Last month Christie’s Auction House quietly sold a series of rare manuscripts with little fanfare, but there should have been a roar of protest and rage heard to the moon and back.
The object at issue was listed as “A Qur’an leaf palimpsest on vellum probably Madina, mid-7th century.” It fetched a goodly amount on April 26, with a few news and art columns mentioning only its rarity and pricing. Missing in the subdued buzz was any criticism of the object itself, or the significance of selling something so steeped in plagiarism and religious genocide.
A “palimpsest” is a document that has replaced an original one – an early form of recycling, when paper was unknown in the West and animal skin manuscripts were laboriously done by hand. Re-use of vellum was common, but the public sale of this Quran remnant is significant for several other reasons.
When Mohammod and his warriors overran Arabia in his lifetime (570-632), it was fairly teeming with tolerance. Christians, Jews, polytheists, and Zoroastrians lived peacefully and were equally butchered with the arrival of Mohammed and his swell new ideas. Not only the people, but their lives, churches, cultures and holy books were kaput as well. This literal “erasure” would have been as irrelevant as Cleopatra’s yacht-crew by now, except that is it still happening – more than ever.
While Christie’s makes a profit from early editions of the Quran, hundreds of Christians are stoned, burnt, raped and imprisoned on trumped of charges of “desecration of the Quran.” Not one of the accused thought to erase the entire damned thing (meant in a literal theological sense) and write a Bible instead – which would be an excellent idea. These acts of colonialistic contempt endure wherever Islam rules. This is breaking and current news.
Why aren’t they being called out on it? And why don’t Christians even recognize the pimp slap of Islamic imperialism when it strikes us? Are we so conditioned that we don’t even wince now? Christie’s advertises this as “a Holy Quran copied onto a Christian text,” although it originated in acts of extreme violence and bigotry.
There is also the matter of “cultural appropriation” and plagiarism, still great and wicked sins according to academic canon. The Quran liberally throws in chunks of the Bible (out of context and with no indication of their source.) Years ago, as I attempted to slog through the thing, I recall how Abraham was suddenly tossed into the text. There was no clear explanation of his background, or his purpose and relation to God, much less the nation of Israel. Abraham just appears “Stage Right” in the Quran and meanders off Stage Left. As a work of religious plagiarism, the Quran is atrocious. Compound that with a desecrated Bible reborn as a Quran and voilà, you have Christie’s latest palimpsest.
Then there is the alleged date. If truly from the “mid-7th century,” this is shortly after or even during Mohammad’s lifetime, which makes it a working version. The Quran was changed several times over the centuries. Educated Muslims know this because they learn from earlier (abrogated) and later versions. But received theory is that the Quran is the pure Word of God, eternally unchanged and so forth.
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This defiled Bible is nothing more than a form of gloating, similar to the idea of mass murderers keeping their victims’ undies in their bedroom. Beyond that, they had plenty of their own sheep to make into parchment. Christie’s notes that the folios are from “an earlier Coptic manuscript containing passages from the Book of Deuteronomy, which is part of the Torah and the Christian Old Testament.” Not only Christians, but Islam’s most hated people (Jews) are symbolically wiped out together in this act of desecration.
This sale passed without comment, while the UN has scrambled to stop/beg/pay ISIS from their newest bout of Islamic cultural obliteration in Syria and Iraq. Islamic extremists openly admit it is their goal, but their appropriations this time were Humvees, weapons and technology.
Dr. Gerd R. Puin, a renowned German Islamicist, claimed that the Quran is a collection of texts including local religious tales from before Mohammed’s birth. This ticked people off, and Yemen took back all the old Qurans they had loaned Puin, before he could do more damage. The Guardian noted another fascinating find by Puin when he examined one of the oldest versions of the Quran yet found: “Then he noticed that the sheets were palimpsests – manuscripts with versions written even earlier that had been washed off or erased.”
While no Christians noticed, one blogger made an Islamic version of an apology about the glaring cultural appropriations, while ignoring the genocide that accompanies blotted Bibles. Ijaz Ahmad claimed that few Qurans have been written over Bibles because “Muslims aren’t allowed to desecrate the Scriptures of the Jews and Christians.” He doesn’t address the Bibles and churches burnt along with their owners by militant Muslims, even recently.
But it gets worse. Ahmad notes that because scholars may still see bits of original text beneath the latest of Mohammed’s revelations, both have been thoughtfully preserved. He claims that what Muslims consider “desecration” is merely proof of “respect” when applied to other faiths: “Our own scribal and scriptural traditions preserve not one religious scripture but two!” he triumphantly ends, as if to convince himself. Likely some of the staff at Christie’s believe it as well.
We should demand our ancient Bibles all returned to us, including this one. Take it to the World Court and the UN. This will be big news, particularly if the marks of plundering and defilement are then erased.