ALSO BY

By Rama Ramanathan

Holy books of all religions muat be respected

Some years ago I read Max Rodenbeck's ‘Cairo: The City Victorious'. It gave me good insights about how people cope politically, socially and economically in a crowded city.

I think it was also Cairo which gave me a precious insight about the reverence with which Muslims treat their Holy Book.

It seems Egyptian Muslims do not print calendars with Quranic verses since the pages - and thus the revered verses - will end up in the garbage. (Did you know that Jews bury their worn out scriptures?)

In Malaysia, many stick Quranic verses onto the windscreens and dashboards of their cars. The verses are in Arabic, Malay or English.

I do not know what they do with these verses when they are worn out. I do not think such use of the Quranic verses in any way diminishes the esteem in which the verses are held. Rather, I think such uses honour the verses.

There are many ways in which we honour scriptures.

I exercised great care when handling my father's copy of the Quran (actually Marmaduke Pickethall's translation). We showed our respect for our neighbours by the respect we showed the book they revered: even to the extent of where we kept our copy of the book.

We had one book case. It was built to accommodate the Encyclopaedia Americana (1964), which was on the first shelf. The second shelf was for reference books - mainly dictionaries.

Also on the second shelf were all the scriptures we owned: including the Bible and the Quran. And copies of various Hindu works. These were given pride of place and handled with great care.

Before we had study desks we sat on the floor to read. I never placed either the Bible or the Quran on the floor - I knew that doing so would displease my father. (I do not remember any of my siblings showing an interest in religious books.)

I am therefore dismayed when I hear of people who want to burn the scriptures. In my view, people like Terry Jones who incite people to burn Qurans are uncouth, bad neighbours and as much a disgrace to Christians as Osama bin Laden is to Muslims.

I was troubled when (the elected) Malaysian Member of Parliament, Ibrahim Ali called upon Malaysians to burn what Christians hold in high esteem. According to a report in FMT:

"Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali has called on Muslims to seize and burn copies of Bibles which contain the term "Allah" or other Arabic religious words.

"Stressing that he was not instigating communal tension, the Pasir Mas MP insisted that it was the only way to stop non-Muslims from stirring the sensitivities and sentiments of the majority of population in the country."

I was encouraged by this verse from the lectionary readings for today:

"Do not drag me off with the wicked, with the workers of evil, who speak peace with their neighbours while evil is in their hearts." (Psalm 28:2) and

I chose to pray: "LORD, hold me to account and punish me whenever I am not a good neighbour. LORD, keep this verse ever before me: 'So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.'" (Matthew 7:12)