Friday, September 17, 2010

Lesson from the events concerning the Holy Quran: Dialogue and Faithfulness

Some good might come out after the furor and outrage that erupted worldwide on the news of certain extremists attempting to burn the Holy Quran. After the initial condemnation, many religious leaders, world wide have called for dialogue and understanding among followers of divine religions and particularly Abrahamic faiths. In Florida alone, more than 20 religious leaders from Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim backgrounds around Gainesville had a Quran passage  on the oneness of God read - along with Christian and Hebrew scriptures–  at their congregations over the weekend.  
It was a sign of unity after weeks of talk by a Florida pastor who threatened to burn the Muslim holy book on 9-11 but who ultimately cancelled the event.  Some Christian leaders plan to continue connections with clergy from other faiths. A group of religious leaders will meet in October in Gainesville to try to improve interfaith relations.
A few years ago on the occasion of the World Environment Day(June 5), I was invited to speak in a large Church congregation, in Tromso , Norway.  The ceremony was broadcast live in many parts of Europe and worldwide. Many people later told me that they were surprised to learn that the Quran has spoken so clearly about nature and its diversity, about our responsible behavior  and about the negligence that will ultimately harm humans. They believed it was the first time a Muslim woman had delivered a sermon in a Christian Church in Europe. 
The common lines of Abrahamic Religions are so evident and bold that denying their common roots is only a sign of ignorance or prejudice. In fact, the Holy Quran  has   many references to the Abrahmic tradition and to the lives of the Prophets. There are more than 400 references to Moses in the Holy Quran and several references to Mary and Jesus . In reality, the only revelation that we have about Jesus is from the Quran, for what is said in the Bible are recollections from the disciples and the old Testament has nothing about him.  What comes in the Quran concerning other religions, is in fact a authentic account of what has passed in the original  Scriptures, in most respects it matches the current versions in Judaism and Christianity but in some respects there are differences. 
Many Christian women do not know that there is a whole Chapter in the Quran entitled Mariam and many verses in other Chapters on  her and her son Jesus.  Many followers of Christianity or Judaism are not aware of the respect and love that Muslims have for their Prophets and many do not know that the Quran has come not to deny the Abrahamic Tradition but to endorse it and to correct any distortions that might have occurred over the centuries. Many followers of other religions also are not aware of the fact that all Muslims regardless of sect or school, Shia or Sunni have only one version of the Quran and has been no dispute over the text in the Muslim world.
In Iran, during the past week there were many different reactions to the sad attitude of this radical minority of Americans. In addition to the official positions which condemned the event as part of a conspiracy in the usual anti -Zionist context , one religious leader made the point that even if they go to the stage to do so, we will announce that we still love Jesus and we will not insult their Bible.
Some people protested peacefully others with violent reactions. Many articles condemning the event were published. Some pointed to the long tradition of coexistence and peaceful cooperation between Muslim, Christian and Jewish societies in Iran and other parts of the world.  
Muhammad Nourizad , one of the political activists who has been detained ,along with many other reformist leaders, for several months now in the Evin prison, has sent a message condemning the event but also asking the authorities in Iran how people should believe their support for the Holy book? When in practice, the governing faction has undermined many Islamic edicts in dealing with their opponents and in suppressing the protests and the criticisms voiced by many innocent protesters, he has asked . Is the Book sacred only in its published form or are the teachings and the edicts and the moral standards of the Book also sacred ; he asked. Can we pretend to safeguard the Book but at the same time undermine its content and message? This is an important question not only for Iranian leaders but for Muslim leaders worldwide. 
If ultimately this event has led to more efforts for dialogue among followers of the Abrahamic Tradition and  more questions on the true faithfulness of the followers of the Quran, then we have lost some and have gained more. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Can we pretend to safeguard the Book but at the same time undermine its content and message? This is an important question not only for Iranian leaders but for Muslim leaders worldwide."

Mr. Nourizad's commentary on reactions to the burning the holy Quran is purely logical, and your choice of words when questioning the controversy -- 'pretend' -- seems logical, too.

In translation, and please correct if inaccurate, Mr. Nourizad stated:

"I say that I don't believe this loud outrage of the highranking officials regarding the plan of that American priest to burn the papers of Quran because the Iranians saw with their own eye the burning of the live Qurans and said nothing.

"If, in the United States, only the papers of the Quran were planned to be burned, in our [Islamic] country, the blood of the children of the nation who are the more obvious and evident verses of the Almighty God were shed, and they were burned in front of the eyes and conscience of everyone; no senior religious figure took off his turban in protest and with torn clothes and barefoot rushed to defend [the oppressed]; no judge or member of the parliament or no cleric slapped himself, mourned or cried for this burning of the live Qurans.

"So would you give me the right not to believe the love of Quran of the highranking officials when I am imprisoned by the very same lying characters?"

Mr. Nourizad seems a truthful ambassador for the holy Quran and for his beloved country. One can neither criticize nor condemn Islam while reading his thoughts, and understanding Islam's connection to other traditional religions is simple when one considers his message.

Perhaps some of the louder, more powerful of today's Islamic messengers contribute to the world's confusion about Islam. The gap between what they say and what they do seems far too distant for logic to intervene on Islam's behalf.

Thank you for your commentary that includes a brief history of Islam's longstanding connections to other religions, and best wishes, of course.