I've been disheartened by all the news this week about the burning of the Koran by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan -- and by comments made by some national politicians concerning this crisis. What seems to be missing is perspective upon what this practice constitutes.
If many Americans learned forces from Afghanistan or anywhere else had burned piles of Bibles, they'd be offended by this lack of regard for a book so many consider holy -- and rightly so, because such an action would demonstrate a fundamental disregard for the validity and significance of Biblical faith for Christians. The thing about the Bible, however, is that a majority of Christians place far less importance upon the physical book itself than upon its role as a means of illuminating and informing Christian faith. Some Christians believe it to be the literal word of God; most believe it to be the inspired word of God. Christians read the Bible in many different languages and translations. It is a tool -- an essential tool, but a tool -- for understanding God's plan and God's promises.
The Koran, on the other hand, is believed by observant Muslims to be the literal word of God (Allah), transcribed verbatim by Muhammad, God's messenger. It remains in Arabic because that was the language in which Muhammad is said to have transcribed it, and the literal words of God should not be translated in a way that would inevitably alter their meaning on even the slightest level.
Understanding the level of importance given to this book helps us better realize just how offensive it is to contemplate burning the Koran. This is not just a holy book; this is the literal word of God for Muslims. And over ten years into America's involvement in Afghanistan, somehow some people remained so tone-deaf to Islamic culture as to believe burning this word of God was an acceptable idea.
If we cannot gain a better understanding of the cultures which which we interact around the world, we are doomed to an endless cycle of violence and reprisal.