The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has condemned a planned public burning of the Quran by a Florida church on the 9th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks. IHEU is the world union of more than 100 Humanist, rationalist, secular, ethical culture, atheist and freethought organizations in more than 40 countries.
IHEU president Sonja Eggerickx said, “Burning books symbolizes ignorance and hatred. When the Nazis burned the books of great Jewish writers and anti-Nazis it was not only an act of cultural terrorism but also a symbol of their own stupidity. If the Church has arguments against the teachings of the Quran they should give voice to them, but to resort to burning suggests they want to silence Muslims with force rather than persuade them with reason.”
Matt Cherry, who leads the IHEU delegation to the United Nations in New York, added, “As an atheist working with Muslims, Christians and other religions to defend freedom of conscience I have learned that the real clash of civilizations is not between Islam and the West, or the religious and the non-religious, it is the clash between the intolerant and the tolerant, between those who burn books they disagree with and those who read them. And when it comes to that great divide, the Dove World Outreach Center is placing itself on the same side as the Muslim extremists.”
The Quran burning is planned by the Dove World Outreach Center, a Florida-based Christian group that calls itself a “New Testament Church”. The church plans to burn copies of the Quran on 11 September in a public protest against Islam, which it says “is of the devil.” The church also calls the Quran as “a lie.” The protest has spawned an “International Burn a Koran Day” page on the social networking site Facebook.
“IHEU works to defend freedom of belief and expression, so we defend these Christians’ right to criticize Islam and even their legal right to burn books,” says Eggerickx, “But while they can choose to burn books, we choose to speak out against their hatred, their ignorance and their complete lack of tolerance for different beliefs. Combined with the often bigoted opposition to building new mosques in the US, this protest suggests many Americans are retreating from their traditional religious tolerance.”
Based in London, IHEU is an international NGO with Special Consultative Status with the UN (New York, Geneva, Vienna), General Consultative Status at UNICEF (New York) and the Council of Europe (Strasbourg), and maintains operational relations with UNESCO (Paris). IHEU has observer status at the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.