Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:09 am (KSA) 21:09 pm (GMT)

Worldwide outrage at planned Quran burning

Indonesians hold placards in their call to stop planned burning of Quran copies in Florida
Indonesians hold placards in their call to stop planned burning of Quran copies in Florida

Muslim reaction worldwide to a U.S. pastor's plan to stage a Quran-burning ceremony marking Saturday's anniversary of the 2001 attacks on the United States ranged from fury to warnings of a rise in extremist attacks.

The U.S. State Department on Thursday warned Americans traveling overseas to be alert for anti-U.S. demonstrations in response to plans by a small Florida church to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

"Demonstrations, some violent, have already taken place in several countries, including Afghanistan and Indonesia, in response to media reports of the church's plans," the State Department said in a note.

"The potential for further protests and demonstrations, some of which may turn violent, remains high," the note said, urging Americans to avoid areas where protests might occur.

Muslim fury

Terry Jones poses for a photo at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said U.S. embassies around the world have convened emergency meetings to assess the potential threat, while U.S. embassies in Jordan, Algeria, Syria and Indonesia had issued special messages to resident U.S. citizens to be particularly aware.

The Jeddah-based Organization of the Islamic Conference, which represents the entire Muslim world, said in a statement that the act would constitute "an outrageous path of hatred."

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the 58-member OIC, voiced "grave concern" over the plan by Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center church in Gainesville, Florida, to burn copies of the Islamic holy book.

Ihsanoglu expressed dismay that "the pastor who preaches religion, should choose to adopt an outrageous path of hatred by burning a holy book of one of the greatest religions of the world."

"The culture of peaceful coexistence and inter-communal and inter-religious tolerance that the international community is trying to achieve is under threat from marginal and extremist fanatics," he said.

Ihsanoglu said he was encouraged by the condemnations of the planned burning by President Barack Obama and other top U.S. officials.

"Recruitment bonanza"

Obama on Thursday warned the burning ceremony would be a "recruitment bonanza" for al-Qaeda, which claimed responsibility for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, and Jones said he would likely call off the event if asked by the U.S. administration.

Shiite Iran, which sees itself as the champion of Islam, accused arch-foe Israel of masterminding the book burning event.

The plan was "orchestrated by the Zionist regime after being defeated in its efforts against Muslims and the Islamic world," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said.

"This action will provoke the reaction of all Muslims as well as that of the faithful of other religions," the official IRNA news agency quoted him as telling foreign ambassadors in Tehran.

In neighboring Iraq, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki warned that the Quran-burning "might be taken as a pretext by the extremists to carry out more killings."

"Dangerous consequence"

 If the (U.S.) government does not stop it, then it will become a partner. We are calling on all in the Muslim world to pressure their governments into expelling American ambassadors 
Mohammed Mursi, Egypt\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s Muslim Brotherhood

Egypt's al-Azhar, the main seat of learning for Sunni Islam and which runs an influential university, warned of the "dangerous consequences of this act," in a statement carried by the official Egyptian news agency MENA.

The move would "constitute a disaster for co-existence and peace between humans, and will provoke angry feelings in the Muslim world," it was quoted as saying.

Mohammed Mursi, spokesman for Egypt's influential Muslim Brotherhood, said the organization was calling for pressure on all Muslim governments to expel U.S. ambassadors.

"The American government must realize the danger," Mursi said.

"If the (U.S.) government does not stop it, then it will become a partner. We are calling on all in the Muslim world to pressure their governments into expelling American ambassadors," Mursi added.

Egypt's foreign ministry denounced the planned burning ceremony as "an outrageous act of hatred."

"It shows that extremism is not a brand on one religion. Such acts highlight intolerance, and put us all in a defensive position," ministry spokesman Hussam Zaki told AFP.

"Bizarre plan"

 If the proposed Quran burning by a pastor in the U.S. goes ahead as planned, there is a strong likelihood that violent attacks on innocent people would follow 
Interpol

Kuwait said the Florida pastor's plan was "bizarre," and would undermine inter-religious understanding.

"This bizarre plan... undermines our faith... is a flagrant insult to the feelings of Muslims worldwide and would ruin efforts to preach understanding amongst faiths," said an unidentified foreign ministry official cited by KUNA news agency.

"It is a flagrant aggression on Islam," independent MP Saifi al-Saifi said in a statement.

The head of the Christian churches league in Kuwait, pastor Emmanuel Benjamen al-Ghareeb, said the pastor's plan did not represent Christ's teachings of tolerance.

Jones, who has received death threats, said the aim of Saturday's three-hour event is to send a message to radical Islamists that "it is possibly time for us in a new way to actually stand up and confront terrorism."

The international police agency Interpol, meanwhile, warned governments worldwide of an increased risk of terror attacks if the planned burning of the Quran went ahead.

"If the proposed Quran burning by a pastor in the U.S. goes ahead as planned, there is a strong likelihood that violent attacks on innocent people would follow," Interpol said in a statement, adding that it was acting partly on a request from Pakistan.

Worldwide condemnation

 It will inflame sentiments among Muslims throughout the world and cause irreparable damage to interfaith harmony and also to world peace  
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari

World leaders, meanwhile, lined up to condemn the U.S. church's plan to burn the Quran, warning it would invite an extremist backlash.

Canada's government expressed similar concerns, saying the torching plan "flames intolerance" including towards its own Afghanistan contingent.

Pakistan slammed the planned ceremony as a "despicable" act that could inflame Muslim sentiment across the world.

"It will inflame sentiments among Muslims throughout the world and cause irreparable damage to interfaith harmony and also to world peace," President Asif Ali Zardari said.

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono also warned of the impact between the Muslim world and the West in a letter to his U.S. counterpart Obama.

"Indonesia and the U.S. are building or bridging relations between the Western world and Islam. If the Quran burning occurs, then those efforts will be useless," wrote Yudhoyono, leader of the world's biggest Muslim nation.

India, which has the world's third largest Muslim population, called on the U.S. authorities to take "strong action" and for Indian media to impose a blackout on images of the event.

France's foreign ministry blasted what it called an "incitement to hatred" of Muslims, and "an insult to the memory of the victims of Sept. 11."

British Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman said he "strongly opposed" any attempt to offend members of a religious group while former premier Tony Blair described the planned torching as "disrespectful".

U.S. authorities have said there is little they can do to stop the event from going ahead, as it is protected by the constitution's guarantee of freedom of speech.

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