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Burning Sacred Books: What Do We Achieve by That?

What drives someone to burn the sacred Holy Books and Scriptures of various religions? Why would an individual choose to burn the Quran, especially after having abandoned their faith, as we witnessed in Sweden couple of weeks ago? Also, earlier this year, a Swedish far-right politician in Stockholm burned and insulted a copy of the Quran. While I believe that burning the Quran, especially on the doorstep of the Turkish embassy, had a primarily political motivation, in 2013, American pastor Terry Jones planned to publicly burn the Quran. It received a lot of attention, which upset the global Muslim community. From the Netherlands, I wrote an open letter urging him not to carry out this action. I saw it as my ethical and spiritual duty to make my voice heard as a Christian leader and public theologian, and now I am doing it again.

Is it really necessary, in the name of freedom of speech, to mock the views or beliefs of others? Some suggest that religious people should just learn to take a joke. Where is the line between humor, insult, and freedom of speech, especially when insults are used for political purposes? Isn't avoiding insults a requirement for democracy and freedom of expression? I am strongly against such actions, as seen in Sweden. Burning the Quran or any other book, in my opinion, is an act of barbarism committed by people who consider themselves "civilized." Instead of burning the Quran, they would do well to consider reading it to better understand their Muslim neighbors and engage in dialogue with them. Burning others' sacred texts is equivalent to sowing the seeds of hatred and hostility for future generations.

Examine your own faith first. I often see Christians, including converts from Islam, in the media denigrating their former faith to make Christianity appear more attractive. It usually involves comparisons like, "My God is a God of love." My religion is against violence." Do we need to "defame" another religion to elevate our own faith? Wouldn't it be better to examine and, if necessary, criticize our own faith first? When my faith, Christianity, is used to make itself superior to another faith, I find it very difficult. It does no good to my religion.

Where is the line between humor, insult, and freedom of speech, especially when insults are used for political purposes? Isn't avoiding insults a requirement for democracy and freedom of expression?

Additionally, I find it challenging when some people in Western Europe constantly refer to "our" Judeo-Christian norms and values, given the fact that Jewish people were discriminated against until 1945 due to their own norms and values, resulting in tragic repercussions such as genocide and the Holocaust. Currently, some use these Judeo-Christian norms and values to exclude Muslims in particular. They use this term as a sign of civilization, while the effect reveals a primitive, uncivilized worldview.

I believe that religions, like individuals, are neighbors to one another. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as other religions, coexist in this world, and the people who practice these religions must learn to appreciate one another, despite our numerous differences. Just as we expect others to respect us. For me, this is the foundation of freedom.

While we all worry about the climate of our planet and the pollution we collectively generate, I believe we should also be concerned about our inner, spiritual, or more generally, moral climate. What kind of spiritual climate do we want to live in, a climate of anger and revenge? Eight billion people of different religions and beliefs, including atheism, must learn to coexist alongside, next to, and with each other. We cannot achieve this by ridiculing our religions and burning each other's sacred texts. As religious individuals, regardless of our faith, we must learn to stand up for and protect one another instead of demeaning each other. Our world is already badly polarized, and we need bridge builders, not those who create more hatred.


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