“The desecration of the Holy Qur’an should prompt a global declaration of respect for Islam and its symbols”
Paper burned: yes, Quran burned: NO!
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا ٱلذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُۥ لَحَـٰفِظُونَ ﴿ ۱۵﴾
Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, we will be its guardian.
[The Holy Quran Q. 15/9]
بَلْ هُوَ قُرْءَانٌ مَّجِيدٌ ﴿٢١﴾ فِى لَوْحٍ مَّحْفُوظٍۭ ﴿٢٢﴾
(البروج – 22)
(21) But this is an honored Qur’an
(22) [Inscribed] in a Preserved Slate.
[The Holy Quran Q. 85/21-22]
“Where you burn books, you end up burning people.”
Unfortunately, in today’s ostensibly “globalized” world, massive events occur that no longer elicit any sort of response, despite being critical and having fatal consequences for our peaceful coexistence as global citizens.
The multifaceted, religiously tinted phenomenon of “Islamophobia,” which must be strongly and firmly condemned, has reached dangerous levels in Europe and around the world, with potentially fatal consequences, by “burning a copy of the Quran,” a repugnant and inhumane act. Destruction of the Quran is a barbaric and inhuman act. On January 22, 2023, a copy of the Quran, the holiest symbol of an important world religion, was cruelly burned in public and under state protection by a “right-wing extremist politician” in Sweden, in the heart of Europe, and the Western world not only remained silent but appears to have perceived this terrible act as “normal” and even as a form of “free expression.”!
Destroying religious texts has a long history of being a contentious issue with the potential to elicit widespread outrage. The burning of the Quran in Sweden, among other recent events, has sparked worldwide protests.
This is not the time or place for me to elaborate on this last well-known and contentious argument for free speech. When it comes to attacks on Islamic holy symbols, certain voices in the West use this argument repeatedly and selectively. Going over this last well-known controversial argument for free speech, in my opinion, is neither necessary nor productive. This activity has a different goal. To settle the matter, proponents of this argument, in my opinion, need only explain to the world whether this “freedom” is also extended to adherents of all religions. In the Swedish capital of Stockholm, a writer proposed burning both the Torah and the Bible. In contrast to the Quran burning, the protest action was not approved by the local authorities.
A closer examination of the situation reveals, however, that the damage is not limited to repeatedly deeply hurting the feelings of over two billion people in this cruel way, causing their anger and disappointment; rather, the damage extends to the now entrenched and dominant indifference of politics and society toward such scandalous horrible Islamophobic acts. This is because the event has repeatedly and cruelly caused anger and disappointment in over two billion people.
A “scientific-academic indifference” to catastrophic events is gradually becoming the norm in the so-called “civilized” world. The double standards in politics and the media, as well as this dangerous aspect, exacerbate the situation. Even among concerned scholars such as orientalists or Muslim theologians at Western universities, the “deadly silence” and indifference are so pervasive that it is almost shocking. I had to give it some serious thought before deciding to turn the following thoughts about this very terrible and worrying event that had been running through my head in the last few days into some sort of “message” to scholars and experts who deal with Islam. I did this because I was worried about sending the wrong message to those people. This reluctance was eventually overcome by the realization that inaction and silence appear to be doing neither the world nor the next generation any favors in finding a solution to this difficult problem. Having accepted my responsibilities as a Muslim, an academic, and, most importantly, a human being, I have decided to take the initiative and request an “International declaration on respect for Islam and its symbols,” as well as write the document itself. After learning this heartbreaking truth, I concluded that it is my responsibility to act. Although this approach may appear unrealistic to some, it is the first step toward achieving even the loftiest goals. The primary goal of this modest offering is to send a message and provoke some introspection among all other peace advocates around the world, particularly among experts and academics concerned with and dealing with Islam. I am not an exception; in fact, I consider myself to be both the sender and the recipient of this communication and appeal. In this regard, I don’t believe I’m particularly unique. As a Muslim, I feel obligated to address the difficult questions that have arisen in Europe because of such earth-shattering dramatic events as the Quran’s burning and to provide answers that are both plausible and respectful of the religious beliefs of others. Even the most shocking facts can teach us valuable moral and scientific lessons.
2. Basic Notes
a. The Quran remains protected forever.
It should be clear that neither the goal of this article nor the reason for the worldwide protests against the burning of the Quran is to “protect” the Quran from harm. Rather, it is about protecting the beliefs and sentiments of billions of people who revere their Holy Book in ways that others may not understand. This is also a fact that must be acknowledged. This must be stated very specifically: The “protection” of the Quran in its religious role is not a source of concern for Muslims worldwide. The rationale for this is straightforward: The divine protection of the text and the messages it contains, according to Muslims, leaves no room for doubt. Both the Quran and the Sunnah (Prophetic tradition) make this point emphatically. In this way, the Holy Qur’an cannot be tampered with. This is a firm belief held by every practicing Muslim, and it is still demonstrable in the modern era. This divine shield encompasses everything that has ever occurred and will occur in the future. This effort is not intended to serve as a “defense” of Islam. As it has for the past 1400 years, this great religion can effectively represent and defend itself. Every objective observer agrees that this divine guarantee of safety throughout time occurred. The divine has always protected the Qur’an, both before (Qur’an 85/21-22) and after it was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and this will continue for as long as God wills (Qur’an 15/9).
Instead, this movement aims to foster an environment in which people of different faiths can coexist in peace and tolerance by emphasizing “respect for others” in its broadest sense and eliminating bias against one another. Therefore:
As they should in other situations, I urge all those who work to keep the peace around the world to strongly condemn the burning of the Quran and any other similar actions or acts that show disrespect for Islam, its symbols, and the people who practice it. I’d like to encourage all Islamic scholars to think deeply about this issue and consider how they can contribute to the fight against Islamophobia. Please think carefully about whether a public display of reverence for Islam and its symbols is truly necessary. I also recommend that they discuss this conundrum with other members of their intellectual community.
b. The World will be busy with the Quran forever.
The Holy Quran will never be fully understood because it is unlike any other book, “la yaḫlaq min kaṯrat ar-radd,” as the Prophet Muhammad (AS) had previously promised. The current state of the world, the sheer volume of research done on the Qur’an, and the continued focus on the text by countless academics up to the present day all attest to this. People’s devotion to and interest in the Quran has not been diminished by violent attacks on the holy text.
c. Why this initiative?
Is there a cap on how much non-scientific work intellectuals and academics are expected to do? In what ways should they also participate as active members of their society? Is there anything that Orientalists and Islamic scholars can do to help combat those who spread anti-Islamic sentiment? These questions, which have preoccupied the academic world for a long time, appear to have been discussed a long time ago; however, when it comes to world events related to Islam, such as the burning of the Quran, they certainly come up again and again, in one way or another. As a result, I believe academics and scholars have a responsibility to combat Islamophobic clichés that were first established in Western scholarship, for example, by some orientalists working in the field of Islamic studies. They are confronted with the ethical and scientific responsibility of condemning hostile acts against Islam and the Quran while also liberating themselves and their audience from preconceived notions about this religion. In other words, they bear a double burden.
d. Paper burned: yes, Quran burned: NO!
The Quran cannot be destroyed because its great religious and ethical values remain in the hearts of believers long after the Danish hate preacher burned pieces of paper with them. Those who are already anti-Quran find that their hatred “burns” even hotter because of this.
e. From what perspective is this call intended?
I address this message to each one of you here based on “wisdom and beautiful admonition” and mutual respect, in accordance with the divine command given to our Prophet and Messenger Muhammad (PBUH) in the Quran:
Argue with them in the most persuasive way you know how, and with wisdom and beautiful admonition, call them to the way of your Lord. [Your Lord, without a doubt, knows who strays from His path, just as He knows who is led in the right path.] (Q. 16-125)
This is because:
Just as we must respect the beliefs and practices of other cultures and religions, I would like to urge everyone to do the same for Islam, its Prophet, the Holy Book, and, most importantly, its worldview and universal values. I also don’t want to give the impression that I’m speaking for “Islam” or all Muslims, but I am confident that most Muslims share my views on the subject and understand the point I’m making.
The current, more modest draft makes no claims to perfection or completion of all required work, but it does represent progress toward wisdom. It is critical that we all have a shared understanding of the VALUES it represents.
3. International Declaration on Respect for Islam and its Symbols
The Muslim world has spoken out against the burning of the Quran in Sweden and its consequences. The act has been strongly condemned by the governments, religious leaders, and international organizations of numerous countries. Several Muslim countries, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey, issued official statements condemning the attacks and urging Sweden to act against the perpetrators as soon as possible. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has strongly condemned the burning of the Quran, calling it an attack on religious liberty and a factor in the spread of extremism and intolerance.
In response to the burning of the Quran, protests, and demonstrations were held in Sweden. In response, people from all walks of life took to the streets, including Muslims, interfaith activists, and human rights activists. Protesters expressed their desire for justice by demanding an investigation into the events and legal action against those responsible. Pressure grew on the Swedish government to act quickly and ensure that such religious intolerance does not exist within Swedish borders.
Academics and intellectuals, as well as all morally upright people, should condemn any attack on Islam and/or its sacred symbols, such as the Quran or the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), as a barbaric act. Any attempt to desecrate Islam or its sacred symbols, such as the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), must be condemned as barbaric.
All people and religions should be treated fairly and with adherence to universal values like respect, peaceful coexistence, solidarity, and cooperation. When the Qur’an is attacked, these values and beliefs are also attacked. Even if politicians and the media want to see events through a double-standards lens, concerned experts should distance themselves from this unjust approach when approaching such events. Global intellectuals should issue a global declaration condemning acts of disrespect against Islam and its symbols, just as they have condemned violence against other cultures.
It is critical that the act of attacking a world religion’s holy book be clearly described and condemned as a form of terrorism to protect the dignity of all people worldwide.
When confronted with disagreement or criticism, Islam and the Quran are not defensive. This discussion, however, must be founded on mutual respect, informed comprehension, and positive intent. It should also not be used for propaganda, whether political, religious, or otherwise. Scholars, both modern and Islamic, are tasked with deciphering this message and disseminating it throughout the world.
The fight against Islamophobia should be viewed as everyone’s responsibility in the field. Mindless acts of Islamophobia are not always the result of brainwashing, political populism, or any number of other social and cultural factors, but their existence must be acknowledged. Many common misconceptions about Islam, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and the Quran stem from orientalists’ study of the Quran. These false beliefs about Islam have spread throughout Western culture.
Muslims regard the Holy Qur’an as a divine revelation and a miracle performed by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and they hold it in the same regard as other divine revelations. That deserves our highest regard. Not everyone is required to accept this reality, but they must respect it. Furthermore, under the guise of free speech, we should all condemn any treatment of religious symbols that shows disrespect for the beliefs of others.
One way to ensure that Islam and the Quran are treated with the respect they deserve is through an international agreement that clearly shows the international community’s solidarity with global solidarity.
The Qur’an explicitly invites people of other faiths and cultures to participate in the debate. While dialogue between Islam and other religions and/or cultures is desirable, it cannot start until Islam’s symbols and worldview are respected. This type of attack, clearly motivated by Islamophobia, cannot be justified, or accepted in the name of “freedom of expression.”
Experts on Islam should not remain silent while the Quran is being attacked in this manner; rather, they should seize the opportunity and contribute to “illuminating” their society. More than ever, it appears that the mission of “illuminating” Western societies about Islam is critical; this will require forward-thinking academic work, scientific conferences, and other efforts. There is no denying that Islamophobia and attacks on the Qur’an endanger global stability and undermine efforts to maintain it. Scholars and experts on Islam have a moral obligation to debate the issue and work toward a solution on behalf of the international community.
The barbaric act of burning a Quran appears to have gone unnoticed by the Western world as if it were something that had become commonplace at the time. Many unavoidable questions, however, remain unanswered because no one has the courage to ask them. How much weight is placed on those with specialized knowledge of Islam and/or the Quran? Despite the Western world’s apathy and double standards, as seen in politics and the media, I believe academics and researchers still have an ethical obligation to address many difficult but long-hidden questions. When are we going to give a rebuttal to hate preachers who specifically target Muslims? The development of an “International Declaration on the Respect of Islam and its Symbols” appears to be a good idea. This small step serves as a draft for such a declaration, as well as an invitation to all scholars who see themselves as peacekeepers to consider and discuss it within the context of scientific and academic frameworks; it is an attempt to move closer to that dream. It is a challenge for rational thinkers to examine their biases and misconceptions about Islam and Muslims through the scientific lens. To my knowledge, this is the single most important thing that scholars from all over the world can do to defend universal moral principles. The time has come to include reverence for Islam and the Quran among these timeless ideals.
Protests erupted around the world in response to the burning of a Quran in Sweden. Many countries, including India and Pakistan, condemned the attack and demanded justice. These protests highlighted the importance of respecting others’ beliefs while also recognizing the value of one’s own religious freedom. As the international community continues to grapple with such incidents, it is critical to promote a world in which religious harmony takes precedence over acts of hatred and intolerance by expanding opportunities for dialogue and understanding.