Apologizing for Qur’an Burning Fans Flames

Apologizing for accidentally burning Qur’ans in Afghanistan was a huge mistake. It’s like a doctor apologizing for accidentally sewing his scissors into a patient after removing an appendix.

In law, and in Islam, forgiveness follows restitution. Apologizing admits responsibility. That admission makes settlement more expensive. Not only are people going to “pay” for this accident, but also people will “pay” more because of the apology.

Naveed Qamar, the head of Jamaat-ud-Dawah in Karachi, Pakistan said, “We don’t accept Obama’s apology. The Muslims don’t accept his apology, as it is nothing but a farce.” Without restitution, it is a farce; and the more sincere the apology, the greater the price of restitution.

In America’s Judeo-Christian system, refusing a sincere apology is poor form, and so is meeting injustice with random violence. However, in Sharia systems, justice flows from balance. When salvation depends upon good deeds outweighing bad deeds (as in Islam), then justice depends on bad deeds and good deeds balancing between people too. People in Sharia systems restore balance by making and taking restitution, not by making and taking penance. In this case, random violence balances the offense and helps restore justice.

The Muslim and Judeo-Christian “dwellings” have different “house rules” for reconciliation. Americans cannot import Judeo-Christian “house rules” into Muslim “dwellings.”

Patterns for reconciliation among Muslims do not involve taking responsibility and then apologizing. Rather those patterns involve blaming either circumstances or God (“It was God’s will”) and then asking for forgiveness.

In this particular situation, I understand that the Qur’ans were put in the trash because detainees had “desecrated” them by writing messages to each other in them. I would advise the President and his generals to say, “This is not our fault. Some detainees were desecrating Qur’ans by writing messages in them, and it is God’s will that they have now been exposed in this way. Please forgive us.”

Related Commentary:
Cultural Differences in Apologizing
Functional Differences between Holy Books

Biblical Rationale for Delayed Apology

Offending people is not automatically a sin or a crime, but offenses do undermine relationships that should often be restored.

The Biblical pattern for mending relationships begins with forgiveness, not apology (see: Mt. 6:14-15, 18:35, Lk. 23:34, Ro. 5:8, 1Jo. 4:19). Biblical reconciliation is a two-way street. It takes forgiveness and repentance. Salvation is our model. God initiates with grace, and saving relationship ensues when people repent. Reconciliation between people cannot happen without both forgiveness and repentance.

It is important to note that forgiveness does not equal relationship. Forgiveness simply abandons the right to justice. It does not mean canceling natural consequences, and it does not abandon self-protection. Fighting consequences and becoming vulnerable depend on relationship, not forgiveness. I see no Biblical requirement (though it’s permitted) to apologize for actions that are perfectly moral, and I see no Biblical requirement to apologize for anything without hope of forgiveness.

The patterns for reconciling are different between Muslim and Judeo-Christian cultures. In the Muslim culture, apologizing not only admits guilt, it also submits to punishment. The Muslim priority is justice over reconciliation. But the Biblical priority is reconciliation over justice. In a Muslim context, the Christian world-view will seek forgiveness before apologizing, and then apologize in the context of relationship.

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