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Welcome to Chowraha - crossroads!

Chowraha is the crossroads of thoughts, events, opinions and feelings...all that have been shaped by individuals living in an increasingly complex world inter-connected through various means of communications.

This blog is about the crossroads in society - whether it is those of a diaspora community, global media complicating the structure of nations and cultures, or individuals finding parallels in spaces unknown to them.

The above picture is courtesy a much-admired photographer (Ali Khurshid) whose work is a source of inspiration and reaffirms the belief in the complex beauty of this world.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Why the urge to burn a Holy Book?

Note: The following blog post has been contributed by Zarena Jabbar, a dear friend on a recent event in Afghanistan and her thoughts on its reactions worldwide.

It has been a few years now that we hear talks of the Muslim holy book, Quar’an, being put on “trial” and then burned. Lately an unsettling feeling has overcome me after hearing about the Qur’an burned in Afghanistan on February 20th by U.S. soldiers. My belief in extreme human ignorance has been confirmed by the level of insensitivity that is on the rise in our society and around the globe. I am baffled by how easy it is for a human being to disrespect a holy scripture that is believed by billions around the world to be the divine words of God and a book that teaches only generosity, kindness, modesty and submission to One God. Have the non-believers ever picked up a copy and read a verse for themselves, or better yet, have they heard the book be recited which has left billions of people around the world humbled and moved to tears. Could the reason of attempting to destroy or burn the Qur’an just be that--Ego, Ignorance, hate or is it something deeper?

In 2010 Reverend Terry Jones, pastor in Florida, announced that he was on a mission to burn the Qur’an on September 11, 2010. There were many pleas from government officials which enticed him to back down from the radical “stunt.” We thought that story ended but were unfortunately wrong. Mr. Jones came back in January 2011 and “put the Koran on trial” and continued with his rant of showing the world what a “dangerous book” this was and on March 20, 2011 in Gainsville, Florida Mr. Jones did the unthinkable and burned the holy book in front of 50 people inside his church. What was gained from this cruel act, some say it was fame or fortune but I think it was mere unrest in the world. Our job has become harder in light of these events in continuing to preach the core principles of co-existence, peace and tolerance. Teaching hate in the name of religion is unacceptable and every peace loving human being must stand up against people like Mr. Jones and his followers who think it is quite okay for youngsters to wear T-Shirts to public schools that read “Islam is of the Devil.”

All this has been on my mind along with the talks of soldiers flushing the Qur’an in toilets in Quantanamo Bay etc. when most recently on February 20th 2012 in Bagram Air Field-Afghanistan several soldiers out of “ignorance” decided to dispose of the Qur’an in a burning garbage pit even after being warned by fellow afghan soldier. This ill-mannered act has sparked violent protests in Afghanistan and unrest around the globe. With these tragic events unfolding in my life time, I question how much is known about this book and what it means. Do these lunatics not realize that the stories of all the prophets including Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him), Abraham (PBUH), Moses (PBUH) and our beloved Mary are all revealed in this book by the supreme being. This makes me wonder about the motives – is it true ignorance or is it coupled with the fear of knowing more than our comfort zones, digging deeper and learning about a religion that billions have accepted as a way of life which has given them a purpose for life so that they do not wander in this world unhappily any longer.

The Qur’an is a final revelation as believed by Muslims and is the literal words of God, revealed over many years (approximately 23 years) by Angel Gabriel himself to the final prophet Muhammad (May the mercy and blessing be upon him). The Qur’an is full of wisdom and full of Gods unparallel mercy and justice on his humankind. This book is core to Islam, one can not call themselves Muslim if they don’t believe in it. Qur’an is considered very unique in its content and style to the point that it can not be translated; therefore, any translation is considered an interpretation of the meaning of Qur’an. As Jesus (pbuh) was given the miracle of giving the blind site and Moses (pbuh) given the miracle of parting the red sea as such Muhammad’s (pbuh) miracle was the Qur’an. It is a miracle that has sublime tone and beauty. It is possible to see Muslims moved to tears when they hear or read the Qur’an. Over 1400 years the Qur’an has not been tampered with, hence, Muslims read the exact words that were revealed by God himself; a Muslim on one end of the world will read the exact words in the holy book that another Muslim will read on the other end. For these reasons, the Qur’an is a highly respected and revered book which is why there are outcries in the world when Muslims hear talks of the Qur’an being burned or unfortunately see the thrown into fire pits. This book is not a symbol like a man made flag but rather a divine revelation – words of God himself.

September 11, 2001 was very tragic, many innocent lives were lost including Muslims and many more innocent lives were impacted by its after effects; either through wars, direct discrimination, racism or profiling. When I first heard of September 11th, it was around 8:00AM and I was walking to my Accounting class in Mills College with a friend. It was a beautiful crisp morning and Mills is full of some amazing and very tall eucalyptus trees which give off this sweet dewy and nutty smell early in the morning. My friend started to tell me about what had happened in New York and seemed so worried; I am very visual so I had to see on screen for myself but nonetheless that walk to class was interesting. Since I hadn’t yet witnessed the plains crashing into the twin towers I couldn’t grasp what had happened on the east coast. However, during that walk to class, as Economic students, we started analyzing the incident in economic terms and its ramifications on the country and the world’s economic stability. I recall my friend exclaim “imagine what will happen if everyone looses all their money in the bank” we might go through a depression again! Now that sounded scary to me. Later as I saw and learned more, it was all so devastating. My heart went out to those that were impacted and at the same time fear over came me not of what will happen to the stability of the economy but the stability of peace around the world. I found myself pray that “please don’t let it be Muslims.” I found myself glued to the radio (I didn’t have a TV in my dorm room) as days went by there were talks of Afghanistan and Bush going to war and life as a Muslim as I knew was no more. Being the only Afghan on campus at the time, I started to become fearful for my safety. I became fearful for my parents who lived in a predominately right winged, white neighborhood at the time. I became fearful for my family members who still resided in Afghanistan.

My fears were slowly surfacing, one day I remember my little brother, who was in 4th grade at the time, run home with a pant and shouting in the living room, “Guess what our neighbor’s bumper sticker says?” I thought it would be something fun and unique and asked what! To my dismay, he said that the bumper sticker read “Kill ‘em all and let Allah sort ‘em out” I was shaken and decided to go outside to read for myself. The impact of those words was so strong. I stood there reading and re-reading that sticker with a wave of electric vibes running through my veins. Since then those letters imprinted
to my memory. At that moment I developed a sense of panic, not only for my family who had to deal with these neighbors but the realization that life as we knew it was not going to be the same for Muslims in this society or the world. That fearful state has never really left me and those words from the bumper sticker continue to echo each time I hear of hate crimes towards Muslims or those perceived to be Muslims, hateful words towards Islam and violent acts towards the peaceful religion.

I have asked myself over and over again how I can overcome my deep fears and have realized that if I can only reach out to each Muslim and Non-Muslim and explain to them to judge Islam by learning about it through the Qur’an and not judge it by the acts of a few shallow minds. Burning a holy book will not accomplish much but understanding it will help one become a more tolerant human being which may be preached by the very religion they follow. There are many people out in the world who will do unacceptable acts in the name of religion, be it Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Sikh and etc. but best are those who step out of their comfort zones and challenge themselves to learn about their neighbor through text, history, poetry and build respect.

“Say, ‘If all mankind and the jinn would come together to produce the like of this Quran, they could not produce its like even though they exerted all and their strength in aiding one another.” (Quran 17:88)

“Or do they say that he has invented it? Say (to them), ‘Bring ten invented chapters like it, and call (for help) on whomever you can besides God, if you are truthful.” (Quran 11:13)

“And if you all are in doubt about what I have revealed to My servant, bring a single chapter like it, and call your witnesses besides God if you are truthful.” (Quran 2:23)

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