The Quran teaches Muslims to respect the sacred books of Christians and Jews as well, says Chris van Gorder, a religion professor at Baylor University in Texas.
“To burn a holy Quran for a Muslim is to throw down a gauntlet,” he says. “Those who deface any holy book, including the Bible, in many Muslim countries today, will be executed.
“How many Bibles have been burned in the Muslim world in the last nine years? None.”
“A barbaric act” is how Fr Manuel Musallam, parish priest in Gaza, described the ransacking and looting of the Convent of the Sisters of the Rosary. Furniture, chairs, doors were destroyed; the chapel was violated and the holy images and sacred books were burnt.
The only Catholic priest in the Gaza Strip, the 69-year-old Father Manuel is in charge of the Holy Family Church in Gaza. Speaking to AsiaNews, the voice of a muezzin could be heard in the background calling the faithful to midday prayer. “The people who did this barbaric act are trying to get us Christians involved in the struggle between Hamas and Fatah, but we are not scared of them.”
The convent was looted last Thursday as the two major Palestinian factions were going at each other. The building itself is were close to a major security headquarters in Gaza City, now occupied by Hamas.
“A group of unknown people attacked, burnt and looted the nuns’ building. They destroyed everything inside and stole the computers,” Father Manuel said. “They then invade the chapel, broke the furniture, burnt the sacred images and holy books. They threw the Sacred Species to the ground and destroyed everything on their path: beds, chairs, tables, curtains, shooting at the walls and setting them on fire. We don’t know who the thugs were because they came at night when the sisters were not present.”
Father Manuel is reluctant to talk about persecution. Instead, he said that “our relations with the Muslims are not only good, they are excellent. I don’t think what happened came from a direct order from Hamas or Fatah. In the past when the Church had difficulties, they came to our defence—for example, when there were demonstrations against the Muhammad cartoons or after the Pope’s speech in Regensburg.”