re heavily underlined, highlighted, annotated (defaced some may say) just like my copies of the Jewish and Christian scriptures. I’ve studied them all in quests for understanding that have serves as the backbones of three novels — Daughter of God, Perfect Killer and an almost-completed (and so-far-untitled) work. That study has also helped me — a fairly heretical Protestant — to understand my own faith.
But why yet another Quran?
Because the same evil irrationality that has hijacked most of Islam outside of the United States has possessed Terry Jones — a Florida religious cleric — who says he wants to burn copies of the Quran.
I bought another Quran today as a preemptive strike against Jones’s sectarian bigotry. For, regardless of whether he ever sets match to a Quran, he has burned goodwill and torched the efforts of rational, earnest people who have made an effort to bridge the religious divide.
When the Quran I bought today arrives, I’ll donate it to a friend or a local church or synagogue and urge its careful reading. I will do this because a thoughtful reading of the Quran and the Jewish and Christian scriptures will reveal frighteningly similar tales of death, destruction, murder, mayhem and mutilation committed in the name of Allah, God, or Yahweh. While today we hear most about the Quran’s admonitions to “slay the infidels wherever you will find them,” Islam has nothing close to a monopoly on scripturally sanctioned violence against people of differing faiths: The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and Israelite extermination of Canaanites and others come to mind.
I see my purchase of a new Quran today as a small, individual strike against the un-American actions inherent in book burning. Nazis burned books. So do the Taliban. Many Muslim states have outlawed all religious scriptures but the Quran. By contrast, American principles demand freedom of religion and expression.
Certainly Jones has a right to express his opinion. He has a constitutional right to burn copies of the Quran. And while he has that right, he has a duty as a citizen and a leader of a congregation to consider the consequences of his actions. The same should be said of those who wish to build a mosque at the 9/11 site in New York. They also have a constitutional right, but are showing the same emotional tone-deafness as Jones. The only difference between the two is that here in the United States, issues are to be settled by discourse rather than violence. And those who violate that are (or should be) prosecuted.
The same does not hold in most of the Muslim world. Unfortunately, irrationality easily possesses global Islam where mobs kill and burn over a cartoon, clerics call for the death of non-believers and especially apostates, and here governments outlaw the worship of other faiths and vow to wipe them off the face of the earth. Jones’s inflammatory actions are likely to lead to injuries and deaths beyond our borders.
I bought another Quran today because I support a different path. A careful, insightful reading of the Quran reveals a religion with fewer words devoted to violence that the scriptures of Christians and Jews. That careful reading reveals that Islam has truly been hijacked by medieval whack-jobs. Sadly, this is characteristic of relatively new religions. Christianity and Judaism went through the same berserk paroxysms of violence and intolerance perverted by politicians, and despots for their own selfish power grabs.
I bought another Quran today because I believe it is a constructive, individual action that opposes Jones’s Taliban-think by spreading knowledge and understanding. And in the end, knowledge is the best — and only lasting — defense against ignorance, bigotry and intolerance.