By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

Military personnel at a U.S. prison in Guantanamo, Bay, Cuba allegedly desecrated the Quran (Koran) by flushing its pages into a toilet. The news has sparked media interest in the states, and outrage in the Muslim world, especially in the Middle East. Anyone following world news has probably seen a number of articles reporting on the Middle East riots that have occurred as a result. The Quran is the name of the Muslim holy book, and is the guide to the Islam religion.

During the week prior to Memorial Day, thousands of protestors took to the streets in the Middle East. About 15,000 turned out in Pakistan at various locations. Many single locations had 1,000 or more people conducting demonstrations. In Bangladesh's capital of Dhaka, about 5,000 people rallied after Friday prayers, spitting on U.S. flags, kicking them and then burning them. They shouted "Death to America!" and "Destroy America!" Many carried copies of the Quran, held over their heads. At another location, the crowd was heard chanting, "We will cut off the feet that desecrated the Quran!" Other incidences included tomato throwing at U.S. embassies, burning of dolls that represented president Bush, and additional offensive threats to the United States.

In our humble attempt to look at this from a greater viewpoint, here is our view:

Whether it is Quran flushing, Bible-burning, or other forms of desecration to a religion's holy book, news of this action typically sparks a pointed emotional response from the book's followers, and that emotion is most often anger. The definition of religion by World Book is "the belief in, and worship of, a God or gods." 'Worship of' also implies 'obedience to'. The major religions of the world believe that people outside of their own worshipping sect are sinners, because they are not in obedience to the higher power that is perceived to be the one true God, or many true gods.

Until the formation of the U.S. Constitution, a country's religion had extensive influence over the leaders and policy of their country. Such associations in times past has led to corruption and abuse of power, and authority of the country being shifted from political leaders to the dominant church of the time. In the United States, our forefathers set up a government that separated church and state, with the intent of eliminating the church's controlling influence on federal government. With so many varieties of religion and even great variance within the major religious segments, these influences would have serious effect and consequence to affected government(s), in ways that our founders believed would be unhealthy. The argument that our forefathers were all church-attending Christian men, and that for that reason ours is to be a Christian nation. It is interesting that in a congress of such "like believers" that these founders still concluded that a powerful church can corrupt the laws of a nation, and such risks needed to be managed at the forefront. Perhaps their experiences from England of the mid 1700's played a pivotal role in the separation of these influences.

Most Americans today still share this view of separation, if they give the topic some serious thought. On the flip side, it is often impossible for one to separate his or her religious views from responsible decisions that they may be making within our government system.

A true "believer" of the Christian, Islam, Hindu, Buddist, or any other faith would refuse to make political decisions that are contradictory to his/her own belief system. Doing so would make the political leader a non-believer. At the very least, such action (supporting certain laws or bills) can be viewed as "facilitating people to sin". In this perspective, it then becomes impossible to separate church and state to the extent that many would like to see without screening all political contributors at the beginning of their campaign to ensure they are atheist. A person's religious viewpoint and holy book by which they live will affect their votes, business decisions, and political agendas.

If it is nearly impossible to separate a person from the religious view they hold, and government is made up of people and their collective decisions, then it becomes nearly impossible to separate "religion" and "state". What the U.S. does instead is to separate "religious institutions" (churches) from wielding their influence over the powers of the state. Atheism itself becomes a religion for those who profess it, as they vindictively point the finger at their religious counterparts. Interestingly, many do so with the passion of any religious zealot.

Now, to bring this article back to the Quran. The internet is loaded with websites that reference the Quran, and entire versions of the book can be reviewed. Other help files that reduce the amount of text into general topics also aided in bringing us up to speed. There is no way we can do justice to the book of Islam in this review, but from the information we have collected, our opinion is this:

The Quran spends a great deal of its pages reiterating that Allah (God) is the one and only creator of the universe, and that he is ever-present and all-knowing. It talks about ethical treatment of fellow believers. It is the one non-Christian religion that recognizes Jesus by name and references Jesus in more than 90 verses. The Quran follows the major points and historical accounts of the Holy Bible up to the point of Jesus' death and resurrection account, where it completely parts company. The entire Quran was written by one man, Muhammad, approximately 500+ years after Jesus, from his own visions that he claims to be given to him by God. Vast percentages of its text are devoted to crushing the Christian philosophy and condemning Christians and Jews alike. Muhammad sees the triune God as polytheistic worship, and strongly condemns it. He urges Muslims to fight against people who practice this culture, and especially against those who wish to bring about Christian/Jewish conversions. The word "fight" or "fighting" appears 47 times in a text that is only 148 pages long. (.pdf file in Adobe format) While not all of these reference a physical fight with people of a different belief, many make reference to exactly that.

Which brings us back to the May 2005 demonstrations and riots concerning the Quran. These people feel they are being obedient to the writings of their holy book by becoming enraged at its desecration. "Peace in the Middle East" quotes that have been campaign statements of so many U.S. presidents becomes nearly a joke while Islam is professed because for the Arabs to have "peace" with Christians and Jews in near proximity would be a sin. While parts of the book do make positive statements about Allah's peace and of peace with Arab brotherhood, much of the Quran focuses on negative statements toward Christians and Jews, both groups often being referenced together. While many Muslims do not take the literal text of their holy book to this extreme, there are apparently many that do. This is a most serious and complex matter at best.

To be fair to the Quran, the Bible in its literal sense is also very commanding in its directions with regard to practicing sinners and to sin in general. It is this literal text that fuels the fires of the religious right in responses to present-day issues such as abortions, gay lifestyles, divorce, and other disobediences by Biblical standards. It also makes reference that all people who do not view Jesus as the Holy Son of God, and His death and resurrection as the Atonement for sin will burn in the fires of hell when their earthly life is over.

It is sad to find that two holy books?.the Quran and the Bible?..can honor the same patriarchs, the same prophets, and the same Jesus, but take a terribly different and divisive world view from that point forward. The Quran had nothing negative to say about Jesus himself. It confirms the virgin birth, that Jesus was a great profit and spoke truth. It differs in that Jesus in the Quran did not die on the cross, but was taken down from the cross still alive, lived for another 80+ years and died at the age of 120. It emphasizes, however, that Jesus was only a man, and condemns all people who believe Him to be God. All of this written by a man (Muhammed) who wasn't born until some 550 years after Jesus' resurrection in the Bible, or 470 years after Jesus' death as recorded in the Quran.

Since both books speak of tolerance for fellow men, we are encouraged that both texts?..as do nearly all religious writings??provide an avenue for people to be tolerant, forgiving, and kind to one another. While desecrating the holy book of another religion is an ethical violation by either standard, so is causing radical uprisings that encourage riots and bigotry, getting innocent people hurt or killed in the ensuing chaos.

Jesus told his disciples that in some cases when the Gospel is not welcomed, shake the dust from your sandals and move on.

For those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

Tom Clouser is a 38 year old farmer in Pennsylvania. In addition to farming, he and his father publish a monthly 16-page newspaper called "Trees 'n' Turf", which targets subjects of interest to those in land use industries and activities. View their website at http://www.clouserfarm.net

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