USA Today, June 2, 2005 (Circulation – 2.2 million)
G. Jeffrey MacDonald, Special for USA TODAY
The campaign comes intentionally on the heels of deadly riots that followed a faulty report last month of interrogators flushing a Koran down a toilet at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The campaign has stirred debate among Muslims, says organizer and CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper, because some say it invites further desecration or misinterpretation. To request a Koran, call 1-800-78-ISLAM or visit www.explorethequran.org.
Yet for organizers, potential benefits outweigh the risks.
“We’re trying to get Korans into the hands of the American public because we believe that’s the best way to educate people about what Islam really stands for,” Hooper says. “Prejudice against Islam goes up when you have lack of information.”
Handing out sacred texts is hardly new; Christians have for centuries encouraged readers to find Jesus in the Bible’s pages. Donors to the Koran project likewise do so with CAIR’sencouragement to “give the gift of faith to your neighbor.”
In this campaign, however, the primary goal is to help readers learn for themselves rather than always rely on news media reports, says Omar Barzinji of Amana Publications.
Those placing orders have varied reasons. In Hilliard, Ohio, police detective Charles Scalf ordered a Koran to learn about the beliefs of his city’s growing Muslim population. “You hear so many different things about what the Koran says, I thought, ‘Why don’t I read it myself ?’ “
Jerome Wolfson, a non-practicing Jew in Miami, ordered a copy in part to learn about Muslim views of Jesus, whom the Koran describes as a prophet.
Major Christian denominations have thus far welcomed the campaign, although not all local churches have.
“The best way to pursue peace is to get to know your neighbor a whole lot better than we do now,” says the Rev. Thomas Martin, a retired Presbyterian (U.S.A.) minister in Powell, Ohio, who ordered a Koran. “If I’m going to know my neighbors, I need to know something about their faith.”