May 18, 2005


To Muslims, not just a book (Jane Lampman, 5/19/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

For one-fifth of the world's population, those scriptures are the literal word of God, revealed to the prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel (Koran means "recitation").

"It is as close as you can get to the transcendent.... To use one analogy, the Koran is to Islam what Jesus is to Christianity," explains John Esposito, university professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., in an interview.

That begins to explain the intensity of street protests last week in several Muslim countries after reports (later retracted) that US military interrogators had desecrated the Koran. It was a reaction that, to American sensibilities, may seem puzzling.

But Dr. Esposito says that is due partly to Western secularization and a lost sensitivity to degrees of sacredness.

"While we've become a more religious nation in one sense, we have also become, in our sense of the sacred, less sensitive and aware," says the author of "What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam."

The sacredness of the Koran to Muslims is expressed even in their relationship to its physical presence, Esposito says. "Pious Muslims will always put the Koran on top of everything else, in a special place; you don't put it under books or on the floor."

It's a relationship many in the US may find surprising. "We don't understand why someone would go through the roof about desecrating a sacred book, but we do understand why they would do so about desecrating or burning a flag," says Esposito.

One envies their piety.

By the way, CAIR is giving away copies of the Quran, a terrific idea.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 18, 2005 7:29 PM

Yes, we all remember the widespread riots with the massive death and destruction whenever Muslims burned the American flag.

Oh, wait......

Posted by: ray at May 18, 2005 8:21 PM

It's secular leftists, like the Bushhaters who write for Newsweek, who've "lost their sensitivity to degrees of sacredness." Not the entirety of American society, and certainly not those who've "become more religious."

And the secular left certainly hasn't lost its "sensitivity" to the teaching in our schools of anything other than its rigid theocratic atheism.

Posted by: Steve at May 18, 2005 8:37 PM


Hardly an argument in our favor.

Posted by: oj at May 18, 2005 9:05 PM

One envies their piety.

Not this one. I don't think piety is shown by rioting.

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 18, 2005 9:08 PM

Ah, April 25, 1976 -- in the hearts of all true Dodger fans, it ranks up there with Kent State Day and Hard Hats of Wall Street Day, brightish spots in an otherwise dismal decade.

Posted by: Random Lawyer at May 18, 2005 9:15 PM


I've always suspected that the O'Malleys acquired him from Chicago the next season solely because of his action that April 25 day.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at May 18, 2005 10:11 PM

I was only 5 when it happened, but a huge Dodger fan. The incident was legend in my household as wsa when the hardhats beat up the hippies. My Dad loved those stories. I think those 2 events got him through the 70s with morale intact.

Posted by: JAB at May 18, 2005 11:39 PM

Is this copy of the Koran that CAIR is giving away in English? Because I had thought it was a sin against Allah to have the Koran printed in any language except Arabic. Of course sometimes it seems like *everything* is a sin against Allah. Man, he's more nitpicky than the Catholic God!

Posted by: Governor Breck at May 19, 2005 7:11 AM

I'm stealing this line from Jonah Goldberg:

"anybody know where I can get one of those toilets? I hate low flow toilets."

Posted by: Joe at May 19, 2005 8:22 AM

Part of the attraction of Islam is apparently how beautiful the Quran is in Arabic, like the King James Bible.

Posted by: oj at May 19, 2005 8:35 AM

The problem is that many English translations of the Koran are written by Islamic sympathizers who tend to whitewash the more nasty verses (like Sura 9:5).

Posted by: Gideon at May 19, 2005 9:03 AM

Is there a video of Monday's rescue effort floating around the web?

Posted by: pchuck at May 19, 2005 9:56 AM

I'm not going to learn Arabic just so I can read the Koran in the original langauge and stroke my racial sensitivities. At least the King James is available in English - not the Bible's original language either.

Posted by: Governor Breck at May 19, 2005 10:14 AM


Yes, President Bush should emulate the example and commission a Quran that will be as beautiful in English.

Posted by: oj at May 19, 2005 10:27 AM

That *that* would blow a lot of people's minds. My own included. Would it be called the "President Bush Quran?"

Posted by: Governor Breck at May 19, 2005 10:33 AM

It would be in popular parlance--I don't think King James actuially named the Bible for himself.

We even have a poet as head of the NEA who could oversee the project effectively:

Posted by: oj at May 19, 2005 10:47 AM

Well... That's a big problem for Islam now isn't it. Since the majority of Muslims can't actually read the Koran they have to rely upon what their nutball clerics tell them it means. When Pakistani Muslims learn to read their holy book rather than treating it like a magical charm then I'll have more respect for their religious views.

Some other non-arabic cultures, such as Indonesia, do have translated Korans aplenty and a much gentler version of the religion is practiced there. Coincidence?

Posted by: Shelton at May 19, 2005 12:00 PM

A beautiful translation of a book that is, according to Arabist critics, one-third unintellible gibberish might give readers furiously to think, I think.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at May 19, 2005 3:08 PM


Are you given pause when Darwinist critics note that your holy books are largely gibberish?

Posted by: oj at May 19, 2005 4:11 PM

Does anyone else have the feeling that OJ would really enjoy being a senior cleric in some dusty town (with a very tall minaret), instead of an obscure social commentator in NH?

And yes, some of you, there is a difference.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 19, 2005 7:51 PM


They aren't Christians. Rather a fire and brimstone preacher in 1600s NH.

Posted by: oj at May 19, 2005 8:17 PM

Well, if we can't out-theologize them, there's always mockery.

Posted by: ratbert at May 20, 2005 12:11 AM

The claim that the Koran is a beautiful masterpiece is one often made by Muslims. Many non-Muslim academics also repeat the claim, but not knowing Arabic, I can't say. I do know that there are other people, some former Muslims, that say this is hogwash.

There are parts of the Koran that are practically unintelligible. It is organized very incoherently - according to the length of the sura - longer suras in front, shorter suras at back - as opposed to a format based on subject matter, theme, or chronology.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at May 20, 2005 5:22 PM