Read a Qur’an Day (an Alternative to Burning)

Read a Qur’an Day (an Alternative to Burning) September 8, 2010
Presumably everyone has heard by now that a group of “Christians” in Florida is planning a Qur’an-burning event on the anniversary of 9/11. (Apparently they are also planning to burn the Talmud, which was news to me – will they be protesting the end of Rosh ha-Shanah?!). Stephen Prothero has called for moderate Christians to speak out on the issue of burning the Qur’an, and I agree that we should.

Rev. Larry Reimer, minister at the United Church of Gainesville, Florida, recently proposed an alternative: the best way to protest what the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida is planning is to read the Qur’an. This seems an appropriate way to not interfere with the free speech of others, and yet use our own freedom to express our dismay at those who use their freedom to express intolerance and to attempt to provoke others to violence and conflict.

Particularly if you’ve only heard brief quotes from the Qur’an which sound almost as horrific as the things you’d read in Deuteronomy or Joshua in the Bible, then use this occasion to branch out a little and read something that gives a fuller sense of what is in the Qur’an.

When I first started teaching a course on world cultures that included a unit on the Islamic Middle East, we were advised to tell students to begin at the end. The suras in the Qur’an seem to have been organized in size order, apart from the first one. And so the short, most manageable chapters are at the end. If you’d like to join in this event, that’s a good place to turn to start. And of course, if you don’t have a print copy, there are many English versions available online.

So please promote “Read a Qur’an Day” as an alternative to “Burn a Qur’an Day.” Why is this important? Because as Heinrich Heine said, “Those who begin by burning books will end by burning people.”

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