On “burn the Quran” day this 9/11

By: Masood Malikyar

Pastor Terry Jones in Florida has his congregation convinced to burn copies of the Quran in commemoration of September 11.  Ironically, his approach is no less extreme.   The question is how should Muslims and America’s leadership react.

We can find a number of precedents in scriptures and prophetic traditions in response to his stated intention.  The Quran ordains:

ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ

“Repel [the bad they commit] with something that is  bet­ter.”  23:96

وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ۚ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ

“The good deed is certainly not the equivalent of the evil one.  Repel the evil deed with the good one.  Instantly, your enemy will be transformed into a warm friend.” 41:34

We as Muslims believe that God’s core message to mankind has remained the same since the first man.  As evidence of that, we can look at the following Biblical verse:

“But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5:39.

The famous story of how Prophet Muhammad SAW reacted towards his hostile neighbor’s treatment of him is one of many traditions dealing with hostile bigots.  He had a Jewish lady for a neighbor who for hatred of the Prophet and his religion had made it a routine to dump her trash on his property.  The Prophet never registered a single complaint and kept cleaning his property and removing her trash.  He inquired after her from another neighbor when one day he could no longer find any trash in his doorstep as he was accustomed to find and clean.  Upon realizing she was sick that day, he visited her and prayed for her recovery.  She embraced Islam immediately recognizing that the Prophet was not the evil she thought and was told he was.

The show of leadership at the national level by President Bush and then at the local level by Mayor Guiliani in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 was exemplary.  President Bush pointed out how the attackers did not represent mainstream Islam.  Mayor Guiliani warned – anyone who may retaliate against Muslims in New York city will be pursued and prosecuted by the full force of the law.

I understand how such an evil act may flare emotions and how most if not all Muslims will be highly offended should Pastor Jones proceed and act on his plan.  Some may even resort to violence.  However, our Prophetic traditions and God’s order remain unequivocal.  We cannot but react in a good manner.  Perhaps, nearby Florida Muslims should volunteer to pickup the trash along the roads leading to the Church where Paster Jones and his congregation are planning to burn a number of Qurans this Saturday.  Would that change his perspective of Islam and Muslims?

How about the political leadership?  Do they have any responsibilities in condemning this plan?  GOP leadership voices are all but silent on the issue.   It is time to muster the courage and condemn Pastor Jones’s despicable plan – if not for the evil nature of it, but because it may lead to further extremism and violence.

We need to build new bridges of understanding and mutual respect.  We need to strengthen the paths we have collectively labored to build in the past.   It is quite unfortunate that Pastor Jones and his likes are determined to do just the opposite.

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