The recent Qur'an burning by Pastor Terry Jones, the author of Islam is of the Devil, is the continuation of a Western medieval custom of assaulting the dignity of Islam, particularly personal integrity of the Prophet Muhammad, and the divinity of the Qur'an, a holy book that more than a billion people, including American Muslims, hold dear to their hearts. In recent years, the West has invoked the freedom of speech to defend new assaults on Islam, including the Danish publication of cartoons of the Prophet. Unfortunately, the post-9/11 United States, where attacks on the Qur'an are a relatively new phenomenon, is in the process of adopting the medieval custom.
Over the centuries, Western Europe has used various theological, literary, and popular justifications to sustain its medieval custom. In nurturing this custom, however, the West stands alone. Africans, Asians, and Eastern Europeans, rarely participate in desecrations of the Qur'an. The Chinese and Hindus, while celebrating their own religious and metaphysical traditions, have generally refrained from disrespecting the Qur'an. The Western contempt for the Qur'an, however, refuses to abate even though the West itself has undergone a radical transformation from medieval religiosity to modern secularism.