~Heinrich Heine, Almansor, 1823
Likely you've heard about the uninspired plans of a Florida-based (and comically named) church, the Dove World Outreach Center, to commemorate September 11 by burning Qur'ans. As a bonus for the haters, many Muslims around the world will be celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr (the three-day feast marking the end of Ramadan) on or around September 11. So this Qur'an-burning oughta learn them nasty Moozlims--in much the same way that flipping the bird as you speed past the guy who just cut you off invariably teaches him a lesson, too. No, all it will do is inflame not just some copies of a holy book but the passions of many believers--not just in the Qur'an, but in freedom of speech and religion. The predictable denunciations will issue from all quarters (here's the mayor of Gainesville calling the DWOC a "tiny fringe group and an embarrassment to our community." Saudi Arabia and Iran will probably instigate boycotts of citrus fruit and pink flamingoes. And so on. Hate, ignorance, and conflict FTW!
Recently, I was rambling to my husband about how best our community can respond to these kinds of haters. Naturally, I feared replays of responses to previous controversies and offenses: The Satanic Verses, the Danish cartoons, the teddy bear named Muhammad...sigh. CAIR issued a release urging Muslims to use the month of Ramadan to share the Qur'an with others by gving away copies and donating money to that cause, and to hold iftars (fast-breaking meals) at which such copies are presented to various members of local communities. A nice enough idea, and I note that the translation they've chosen for this initiative is Muhammad Asad's, which pleases me. (I would be more impressed if they'd chosen Laleh Bakhtiar's translation, the only currently available complete English translation by a woman that I know of, but you know, baby steps...)
My idea was that we should respond by designating September 11 as a day to mutually venerate/share/learn from scriptures of all faiths and to develop events around this notion. I know perfectly well that many of my co-religionists will not be able to bring themselves to be quite this religiously pluralistic, but at the very least, Muslims need to be able to honour and respect the Torah and the Gospels, as we are commanded to do. And I know the anti-religionists will obviously not get on board this train, either. But peoples of faiths vastly outnumber those who feel otherwise, so it still seems to me there's a large pool of potential participants on which to draw. Local groups could develop events in whichever way seems most appropriate and relevant for their community.
And I figured that social media would be the easiest and most obvious way to get such a campaign off the ground, although I knew before I even spoke the words that I did not personally have time to commit to such a project. Fortunately, others are on the same wavelength and have started a Facebook campaign: National Don't Burn A Quran, Read a Bible, a Torah, and a Quran Day! (Exclamation mark is theirs, btw.) I would have preferred that the initiative included scriptures beyond those of the Abrahamic faiths, but again, baby steps...it seems worth supporting. Perhaps it will get a fraction of the media traction that the Qur'an-burners have, but I won't hold my breath.
I'll leave you with this funny little bit from Maniac Muslim: Burn a Qur’an Day Fails Miserably.