Burning of the Quran

by Amy Reynolds

On February 20th, burned copies of the Quran were discovered at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The U.S. military admitted that they were responsible for not disposing of the books properly. In the wake of the incident, President Obama sent a formal apology to President Karzai and the people of Afghanistan; General John Allen (commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan) phoned Karzai to express regret as well.

In our highly polarized political environment, several in America—largely political opponents of the president—have spoken out, saying that the apology was too much.  It has been suggested that the apology makes America weak, that there was nothing worth apologizing for, and that apology came from too high an authority. Some have accused the president of merely pandering to extremists.  In the aftermath of the event, at least 40 people have been killed (including 4 U.S. soldiers), and hundreds have been wounded.  Just yesterday, March 5, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the base in Afghanistan.  Protest has erupted throughout many cities in the nation. [Read more...]

Christian-Muslim Dialogue: My Conversation with Islamic Scholar Mohsen Kadivar

Mohsen_KadivarAlthough he is known by many as a political dissident, Islamic scholar Mohsen Kadivar emphasized to me over lunch recently, “I never wanted to get involved in politics. I just wanted to be a scholar of religion.” But when the intelligence service in his home country of Iran killed at least four dissidents accused with apostasy and claimed a fatwa of unknown religious authority to justify the killings, Kadivar objected. In articles he wrote and speeches he delivered at a mosque to several thousands of believers during the holy nights of Ramadan, Kadivar argued that according to the Qur’an and the authentic tradition of the prophet Muhammad “terror is forbidden in Islam.” Punishment, he argued, is only the job of the court, not anyone else. It is not lawful, he argued, to kill dissidents for religious crimes.

Because he was already a well-known scholar by that time, his statements were interpreted as a challenge to the regime’s authority. In punishment for what he wrote, the regime sent him to jail for eighteen months.

“I had lots of time to read while in jail,” he explained, “When I got I had all the notes I needed to write another book where I further argued why Islam should not be used to justify violence. I also argued that in contrast to traditional Islam, where there is no separation between religious law and the civil law, Islam need a reform that would separate religious law from civil law and separate crime and sin.”

I first heard of Mohsen Kadivar, now a visiting professor of religious studies at Duke University, on an NPR interview in early January 2012. Based on his name and biography, I realized [Read more...]


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