Saturday, September 18, 2010


Attorney general: Quran-burning plan 'idiotic, dangerous'
Florida pastor says protest is on; Petraeus warns it could endanger troops

MIAMI — The government turned up the pressure Tuesday on the head of a small Florida church who plans to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11, with Attorney General Eric Holder calling the idea "idiotic and dangerous."

Religious leaders who met with Holder for nearly an hour Tuesday to discuss recent attacks on Muslims and mosques around the United States said those were his words on the plan by the Rev. Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fla.

The meeting was closed to reporters, but a Justice Department official who was present confirmed that Holder said that the plan to burn copies of the Quran was idiotic.

Holder also told the group no one should have to live and pray in fear and that he planned to address the issue publicly soon, the meeting participants said. He also reiterated a commitment to aggressively prosecute hate crimes, they said.
The Justice official, who requested anonymity because the meeting was private, also said Holder was quoting Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, when he used the word dangerous.

Petraeus warned Tuesday in an e-mail to The Associated Press that "images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence." It was a rare example of a military commander taking a position on a domestic political matter.

But Jones insisted he would go ahead with his plans, despite the criticism Petraeus, the White House and the State Department, as well as a host of religious leaders.Jones, known for posting signs proclaiming that Islam is the devil's religion, says the Constitution gives him the right to publicly set fire to the book that Muslims consider the word of God.

Jones said he is also concerned but is "wondering, 'When do we stop?'" He refused to cancel the protest set for Saturday at his Dove World Outreach Center, which espouses an anti-Islam philosophy.

"How much do we back down? How many times do we back down?" Jones told the AP. "Instead of us backing down, maybe it's to time to stand up. Maybe it's time to send a message to radical Islam that we will not tolerate their behavior."

Still, Jones said he will pray about his decision. Jones stood fast as Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders denounced "misinformation and outright bigotry" against U.S. Muslims resulting from plans to build a Muslim community center and mosque not far from the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks in New York by the Islamist militant group al Qaeda that killed 2,752 people.

Tensions rise
Tensions have risen with the approach of both the Sept. 11 anniversary and the Muslim eid al-Fitr festival that marks the close of the fasting month of Ramadan, which is expected to end around Friday.
Story: N.Y. imam: Mosque project won't be stopped

Religious leaders, including Washington Roman Catholic Archbishop emeritus Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Dr. Michael Kinnamon of the National Council of Churches, released a statement saying they were "alarmed by the anti-Muslim frenzy" and "appalled by such disrespect for a sacred text."

"To attack any religion in the United States is to do violence to the religious freedom of all Americans," said the religious leaders, including Rabbi David Saperstein, head of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Rabbi Julie Schonfeld of the Association of Conservative Rabbis.
Video: Gen. Petraeus: Koran burning would endanger troops (on this page)

Holder told the group no one should have to live and pray in fear and that he planned to address the issue publicly soon, the meeting participants said. He also reiterated a commitment to aggressively prosecute hate crimes, they said.

The White House and State Department weighed in with statements making clear President Barack Obama's administration deplored the planned event.

"We think that these are provocative acts, they are disrespectful, they are intolerant, they are divisive," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in Washington.

"We would like to see more Americans stand up and say this is inconsistent with our American values. In fact, these actions themselves are un-American," he added.Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton added her disapproval at a dinner Tuesday evening in observance of Iftar, the breaking of the daily fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

"I am heartened by the clear, unequivocal condemnation of this disrespectful, disgraceful act that has come from American religious leaders of all faiths," Clinton said.

At the White House, spokesman Robert Gibbs echoed the concerns raised by Petraeus. "Any type of activity like that that puts our troops in harm's way would be a concern to this administration," Gibbs told reporters.

Dr. Ingrid Mattson, the Islamic Society of North America president, who helped organize Tuesday's statement by religious leaders, said ordinary U.S. Muslims were feeling increasingly worried and harassed as they went about their daily lives.

"I have heard many Muslim-Americans say that they have never felt this anxious or this insecure in America since directly after September 11," she said.

She urged Muslims abroad to "take a step back" and not use the "loud voices of some Christian extremists" in the United States as a justification for action against American Jews and Christians.

Quran-burning activities continue
A Facebook group has been set up called "International Burn A Koran Day" and is linked to from the church's website. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had 9,710 members.

A member of the church, Fran Ingram, told that they had a "stack of about 150" Qurans, which she said had been sent from across the world. "We are expecting to burn about 200 at least," she said.

"I think we should go ahead personally," Ingram added. "That's what I think. I stand with the pastors. We need to go ahead with it."

However, asked about how she would feel if the church decided to abandon the event, she told "I would be in agreement ... not like a puppet on a string ... I believe in the word of God. We are hearing what God wants us to do."

She said "a few of the pastors" would burn the Qurans on a field outside the church, while she and other members of the congregation remained inside. "They are going to take the risk," Ingram said.

Jones, who runs the small, evangelical Christian church with an anti-Islam philosophy, says he has received more than 100 death threats and has started wearing a .40-caliber pistol strapped to his hip.

In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the minister's plan to burn the Muslim holy book on Sept. 11 is "distasteful" but added the minister has a right to do it. "We can't say that we're going to apply the First Amendment to only those cases where we are in agreement," he said.

The Vatican newspaper on Tuesday published an article in which Catholic bishops, including Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha of Lahore, Pakistan, criticized Jones' plan.

"No one burns the Quran," read the headline in Tuesday's L'Osservatore Romano.

Muslims consider the Quran to be the word of God and insist it be treated with the utmost respect, along with any printed material containing its verses or the name of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad. Any intentional damage or show of disrespect to the Quran is deeply offensive.

In Gainesville, a progressive north Florida town of 125,000 anchored by the sprawling University of Florida campus, the lanky preacher with the bushy white mustache is mostly seen as a fringe character who doesn't deserve the attention he's getting.
Image: Terry Jones
John Raoux / AP file
Rev. Terry Jones poses for a photo Aug. 30 at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla.

Still, at least two dozen Christian churches, Jewish temples and Muslim organizations in Gainesville have mobilized to plan inclusive events — some will read from the Quran at their own weekend services — to counter what Jones is doing. A student group is organizing a protest across the street from the church Saturday.

The fire department has denied Jones a required burn permit for Sept. 11, but he has vowed to go ahead with his event. He said lawyers have told him his right to burn the Quran is protected by the First Amendment whether he's got permission from the city or not.

The Dove World Outreach Church describes itself as "New Testament, Charismatic, Non-Denominational."

The church's website says it seeks to "expose Islam" as a "violent and oppressive religion." It displays a sign reading "Islam is of the Devil."

Rev. Terry Jones poses for a photo Aug. 30 at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla.

Read more:

No comments:

Post a Comment