The repeated desecration of the Quran in European countries, including Sweden and Denmark, has sparked a new wave of condemnation and anger among Muslims across the world.
What follows is the full text of IQNA’s interview with Professor John Andrew Morrow on this topic.
He is a Métis Canadian Muslim scholar who embraced Islam over thirty years ago at the age of sixteen. He has studied Islamic sciences for over three decades at the hands of both traditional Muslim scholarships as well as Western academics.
IQNA: Although the public opinion and government officials of European countries are aware of the sensitivity of insulting Islamic sanctities, we see this issue being repeated by some anti-Muslim figures from time to time. What is the root of these actions?
Morrow: As Jedi Master Yoda wisely stated, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Islamophobes suffer from an irrational fear of Islam. This fear leads to anger and this hatred leads to the suffering of Muslims. However, it also produces anguish for the one consumed by hatred.
We are dealing with deeply disturbed and unbalanced individuals: psychologically, socially, and spiritually. Rather than hate them in return, we should pity them and encourage them to seek counseling. “Never hate your enemies,” advised Michael Corleone, “it affects your judgment.”
IQNA: Some believe that the desecration of the Quran is actually a reaction to the large presence of immigrants and refugees in these countries. What is your take on this?
Morrow: Rightly or wrongly, many Westerners feel threatened by the large influx of immigrants and refugees to their nations. Many, if not most, of them who settle in Europe profess the Muslim faith. Some of them are good examples of Islam. Others are not.
Some of them integrate well into Western cultures. Others do not. Religion is not entirely responsible as it is indissociable from culture. What is more, many other factors come into play, such as education and class. It is therefore dangerous to treat all Muslims monolithically. As Obi-Wan warned Anakin, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” While Muslim immigrants and refugees are responsible for the choices they make in moving to the West, they should not be blamed for the policies that allowed them entry.
Those who desecrate the Qur’an and offend the religious sentiments of Muslims are agents of provocation
Citizens have the right to critique their governments through all legal and peaceful means. If they oppose open borders and multiculturalism, out of religious or nationalistic sentiments, then their opposition or outrage should be directed to their politicians, not people who have been forced from their homes due to Western-sponsored wars and economic sabotage.
Rather than burn the Qur’an, they should burn their own constitutions or the effigies of their leaders. They should tear up their immigration laws and trample upon them. They should organize political action committees. They should run for office. The fact of the matter, however, is that those who desecrate the Qur’an and offend the religious sentiments of Muslims are agents of provocation.
IQNA: What is the reason that in countries like Sweden, contrary to issues such as the rights of sexual minorities, laws against sacrilege have not been developed?
Morrow: Most Western nations had blasphemy laws. Some still have them. They date from a time that these nations were Christ-centered. Most of them did away with such laws when they became secularized. Sweden had very strict blasphemy laws. In fact, in 1563, King Erik XIV introduced a law to protect religion.
So, you can’t fire someone for being a Muslim, but you are free to insult the Prophet Muhammad and barbecue the Qur’an
By the twentieth century, laws prohibiting sacrilege were replaced by ones that protected the rights of minorities and forbade discrimination based on race, skin color, national or ethnic origin, faith, or sexual orientation. So, you can’t fire someone for being a Muslim, but you are free to insult the Prophet Muhammad and barbecue the Qur’an. For some, such an approach is fraught with contradictions.
For others, blasphemy laws pose an even greater peril as they can be used to persecute and prosecute people for legitimate criticism of certain religious beliefs, dogmas, and practices. The horrors of the Inquisition have not been forgotten. Hence, the strong insistence on protecting freedom of expression.
IQNA: Why do you think Islamophobia and insulting the holy things of Muslims grows every year?
Morrow: Islamophobia does not necessarily increase every year. In the United States, it strongly surfaced after 9/11. It ebbs and flows. It rises after terrorist attacks.
Fuel is added to the fire during wars against Muslim-majority nations. It is orchestrated by a multi-billion dollar Islamophobic industry that is financed by multinational corporations, the very same ones that promote the so-called “woke” agenda: diversity, equity, and inclusion. The same people who promote love of Islam and Muslims simultaneously promote hatred of Islam and Muslims. They are both Gog and Magog. This Killer Clown wears a two-sided mask.
IQNA: In your opinion, how should Islamic countries react to the recent insult to Quran in Europe?
Morrow: Ideally, they should ignore them entirely. Hence, the irony of me even answering these questions. By responding to provocations, we publicize them. The people behind these attacks against Islam are trolls. They put bait on a hook, cast a line, and wait for a foolish fish to bite. Then, they drag the fish along while it is jumping and fighting.
The people who antagonize Muslims are predators who are looking for prey. If someone sets a trap for us, should we step right in it
The people who antagonize Muslims are predators who are looking for prey. If someone sets a trap for us, should we step right in it? When men harass a woman in the street, they are looking for a reaction. If you give it to them, they win. They are seeking a provocation. In some cases, they are looking for an excuse to attack and assault a woman. In such cases, it is best for a woman to ignore them and find shelter and safety.
When newspapers and magazines publish caricatures that insult the Prophet Muhammad, hundreds of thousands of angry Muslims march, calling for mayhem and murder. That is precisely the reaction that the enemy wants. They want to portray Muslims as fanatical, murderous, lunatics, savages, and barbarians. “Islam is Peace,” they cry, “And we will kill anyone who says otherwise.” There are wiser ways to address such matters.
If an Islamophobe organizes a Qur’an burning, some would argue, we could organize a Bible burning. That would be an eye for an eye. We would be honoring the Torah. If they mock our leaders, we can mock their leaders. If they offend our sentiments, we can offend their sentiments. However, as Gandhi warned, “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” So, perhaps a “turn-the-other-cheek approach,” would make Muslims more Christ-like in the eyes of Christians. Or perhaps, a Qur’anic approach is in order: “Repel evil with what is better” (41:34).
If someone organizes a Qur’an burning, we could hold an event honoring the Bible. We can read passages such as the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31 and Matthew 7:12). Rather than burn the Bible, we could perfume it with rose water. The Islamophobes engage in publicity stunts. We can engage in others of our own. And rather than threaten to kill those who criticize Islam, it requires greater courage to reach out to them, listen to them, address their concerns, educate them, and even befriend them.
We need political maturity. We need sound strategy
Many Islamophobes have been turned into Islamophiles, and even into Muslims, by building bridges of friendship. Many extremists have been turned into moderates. Many people of hate have been totally transformed through selfless acts of love on the part of Muslims. There is a time “to forgive when angered” (42:37). And there is a time “to restrain anger and pardon” (3:134). We need political maturity. We need sound strategy. We need to keep our eyes on the prize, focus on the future, and avoid the “infantile distractions” of the enemy. We will see who gets the last laugh. It is the King of the Castle. Why waste our time on a dirty rascal?
Interview by Mohammad Hassan Goodarzi
The views and opinions expressed in this interview are solely those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the view of International Quran News Agency.