The unfolding drama about the potential burning of copies of the Qu’ran tomorrow throws up some very very interesting issues. The wonderfully-tached Terry Jones has named 9/11 ‘International Burn A Koran Day’ but the event appears to be on hold for a while while he fields calls from high-ranking government officials and leading Muslims. Not bad for a pastor of a church of 50 people.
The question I’d like to ask him is this: what does he think he is going to achieve by this? Historically, public burnings like this have been about destruction of harmful material in a display of corporate rejection. Albums by The Beatles were burned in 1966 in the deep South of the US – presumably to rid the area of the devilish music they were playing, and show them that they were not more popular than Jesus.
What confuses me about this Qu’ran burning is that I would wager that everyone who is going to get involved in the event will actually have to go out and buy a copy of the book in order to burn it. Sales of the Qu’ran will thus rise, and in no way will the number of copies of this ‘corrupting material’ decrease in the general populus. Jones’ burning then must be about pure symbolism, rather than purifying combustion, and thus must be designed to stoke the fires of anger.
He is thus reducing himself to the mob-mentality of flag-burners we see on our television screens: stamping on a barely smouldering stars and stripes as an act of media-focused hatred. Achieving nothing.
More importantly though, Muslims have a very different relationship to the Qu’ran as a physical text than Christians do to the Bible. Far more Muslims know long passages of the Qu’ran off by heart. As one scholar put it recently:
In other words, you can burn as many of these physical objects as you like – the Qu’ran will remain inscribed on the heart. This seems to be a far more healthy relationship to a holy book than the hefty, leather-bound, Jesus-words-in-red fetish many Christians seem to have with their ‘swords.’ Jones’ burning will achieve absolutely nothing other than fuelling hatred. It will not convince anyone of the ills he perceives in Islam, nor of the love that Jesus is meant to show.
Despite the enflamed preaching of the hell-raisers and sin-friers, God is not interested in fire or burning. I think Jones would do well to read 1 Kings 19:
“After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”