Last month, a church in Florida announced plans to hold a Qur'an burning on 9/11.
When I first read about this, I felt nauseous. For one, will this really help in accomplishing a bridge of understanding amongst people? For another, all of this is going on during the Ramadan, the holiest of months for Muslim (ironically, a time when Muslims are supposed to be thinking kind and charitable thoughts). But most importantly? A Muslim's treatment of the Qur'an is radically different than that of a Christian's treatment of the Bible. I have seen many worn-out Bibles in my time - Bibles marked up with high-lighters, pens, pencils, post-its, markers. I have seen Bibles strewn about homes, lying on tables, wherever. This is not, in any way, shape or form, implying that Christians respect their holy text less, but they do treat it differently. Differently, I say! (Did you see how I said "Differently" which implies "difference" and not "importance"?)
In short, in my so very humble opinion, Muslims tend to treat their holy text as if it were an actual embodiment of God's word (my words, my interpretation!) and as such, the degree of respect with which the Qur'an is treated is ratcheted up to an extreme level of "High". For example, a Muslim must be in a clean state of mind, spirit and body. This means that a Muslim must perform the cleansing ritual of wudu before even handling or reading the Qur'an.
From my days as a Muslim (yes, you read that correctly - I was a Muslim for a few years in the early 1990s. I prayed as a Muslim and even attempted fasting during Ramadan in which I fasted only about 10 days. Apparently, I like food more than God, a theme, for me. I suppose.) Of course, during that time I learned the proper, respectful handling of a Qur'an. I still have my Qur'an and it is kept on a high shelf with my other religious books, a few Bibles, etc.. Why?
Despite my turning away from Islam and ultimately, Christianity, I do have a certain respect for these religions.
Religions themselves, without actual humans, tend to have pure intentions. What I do not have a respect for are the actions at the hands of some of the followers. Dude. Any Muslim I know, would never claim an alliance with the 9/11 bombers any more so than any of the Baptists I know would claim an alliance with Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church here in Topeka, KS.
Can you please read that paragraph again? It is sort of important. Perhaps.
So yes, I have a Qur'an in my house and I do question whether I should still be in possession of it. I treat it respectfully as a non-Muslim and keep it on a high-shelf, so it cannot be grabbed capriciously. Still, my treatment is still not up to par with the exacting standards of Islam. I am sentimental about this book, to be sure, but also, I want it as an example for my own children that they must never stop learning and exploring. That it is okay to study other religions, to consider the other point of view but that they must never use that belief as a fuel to drive a pre-existing hatred or prejudice. I try to resist the urge to rant against religions, but any long-time reader here can attest to how very often I fail at this.
But still, I try.
I was not the only one sick at heart about this Qur'an burning. Karen Walrond of Chookooloonks was enraged at this and if you have even an inkling of Karen or what her site is about, this should come as a shock to you that she would be enraged. However, rather than perpetuating the hatred, Karen wants to send a huge package of photos depicting peace and love.
I had the chance to speak to Karen over the weekend regarding this. She was very calm and steady in her descriptions of what she hoped to achieve in this exercise, but there was a fire in her eyes.
I have decided to send a copy of our Christmas card - Manoj and I are not a religious people at this point in our lives, but I do see the holiday as an ideal time to reiterate a message of peace. Therefore, our Christmas card usually has a message in that vein and is ideal for the purpose set forth in Karen's Photobomb Plan.
My children and pets (yes, pets!) bring so much love and tranquility into our home and for me, it was the perfect expression of how I find peace in my own life.
May peace be upon all of us.