Mass. Bible Society to hand out free Qurans

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(RNS) In what’s being described as a “counter action” to “an act of hatred against Muslims,” the Massachusetts Bible Society said it would give away two Qurans for every one burned at a church in Florida.

But late Thursday (Sept. 9), the Rev. Terry Jones, pastor of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., indicated he might cancel plans to burn 200 copies of the Muslim holy book on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The “They Burn One, We Give Two” drive marks the first time in the Society’s 201-year history that funds have been raised to distribute a non-Christian sacred text, according to Executive Director Anne Robertson.

“As people of the Book, we are joined to Islam and Judaism in a special way,” the group said in an appeal released Thursday (Sept. 9). “As an organization that has sought to put that Book into people’s hands for 201 years, we cannot stand idly by while the sacred text of a sister religion is burned as our beloved Bibles once were.”

The MBS says it can distribute two Qurans for every $25 it raises. Even if this weekend’s scheduled burning is canceled, the MBS will still give away as many Qurans as donors have sponsored, Robertson said. She added that if the Quran giveaway is successful, then the MBS would likely consider making it a permanent, ongoing program.

Robertson said the MBS has in the past given away a small number of Qurans to organizations, such as prisons that received grants for Bibles and asked that a few non-Christian sacred texts be included.

She said neither she nor her staff consulted the MBS board of trustees on the Quran giveaway idea because they needed to act quickly before Saturday’s Quran-burning event.

“We talked about how there may be fallout from this, some people may not like it, and we may lose some support,” Robertson said. “But the support so far has been fabulous.”

The program will distribute Qurans to hospitals, shelters, prisons and “any place where there are Muslims without access to their sacred text,” the group said.

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