Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Targeting the Holy Quran for Burning in the US Is
Craig Blomberg Interviewed by Kourosh Ziabari
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, October 8, 2010
Pastor Jones of Florida, who announced that he would burn copies of the
Holy Quran on September 11, 2010, was persuaded by the US Secretary of
Defense and others not to do so. He did not.
This interview is still valid for publication due to the continuous
anti-Islam campaign in the US by the ignorant, the opportunists, and by the
power elite who want to distract the American people away from the disasters
which fell on their heads as a result of their permanent war policy dubbed
as the global "war on terror."
Craig L. Blomberg is the Distinguished Professor of the New
Testament, and has been a New Testament scholar since 1986 at the Denver
Seminary in Colorado. Denver Seminary where Prof. Blomberg teaches is an
evangelical graduate-level institution that was founded in 1950. Blomberg
delivers speeches and writes on a number of Christianity, religion-related
issues regularly. He has published several books on the New Testament of
which we can name "From Pentecost to Patmos: An Introduction to Acts Through
Revelation" and "The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel: Issues and
Commentary". He specializes in the parables and the writings of Luke-Acts.
Prof. Blomberg joined me in an interview to answer my questions on the
recent incident of Quran burning in the United States, the inter-faith
dialogue of the followers of Islam and Christianity, the contribution of
religion to the global peace and stability, the role of religion in solving
the problems of contemporary man and the dissolution of the basis of
traditional family in the 21st century.
Kourosh Ziabari: Over the
past weeks, an intense controversy over the burning of Holy Quran was
sparked all around the world. There was an announcement for the burning of
several copies of the Holy Quran on the anniversary of 9/11 attacks. What's
your viewpoint about this action? Is it compatible with the teachings of
Christianity to insult the holy books sacrilegiously?
No, it is not compatible, not in any way, shape or form. It is very sad that
even a few copies of the Quran were burnt. But we can all thank God that
something much more inflammatory, literally and figuratively, did not occur.
One of the most distinctive and important teachings of Jesus was love for
one's enemies. Muslims as a whole are not Christians' enemies, but
even if a few Christians think so, that gives them no reason to violate
their Lord's teaching on loving the people they think are their enemies.
Burning another person's or group's holy book or books can in no way be
construed as love.
KZ: We're witness to a growing wave of
Islamophobia in the West, fueled and intensified by the Western governments.
Muslims are being deprived of their civil rights in the European countries
and their sacraments are being challenged by the Western governments in a
blasphemous way. What's your take on that?
throughout the history of the world, members of minority cultures and
religions in countries whose prevailing worldviews are quite different have
seldom received good treatment. More Christians were martyred for
their faith worldwide in the twentieth century than in all previous nineteen
centuries of church history put together, with the atheist regimes of the
Stalin era in the former Soviet Union and the Maoist era in China being the
perpetrators of the largest numbers of atrocities. Six million Jews
were killed in Nazi Germany, which is a documented historical fact.
Although claiming a veneer of Christianity, Hitler was more influenced by
the radically atheist philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and the evolutionary
theory of Charles Darwin than by any truly Christian beliefs. In
Africa more recently we have seen one tribe attempting genocide over another
in Rwanda, Congo, and elsewhere, often appealing to a facade of the
Christian religion to hide what are truly political and tribal conflicts.
In the many long years of the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s it was politics
that exploited alignment with Shi'ite and Sunni Islam for their own ends.
The patterns of behavior seem to repeat in almost every generation, only the
parts of the world and the given "players" may vary. The more
secularized Western Europe becomes, the more overt persecution of Muslims
seems to appear and the more covert persecution of Christians seems to
appear, even if more selectively and subtly. Once again, any appeals
to Christianity to justify any of this are completely misguided and
misrepresent the spirit and teachings of Jesus and all his first followers.
KZ: There are people who advocate the existence of a division between
Islam and Christianity. Are they right in their stance that Islam and
Christianity have nothing in common? What's the straightforward say of
Christianity in this regard? Should there be any separation between these
two monotheistic religions?
CB: I'm not entirely sure how the word
"division" is being used in this question. I do not believe that all
religions teach exactly the same thing. That is simply factually
untrue. So, of course, it makes sense to say that Islam is not
Christianity and vice-versa. I doubt many Muslims would say that
Christians would be welcome to participate in every aspect of their worship
without converting to Islam; indeed, non-Muslims can't even go to the Kaaba
in Mecca. So there should be no surprise that there are portions of
Christian worship, such as its sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist,
which are reserved for Christians. But it is equally untrue that the
two religions have nothing in common. Your first question has already
mentioned the common biblical ancestors that both religions share, and
textbooks on comparative religions can compile long lists of similarities as
well as differences, both in beliefs and in practices.
KZ: How can a
sustainable integrity and solidarity between the followers of divine
religions contribute to international peace? Is it possible to establish a
coalition on the basis of commonalities of Islam and Christianity to serve
the interests of international community?
This is probably your
hardest question for me to answer. Over the centuries, and even in our
day, only a fairly small minority of any of the world's religions have ever
shown much of an interest in inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.
I have no doubt that it is possible to establish the coalition you describe;
the more significant question is how many people would participate in it and
would they be numerous enough and influential enough to truly make a
difference. Sadly, it is often only after atrocities far worse than
9/11 that people across major religious boundaries are motivated to work
with each other. It happened between Christians and Muslims in a
remarkable way in Sierra Leone, West Africa, after the Civil War decimated
that country in the 1990s. And it happened because there was already a
history of some cooperation among the leaders of the two religions--pastors
and imams--and because people recognized that the war had been about tribal
conflict that cut across religious lines. But now, a scant ten years later,
as rebuilding after the war continues and has met the most desperate needs
of the people, many construction, educational and medical projects are being
funded by Saudis who are offering the services in the context of an
aggressive campaign to convert non-Muslims into Muslims. Something
similar is occurring in Liberia, whose recent history has been very similar
to that of Sierra Leone. More well known are the recent slaughters of
Christians who were not even involved in proselytizing but solely
humanitarian work in Afghanistan at the hands of the Taliban. So, as
much as I personally would be thrilled to see such efforts come about as you
have described, it is hard to be too optimistic about their chances of
KZ: What's your viewpoint regarding the peaceful
coexistence of the followers of divine religions? How should we come to a
point at which there would be no conflict and divergence between the
Muslims, Christians and Jews?
CB: Conflict and divergence are two
quite different concepts. As I said above, in replying to question 4,
there are many topics on which each of the world's major religions diverges
considerably. The only way to avoid divergence, disagreement and
differing views on important topics, would be to dramatically rewrite all of
the religions' holy books and then get all the people of the world to follow
them perfectly! This, obviously, will never happen. But peaceful
coexistence is very much the ideal of Jesus' teachings. It is also
part of the genius behind the original goals of the American constitution
and democracy as it came to exist in the U.S. Unfortunately, in some
Americans’ minds today, freedom "of" religion should be replaced by freedom
"from" religion. Usually it is atheists who lobby for this.
Short of that, many argue that people should just not talk about or practice
religion in the public. Here both Islam and Judaism, I think, have
done a better job than Christianity at resisting such notions.
Peaceful co-existence, whether from a Christian perspective or just from a
politically democratic perspective, should allow and even encourage all
people to be free and to feel free to share their deepest religious
convictions with any who will listen, but they must always do so in a
non-coercive way and respect the rights of others to say "No, thank you."