International Burn a Koran Day?
Pastor Terry Jones, of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, has announced an International Burn a Koran Day for September 11, which is coming up tomorrow, Seoul time.
No, not International Burn a Korean Day! That would also be a bad idea -- and a crime in any country!
As for International Burn a Koran Day, such an action would constitute legally protected free expression according to US law. It happens to be a very bad idea, but I'm strongly supportive of free speech, so I acknowledge the legal right of Pastor Jones to express his views by burning a copy of the Qur'an.
I'd prefer that Pastor Jones not do so, and I think that he will regret the consequences of his ill-considered act when he finds himself the target of a fatwa calling for his execution, an outcome that will surely, if belatedly concentrate his mind. Related fatwas will undoubtedly target others than Pastor Jones.
The predictably violent reaction expected from the Muslim world has already served to concentrate the minds of the rest of us in advance, and thereby accounts for the widespread condemnation of this scheduled Qur'anic event, for almost everybody would assuredly yawn with boredom if a Bible were scheduled to be burned.
Readers might therefore be interested to learn that the first recorded burning of the Qur'an was a conflagration of many Qur'ans in fires ordered by the third "rightly guided Caliph," Uthman ibn Affan (644-656 A.D. ). According to Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 510, as narrated by Anas bin Malik:
Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were Waging war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur'an, so he said to 'Uthman, "O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Quran) as Jews and the Christians did before." So 'Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, "Send us the manuscripts of the Qur'an so that we may compile the Qur'anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you." Hafsa sent it to 'Uthman. 'Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, 'Abdullah bin AzZubair, Said bin Al-As and 'AbdurRahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. 'Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, "In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Qur'an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, the Qur'an was revealed in their tongue." They did so, and when they had written many copies, 'Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa. 'Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur'anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt. Said bin Thabit added, "A Verse from Surat Ahzab was missed by me when we copied the Qur'an and I used to hear Allah's Apostle reciting it. So we searched for it and found it with Khuzaima bin Thabit Al-Ansari. (That Verse was): 'Among the Believers are men who have been true in their covenant with Allah.' (33.23)Such was the liberality of Uthman, that he would burn defective Qur'ans that differed even slightly from the one in the Quarish dialect. I don't imagine that anyone would try that today with a Qur'an, even if it did happen to have a few misprints -- and can Qur'anic misprints be utterly avoided in a written record of the Qur'anic utterance?
Indeed, if I recall correctly, the practice that developed in somewhat later Islam, though still early in that religion's history, was to bury any Qur'an that had deteriorated or been damaged. Burning would have been unacceptable, for even defective Qur'ans contained Allah's word. The Sana'a manuscripts, for example, were never burned, despite their divergences from the 'standard' Qur'an.
Pastor Jones, therefore, who considers the Qur'an so radically defective as to be almost entirely composed of Satanic verses and thereby deserving of being burned, is something of a throwback to the era of Uthman.
UPDATE: As Hathor notes below, the 'burning times' have been called off, with Pastor Jones saving face by expressing the (vain) hope that the so-called 'Ground Zero' mosque will in turn be built elsewhere.