Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Top Shelf Scriptures

Librarians in Leicester, England, have been caught between different religions' contrary views of how their scriptures should be treated, reports the Telegraph:

The situation was brought to light in guidance published by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, a quango answering to Culture Secretary Andy Burnham, on how to handle controversial materials.

It said some Muslims in Leicester had moved copies of the Koran to the top shelves of libraries, because they believe it is an insult to display it in a low position.

The city's librarians consulted the Federation of Muslim Organisations and were advised that all religious texts should be kept on the top shelf to ensure equality.

... Some critics have expressed concern that the books will now just be treated as objects to revere rather than books to read.

... Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute said: "It is disappointing if the policy of libraries is dictated by the practices of one group.

"It is particularly disappointing if this is done to put the scriptures beyond reach."

The incident shows the tendency, in religiously pluralistic societies, for the customs regarding treatment of one scripture to be applied to others. Though this story highlights Christian opposition to such tendencies, other stories we've mentioned in the past show Christians themselves making the equation (e.g. in the German TV burning Bible furor of 2007). Though the arguments by contending parties usually cite tradition as if it were invariable, customary practices with iconic books seem to be evolving rapidly. I suspect they always have ...

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