Comment by NYU assistant professor/faculty fellow Jeremy Walton on yesterday’s New York Times article, “Koran burning in NATO Error Incites Afghans,” (February 21, 1:39 pm):
These comments are, on the whole, atrocious and disturbing, for two reasons. First, there seems to be absolutely no interest or concern on the part of most NYTimes readers to comprehend Muslim attitudes toward the Qur’an. As a professor of Islamic Studies, I begin every class on the Qur’an by emphasizing that it should not be understood as a mere ‘book’–it is both more and less. Less because Muslims don’t read the Qur’an cover-to-cover like a novel; more because it is, along with the exemplary conduct of the Prophet Muhammad, the authoritative source of wisdom about the universe and humanity’s place within it for Muslims. Qur’anic passages suffuse Muslim life and worship. The performance of salat, the five daily prayers, is an embodiment of the Qur’an, and Qur’anic verses saturate daily speech and life in most Muslim contexts. Muslims who cannot fully comprehend the linguistic meaning of the text due to illiteracy in Arabic respect the Qur’an no less because of this fact. Is it any surprise that some devout Afghani Muslims take umbrage to the disrespectful actions of their military occupiers? Of course, dismissal of religious attitudes is a secular privilege that we all share, but this brings me to my second objection to the bulk of the comments here: Even if you choose to denigrate the actions of some Afghani Muslims, do not make the vicious mistake of all prejudice and bigotry, the substitution of the actions of a few (the protesters) for the whole.