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The cover of the penguin edition of the qur'an
Reading, not burning, the Qur’an

Posted on 12 September 2010, 3:27

Has anything beautiful or generous come out of Christianity in response to the tragedy of 9/11? On the micro level, I’m sure there must be Christians and communities which have responded in positive ways, but the big picture looks overwhelmingly gloomy on this ninth anniversary of the atrocity.

Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida, and his threatened Qur’an-burning stunt is a powerful example of how easily the Christian faith can turn ugly, profoundly betraying the open-hearted teaching of Jesus. Although Terry Jones has now abandoned his Qur’anic bonfire, he seems to think his notoriety can be traded in for religious influence, as he’s been demanding that the Islamic centre proposed near Ground Zero be dropped. Unsurprisingly, his voice is being ignored.

One creative response to the threat of Qur’an-burning has been made by Revd Larry Reimer, minister of the United Church of Gainesville. ‘If they can burn it, then we can read it,’ he says in a blogged interview. Along with other local church leaders, he’s going to be reading passages of the Qur’an at church services tomorrow, 12 September.

I’ve never read the Qur’an or had much desire to, but the whiff of unholy bonfire smoke has finally given me the curiosity and impetus to see what is inside its covers. If fellow believers with so few functioning brain cells as Pastor Jones want so much to destroy it, that’s a strong argument for discovering the Qur’an for myself. The desire to burn comes from fear and rage, but fear and rage were never part of the gospel I received.

So I’m going to sit down with the Qur’an and read and reflect on what it has to say, and post occasional comments here as I go along. I’m a Christian, so I can’t help coming to it with Christian-flavoured preconceptions. I’m also a complete newbie to the Islamic scriptures, but I see that as an advantage, as my impressions will be fresh ones. I’m setting out to read appreciatively, respectfully and critically – just as I read the scriptures of my own faith.

The edition I’ve bought is the 2008 translation by Tarif Khalidi, published by Penguin… just in case anyone wants to read along with me.

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I’m thinking of giving the Koran a bit of a read sometime, also. I think it’s a shame that we don’t respect someone’s intrinsic efforts to ‘believe’ even though we may wholeheartedly disagree with the substance of the faith they follow.

However, I don’t agree with your statement that the Christian faith can ‘easily’ turn ugly. Looking at Terry Jones as an American, myself, it is plain for me to see that he is an aberration. Most Christians practice much more tolerance and wisdom than that. I’ve lived among the American Christian faith community for nearly four decades; believe me, Terry Jones doesn’t represent me (us).

However, the American press and media will do their best to almost ‘seek out’ such people and try to represent all of Christianity by their ilk. They neglect to mention all the tremendous good and blessing that mainstream Christian faithful people add to their communities. So, if it appears that such extremists ‘easily’ malign Christianity, it’s really not without a whole lot of help from its gainsayers and opponents.

Islamic extremists have changed everyone’s lives, not least all those of Islam who are peaceful – yet we are constantly reminded that this bomber or that one doesnt represent ALL of Islam. Sadly, You won’t hear hardly any such balancing comments when the media take opportunity to report on the likes of a Terry Jones. Life’s not fair, eh? Jesus did say, ‘If they hated me they will hate you.’ Keep giving us food for thought, Simon. : )

Tim, Thu 23 Sep, 03:24

Please be advised that according to Islamic scholars the second part of the Koran supersedes the first part .I lived in two islamic countries for seven years and have many ties. But it was only recently that Islamic teachers informed me about this ranking of parts. They told me that basically the second part is to be followed, the first is just nice. They stressed that they didn’t enjoy talking about the subject.

The first part contains lovely parts, my favorite is the surah about Light. The second part contains the very troubling parts.

Wm Joseph, Sun 19 Sep, 07:19

You could do worse than start with A Heart Broken Open by Ray Gaston for a Christian view of Islam… ‘in an age of fear’.

Ian Rees, Tue 14 Sep, 22:12

I have just finished reading your book on the Bible and am much the wiser for it. I will be following your journey through the Koran.

Jane Chelliah, Sun 12 Sep, 05:18

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