By Durdana Najam
8 May, 2012
It was not the first time that Americans had become involved in the desecration of the Quran. The Bagram incident, when a few American soldiers burned the Quran in their ignorance, ignited a raging fire in Afghanistan, killing 14 people including two US soldiers. The US State Department and the CIA had to tender apologies for what they called an unintentional act. A month later, on April 28, 2012, US Christian Pastor Terry Jones in Miami stoked Muslim anger again by burning the Quran. He was protesting the imprisonment of 32-year-old Christian Pastor Yousuf Nadarkhani, a convert to Christianity, by the Iranian government. Like earlier, the Pentagon hurriedly issued a statement condemning Jones’ action and asking him to refrain from such activities in the interest of NATO forces in Afghanistan. Even earlier than all these incidents, a non-denominational church in Gainesville, Florida had planned to hold “International Burn a Quran Day” on September 11, 2010. According to The Dove World Outreach Center, the idea was to celebrate the day in remembrance of the victims of 9/11. Obviously, Terry Jones’ insolence towards the Muslim holy book invited severe protests from the Muslim states and their people. The silence of the Muslims living in America or other western countries over the latest incident has surprised many.
Catholic priest Father Francis Nadeem, Pakistan Hindu Welfare Council Chairman Dr. Munawer Chand and renowned Islamic Scholar Zahid Mahmood Qasmi vehemently condemned the desecration of the Holy Quran in Moulana Tahir Ashrafi’s talk show Deen-o-Dunya on Business Plus. All of them were of the view that religious tolerance is extremely important, especially when the world is torn apart by fundamentalism and extremism. Father Francis categorically denied having any connection with Terry Jones or his ideology. He went on to say, “We share the sentiments of our Muslim brothers and the Bible does not allow any such act. Christianity, Islam and Judaism connect to a singular source; we all are the followers of Abraham and his God. The Bible preaches love and humanity. No sane Christian could ever think of burning the holy scripture of any other religion.” Adding a word of caution, Father Nadeem said that the disease of fundamentalism could attract anyone, so it did Terry Jones. To Dr. Munawer Chand, the Chairman Pakistan Hindu Welfare Council, “The Quran is held in esteem by every Hindu.” He strongly condemned Jones’ act and called for immediate action by the US government to prevent such acts from being repeated in future. Zahid Qasmi believed that unless the US respects the religious feelings of Muslims, the war on terror would keep spewing fire. “On the one hand, the US is engaging the Taliban to pave the way for a peaceful and safe exit from Afghanistan by 2014 and on the other, it is not containing its own people from stoking hatred against Muslims. Desecration of the Quran is one of the many emotive issues that have set the Afghan Taliban against the NATO/ISAF forces. Lately some NATO soldiers urinated on the dead bodies of Afghans, had a photo shoot with the dead body parts of Afghan militants, and an American soldier during his night raid campaign slaughtered nine children among sixteen in pitch darkness.”
Since Samuel P Huntington has theorised the concept of clash of civilizations in the 21st century and beyond on cultural and religious basis, first in his article and then in his book, the world seems to have grown more intolerant and insecure. Identities have always been an important area of concern in human life. The tribal setup has had a strong tendency to preserve identity by means of language, mannerism, religious symbols, etc. Every religion epitomised symbolism to build a distinction about itself among other religions. Clashes on the basis of cultural and religious biases have a primitive history. Perhaps Huntington had thought that after attaining super academic heights and relentless technological breakthroughs, human beings would dump the tribal instinct. When that instinct in its natural course unfurled simultaneously in many parts of the world, opening new wounds and bruising the old, Samuel was taken aback and a theory came about that had nothing new about it.
Cultural and religious biases and interfaith differences are going to remain. We have to learn to live with these differences. There have been a number of efforts on the part of Vatican II to harmonise relations between the Roman Catholic Church and Islam. The visit to the Holy See by the Grand Ulema of Saudi Arabia in October 1974, in response to the visit of Cardinal Pignedoli, President of the Vatican Office of Non-Christian Affairs to Saudi Arabia the same year in April opened up the opportunities to revisit history and amend the follies that had given vent to ill feeling. The Second Vatican Council is known to have issued a publication between 1962-65 titled “Orientation for a Dialogue between Christians and Muslims”. The document appealed to the followers of the Church to “recognize the past injustice toward the Muslims for which the West, with its Christian education, is to blame”. Reciprocating the efforts of the Vatican, two important events unfolded in the span of five years. In the 60th UN General Assembly session in 2005, the Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriquez and the Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposed an “Alliance of Civilisation”. The idea was to collectively combat extremism, abolish cultural barriers primarily between the west and the Muslim world, and reduce interfaith disharmony. The climax to these efforts was reached in 2010 when the Mardin “Abode of Peace” conference was held by Muslim scholars, academics and theologians to discuss the implications of the Mardin Fatwa (legal edict) penned by the Hanbalite Shaykh al-Islam, ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328). The conference signed a New Mardin Declaration urging the faithful to condemn radical Islam and adopt high moral and ethical values in order to live in peace and harmony with other religions.
The Iranian revolution, Soviet Afghan war, the rise of al Qaeda and the Taliban and 9/11 kept marring the above and many intervening efforts to harmonise relations between Islam and the west. The burning of the Quran in the aftermath of 9/11 could have more than one meaning. It could be a symbolic condemnation of jihad; a response to the negative propaganda of western media against Islamic values; a jibe to the Middle Eastern powers leveraged from Washington; a reminder to the followers who have damned the jurisprudence of their scripture, or an unconscious reaction of American soldiers against the war policies of their country. Whatever the cause may be, it is about time that interfaith harmony is reached, accepting the distinctive features of other religions.
The writer is a staff member and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: The Daily Times