Saturday, 11 September 2010

A Buddhist Take on "Book Burning"

I've been reluctant to say anything on the threatened Qur'an burning by Terry Jones (the pastor not the Python) on the basis that he's already had way too much publicity. At the time of writing the "event" is on hold as the pastor arrives in New York to talk to Imam Abdul Rauf who has said he would make no deal with the fringe fundamentalist preacher over moving the Islamic centre further away from Ground Zero and that there were no plans to meet with him.

From a Buddhist perspective the action of burning the Qur'ans would be unskillful in that it causes hurt and suffering to others but more to the point the speaking of the intended harmful act is itself unskillful and harmful.

From a Western and more specifically a European stand-point burning books has a long and ignoble history. It inevitably reeks of the barbarian attempting to destroy knowledge and civilisation. What matters here is the intention behind the words and the actions and our REACTION to them. The pastor's aim appears to be to cause offence and thus harm. On the other hand they're "just" books, paper, ink, cardboard the destruction of which hardly justifies the death of another human being (as if anything could).

The most measured response that I have come across is this from a British Muslim....

I'm a Muslim and to be quite honest the physical action of burning the Qur'an doesn't bother me. People over the world could be doing worse to copies of it and I would be none the wiser. What bothers me is the media attention it's being given. This group is attempting to incite the wrath of passionate (and some may say extremist) Muslim's the world over. They more than likely have no idea of the contents and meaning of the Qur'an yet they are being given the chance to send Muslim's around the world a "message" by publicly burning a copy of our holy book. The Qur'an and it's messages are in my heart and soul and there is nothing an ignorant group of people can do to destroy that so why should I give it more than a second of my attention. That's what they want. Muslim's around the world should send a "reply" of forgiveness which will be more effective than retaliation and doing harm to innocent people as is being threatened.

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