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 Director, 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.”