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‘A Common Word’ in the News

GUESTVIEW: The Qur’an cannot be burned!

The following is a guest
contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views
expressed are the authors’ alone. Aref Ali Nayed is D
irector, Kalam Research & Media, Dubai.

By Aref Ali Nayed

Years ago, in Toronto, I read on the concrete walls of a highway
bridge the following bold and sacrilegious message: “God is dead!
Signed: Nietzsche,” and under it “Nietzsche is dead! Signed: God!”

Silly as the street message may be, it brings home a simple fact: God
cannot be killed! Even as all else, including Nietzsche, dies, God
remains. This is because for all theists, to put it starkly: God is God.
God lives. Man dies.

Some human beings, through their hateful infidelity, may wish not to
“let God be God,” as Karl Barth puts it. However, despite all such
arrogance, God will indeed always be God! Similarly, His very Speech,
the Qur’an, will always be His very Speech.

It is a Sunni Muslim central doctrine that the Qur’an is the eternal Speech (Kalam)
of God. As an eternal divine attribute, the Qur’an cannot possibly be
burned, no matter how hard Terry Jones and his likes may try. There
cannot be a “Burn the Qur’an Day,”because, to put it simply:  The Qur’an
cannot be burned!

Yes, the bound, handwritten or printed volume (Mushaf)
expresses, indicates and signifies God’s very Speech (the Qur’an), and
is, therefore, Sacred and Holy. That is why Muslims everywhere are
deeply disturbed by the mad campaign of Terry Jones. They are deeply
hurt and insulted because that which is most sacred to them is being
targeted for such desecration and insult.

However, burning even a thousand Mushafs, which is of course
physically possible, will not achieve the senseless goal of burning of
the Qur’an. As an Attribute of God Himself, the Qur’an, for the Muslim,
is eternal (qadim) and everlasting (baqi).

But what Terry Jones’s irresponsible and hateful stunt will certainly
achieve is a worsening of communal relations at a time when we all
should be striving for peace. Already, his inflammatory rhetoric and
theatrics are communally undermining the advocates of such peace-making
initiatives as ‘A Common Word,’ and making angry youth even more susceptible to the Manichean recruitment arguments of terrorist groups.

As sincere Muslims, Christians and Jews strive to ”build bridges”,
Terry Jones has already started to burn them. He has already managed to
deeply hurt ordinary, compassionate and law-abiding Muslims all over the
world, because the Qur’an is so central to their lives. The momentum
Jones has unleashed is further marginalizing a Muslim community that is
already facing a colossal stigma in the West due to ever growing hate
and victimization.

Burning or desecrating sacred scriptures and sacred symbols is as
irresponsible and hurtful as tampering with nuclear materials. Religious
symbols and sacred scriptures are the core spiritual fuels of the lives
of millions of faithful men and women, of all world religions. Such
symbols and scriptures should always be treated with respect and care.
One cannot claim to respect the dignity of human beings and at the same
time undermine the dignity of their religious symbols and scriptures.

Although, as God’s very Speech, the Qur’an is safe from any attempt
to burn it, our communities are not. There is a need to protect our
communities, and especially America, from the danger of degenerating
into the fires of hateful and resurgent and repackaged neo-Nazism, and
irrational reactions to it.

Let us never forget that on April 6th, 1933, the Nazi
German Student Association proclaimed a nationwide “Action against the
Un-German Spirit” that called for a literary purge of cleansing (Säuberung) by fire. Soon after, on May 10th,
1933, university students burned more than 25,000 volumes of “un-German
books”. Soon after that, the burning of actual human beings, our Jewish
brothers and sisters, began, in the horrific fires of the Shoah (Holocaust).*

Stopping Terry Jones is not about saving the Qur’an from being
burned. The Qur’an cannot be burned, no matter how hard Jones may try,
for its preservation is divinely guaranteed. It is about saving America
and the world, from a neo-Nazism that is now clearly on the rise, having
repackaged itself by re-focusing its hateful wrath onto Islam and
Muslims, and that works in a deeply worrying mirroring dynamics with its
counterpart: terrorist groups that distort and abuse Islam to justify
their criminal designs and actions.

In addition to anti-terrorism efforts, there is also an urgent need
for a fresh “denazification” campaign, through which Jews, Christians,
Muslims and all men and women of good faith, expose neo-Nazism for what
it is: criminal, and dehumanizing hate that hides behind such high
values as “free speech.”