Dove World Outreach Center, an Evangelical church in Gainesville, FL, plans on holding an event on 11 September that centers on the burning of the Quran. The church was recently denied an open burning permit, but it insists that they will still continue with the burning of the Quran. The church’s pastor, Terry Jones, rationalizes the Quran burning as a tribute to the victims of the World Trade Center attacks. The response to this event has been mainly negative, but it does have fringe support.

Such acts are not new but have been performed earlier by individuals and the rulers of the day. The antagonism between the propagators rather than the followers of the respective faiths has been more pronounced and far reaching. Over the ages wars and battles have been fought on matters of faith and beliefs, one ideology thrusting its schism on the other with little or no success. However, the resultant gain has been to the steadfastness and firmness within each belief but the major casualty has been the loss of human lives and destruction of homes. The instigators in most cases have lost out and are remembered more as the villains of faith rather than the upholders. A review of the past confirms and establishes the fact that these villains are amongst all the major religious beliefs.

In his 1821 play, Almansor, the German writer Heinrich Heine — referring to the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an, during the Spanish Inquisition — wrote, “Where they burn books, so too will they in the end burn human beings.” (”Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.“). One century later, Heine’s books were among the thousands of volumes that were torched by the Nazis in Berlin’s Opernplan. On May 10, 1933 on the Opernplatz in Berlin, S.A., Nazi youth groups burned around 20,000 books from the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft and the Humboldt University; including works by Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Thomas Mann, Karl Marx, Erich Maria Remarque,  Ernest Hemingway and H.G. Wells. Student groups throughout Germany also carried out their own book burnings on that day and in the following weeks. Erich Kästner wrote an ironic account (published only after the fall of Nazism) of having witnessed the burning of his own books on that occasion.

The Nazi’s are remembered with anger and revulsion whereas the two faiths which, Judaism and Islam, which they intended to destroy lives on.

Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible was burned in Catholic-dominated parts of Germany in 1624, by order of the Pope – part of the exacerbation of Catholic-Protestant relations due to the Thirty Years’ War, then in its early stage.

Both Catholics and the Protestants are prominent beliefs today, the former relenting to accept the latter

In 1953 United States Senator Joseph McCarthy recited before his subcommittee and the press a list of supposedly pro-communist authors whose works his aide Roy Cohn found in the State Department libraries in Europe. The Eisenhower State Department bowed to McCarthy and ordered its overseas librarians to remove from their shelves “material by any controversial persons, Communists, fellow travelers, etc.” Some libraries burned the newly-forbidden books. President Dwight D. Eisenhower initially agreed that the State Department should dispose of books advocating communism: “I see no reason for the federal government to be supporting something that advocated its own destruction. That seems to be the acme of silliness. However, at Dartmouth College in June 1953, Eisenhower urged Americans concerning libraries: “Don’t join the book burners. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book.”

Today Communism is on the wane on its own accord not because Karl Max books were burnt. Moreover the entire world has come to live with what was considered earlier as “Evil” and hounded. The materialistic benefits from the Communist country are on display in in every nook and corner of the world.

In 1987, the Nasir-i Khusraw Foundation was established in Kabul, Afghanistan due to the collaborative efforts of several civil society and academic institutions, leading scholars and members of the Ismaili community. This site included video and book publishing facilities, a museum, and a library.  The library was a marvel in its extensive collection of fifty-five thousand books, available to all students and researchers, in the languages of Arabic, English, and Pashto. In addition, its Persian collection was unparalleled – including an extremely rare 12th-century manuscript of Firdawsi’s epic masterpiece The Book of Kings (Sh?hn?ma). The Ismaili collection of the library housed works from Hasan-i Sabbah and Nasir-i Khusraw, and the seals of the first Aga Khan. With the withdrawal of the Soviet forces from Afghanistan in the late 1980s and the strengthening of the Taliban forces, the library collection was relocated to the valley of Kayan. However, on August 12, 1998, the Taliban fighters ransacked the press, the museum, the video facilities and the library, destroying some books in the fire and throwing others in a nearby river. Not a single book was spared, including a thousand-year-old Quran.

The 1988 publication of the novel The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie, provoked angry demonstrations and riots around the world by followers of political Islam, some of whom considered it blasphemous. In the United Kingdom, book burnings were staged in the cities of Bolton and Bradford. In addition, five U.K. bookstores selling the novel were the target of bombings, and two bookstores in Berkeley, California were firebombed.

The incidents in 1987 and 1988 mentioned in the preceding paragraphs above are of two different kinds with the active involvement of the ‘fringe’ followers of a faith.

Talibans are by no stretch of imagination Muslims. They profess to be one, but in their thought, speech and action they are heretics on the basis of various Surahs as clearly enunciated in the Quran. They follow and adhere to the traditions, customs and rituals of their clans and forefathers. In fact Islam and the Quran were meant to reform and regulate these and have been successful in case of the majority. The fact that the Taliban burnt a thousand year Quran reflects on the authenticity of their beliefs.

The Rusdie book written in bad taste evoked the reactions from Zealots, as did The Da Vinci Code. However the Muslims took the extreme step of burning the book, as unlike in other faiths, ridicule or painting the Prophets and religious personalities in poor light invites greater reaction as Muslims are more emotionally and sentimentally attached to them. However, the Quran does not endorse such actions as during his lifetime Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) suffered greater ridicule and scorn at the hands of the unbelievers and he accepted these with grace and dignity.

The perpetrators of 9/11 carnage were as much Muslims as were the Pope and the individuals who ordered the burning of the books. They had either not read them or read them and purposely ignored their contents for their own gains. The 9/11 criminals belong to the latter category and Mr Terry Jones needs to read the Quran, and understand its meaning and purpose. Maybe, if Mr Terry Jones, if he is a Christian will realize that the Evil is not in the book but nearer home in his own front yard.