Factbox: Koran burning considered grave insult to God in Islam

(BestGrowthStock) – Intentionally burning the Koran, as a Florida preacher has threatened to do, is seen by Muslims as a blasphemous and insulting act because they consider the Islamic holy book to be the literal word of God.

Actual or alleged Koran desecration often sparks protests in the Muslim world and puzzled reactions from non-Muslims because of varying approaches to scripture and the sense of the sacred.

Here are some facts about the Koran:

— Muslims believe the Koran is the word of God transmitted to Mohammad by the Angel Gabriel in Arabic. By contrast, Jews and Christians believe their scriptures were written by holy humans with divine inspiration. For Muslims, this perceived enhanced sacredness makes Koran desecration especially heinous.

— Only the Arabic text is authentic and translations are seen as imperfect versions of the original, whose poetic wording is sometimes difficult to understand even for Arabic speakers. By contrast, Christians usually read the Bible in translation and few consult the original Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic texts.

— Muslims treat a printed Koran with great reverence. In Muslim tradition, the believer should be in a state of ritual purity before touching it. The Koran should not be put on the floor and nothing should be placed on top of it.

— Desecrating a Koran is seen as a grave offence worthy of severe punishment. Pakistani law prescribes life imprisonment for anyone “who willfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Koran or of an extract therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose.” Blasphemy laws in many Western countries have been abolished or fallen into disuse and freedom of speech usually takes precedence over them.

— Muslim scholars usually avoid critical analysis of the Koran’s origins that questions whether it is the literal word of God. A scholar who argues that it drew on earlier texts in Aramaic publishes under a pseudonym to avoid reprisals. By contrast, many Christian scholars investigate the linguistic, literary and historical origins of the Bible and sometimes come to conclusions that contradict traditional readings.

— Memorising Koran passages is encouraged and learning the whole text by heart is highly prestigious and honored by the special title “hafiz.” There are traditional rules for public reading of the Koran, which literally means “recitation.”

— The increased presence of United States military in Muslim countries in recent years has given rise to alleged cases of Koran desecration and strong Muslim protests against it. Reports in 2005 that U.S. interrogators flushed pages of the Koran down a toilet at the Guantanamo Bay prison for suspected Islamist radicals sparked protests across the Muslim world.

(Editing by Charles Dick)

Factbox: Koran burning considered grave insult to God in Islam