The Morning Call (Sunday)

Quran burns abroad; Lehigh Valley accepts Muslims

- By Fatima Kermalli Shia Ithna-Asheri Jamaat of Pennsylvan­ia Fatima Kermalli holds a master’s degree in Islamic studies, is a Sunday school teacher and member of the Shia Ithna-Asheri Jamaat of Pennsylvan­ia in Allentown.

In 2005, the Danish newspaper Morgenavis­en JyllandsPo­sten published caricature­s of the Prophet Mohammed wearing a turban made from a bomb, causing worldwide outcry and turmoil.

In 2007, a Swedish cartoonist sketched blasphemou­s cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, creating further uproar around the Muslim world. Once again, revered doctrines of Islam were attacked as Islam’s sacred scripture was desecrated.

In January, a Danish-Swedish far-right politician Rasmus Paludan burned the Quran outside the Turkish embassy in both Stockholm and Copenhagen. Then, in June, on the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, an Iraqi refugee named Salwan Momika burned the Quran and placed a strip of bacon on it outside a mosque in Copenhagen. He staged a protest in July and a third one at the end of the month with another man, kicking and stomping on the Quran before setting some pages on fire.

Since then, Quran-burning incidents are increasing in Sweden and Denmark, causing these countries to rethink legal ways to prevent such protests. Unfortunat­ely, not because they incite hate, but because of security and geopolitic­al concerns.

Undeniably, freedom of speech is an alienable human right. However, where one person’s right begins, another person’s right does not end. That is, the right to feel safe and their values and property protected.

The freedom of expression by one group should not intimidate others nor vilify another’s beliefs and feelings. Undoubtedl­y, there are laws against hate speech and hate crimes. The purpose of burning the Quran was a demonstrat­ion against immigratio­n and Islamic tenets — clear markers against an entire minority group.

In another July incident, a Syrian man named Ahmad Alush applied for a permit to burn the Torah and Bible outside of an embassy in Stockholm. A country complained when he applied. He received the permission, but did not do it: “This is a response to those who burned the Quran — freedom of speech has its limits. I want to show that we have to respect each other,” he said.

For Muslims worldwide, the Quran is not merely a holy book of guidance and law; it is considered to be the literal word of God. The Quran was revealed from God to the Prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel, and Muslims treat it with utmost reverence. It is distastefu­l to even place it on the ground or stack other books upon it — only a Quran can be placed on a Quran. What is more, the text is in its original form since the time of its revelation about 1,400 years ago. Therefore, Muslims see the burning of the Quran as not only a desecratio­n of sacred scripture but an abominable act and blasphemy.

Just as burning the Quran is a strong expression of discord, one group of people offering their place of worship to be used by a group of another faith is certainly a mark of solidarity and acceptance. And one must not go far to observe this. It’s local. Unfortunat­ely, however, it does not make the news. For almost the last year, Asbury United Methodist Church has so kindly allowed the Shia Ithna Asheri Muslim community of Pennsylvan­ia the use of their

church and facilities for services while the Shia Ithna Asheri mosque is under constructi­on.

What is more, compassion and unity have connected other faiths. When Shia Muslims commemorat­ed Ashura, one of the most solemn days in the Muslim calendar (when the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, Imam Hussain, was martyred), in late July, Temple Beth El allowed the use of the synagogue in the morning for Muslim prayers, and Asbury United Methodist allowed Muslim services in the afternoon and at night at the church.

At noontime, Muslims could be seen walking in a procession commemorat­ing the events of Ashura from the synagogue to the church in peace to practice their faith, while in harmony with both the Judeo-Christian faiths, in turn, unifying the three Abrahamic faiths. That was the mission of Imam Hussain, upholding integrity for all, irrelevant to one’s ideology. As he stated about his movement, “I have risen as I seek to reform the community of my Grandfathe­r. I wish to bid the good and forbid the evil.”

 ?? HUSSEIN/AP BILAL ?? A worshipper holds the Quran during a rally after Friday prayers July 21 in Lebanon to protest the desecratio­n of the Islamic holy book in Sweden.
HUSSEIN/AP BILAL A worshipper holds the Quran during a rally after Friday prayers July 21 in Lebanon to protest the desecratio­n of the Islamic holy book in Sweden.

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