Religion

A man stole 2 Qurans from airport chapel – and left this note behind

From left, the Quran, the Christian Bible, and the Torah on the altar in the chapel at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in 2013.
From left, the Quran, the Christian Bible, and the Torah on the altar in the chapel at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in 2013. tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

Somebody removed the two hardback copies of the Quran from the interfaith chapel at Charlotte Douglas International Airport and left behind a note disparaging the Islamic holy book.

The Rev. Alice White, who discovered the theft and the note Tuesday, said Wednesday it wasn’t the first time the chapel’s inclusion of the Muslim book had caused an incident.

“Six months ago, somebody got so outraged that they put a hole in the wall,” she said. The cause of their outrage: “Because the Quran was up on the pulpit.”

White, a Christian Pentecostal minister who co-directs the chapel’s 18 volunteer chaplains, said she arrived at the chapel Tuesday about 1:30 p.m. and saw a white man in his 30s in the chapel. She said he noticed her name tag and said “Hello, Alice White.”

She checked the chapel, which always has a Christian Bible, the Torah (the Jewish Bible) and the Quran on the pulpit. They were all there, she said.

But not long after she went into an adjacent office to do some work, she noticed that the man had left and that there was an envelope under the office door.

Inside, she said, she found a torn page from the chapel guest book and a letter.

It read: “Sorry to inform you, Alice White, but just because your tag says chaplain doesn’t make you one in the eyes of God. Or correct in your theology. Especially if you don’t take the Bible for its literal word – no lesbians, no Quran. If anything, you are a heretic. Love, Psalms 100. P.S. Deep down, you know this.”

White then noticed that both of the chapel’s copies of the Quran, one on the pulpit and one in a bookcase, were gone.

She reported the incident to George Szalony, a Catholic deacon and the chapel’s other co-director.

Szalony told the Observer that Tuesday’s incident was not the first theft at the chapel, which is always open and staffed at least part of every day by the chaplains, who represent six different faiths.

Three weeks ago, he said, somebody stole three 10-inch plaques from the wall. All had inspirational quotes.

None of the chaplains currently volunteering are Muslim, Szalony said, but the chapel tries to make Muslims feel welcome by having prayer mats and a way for them to know they are praying in the direction of Mecca.

Barbara Gaddy, a Catholic member of the chapel’s board, said she often finds Muslims – who pray five times a day – in the chapel.

“We have a number of Muslims that use the chapel for their daily prayers,” including employees of the airport and various airlines, she said. “It’s sad that someone has to leave that (note) behind. … We are so welcoming of so many religions.”

Szalony said the chapel has been reluctant to install a security camera inside the place where people pray.

But with escalating incidents, he said, “we may have to revisit that opinion.”

No one has been arrested in the Tuesday theft, Szalony said.

Jibril Hough of the Islamic Center of Charlotte announced Wednesday that two Qurans – one in English, one in Arabic – would be donated to the chapel this weekend.

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