Clinton slams 'disgraceful' Koran-burning, but pastor defiant

The leader of the little known church found himself in the eye of a rapidly swirling storm today with several Muslim and world leaders deploring his plans as fanning flames of intolerance, as well as Muslim hatred of the United States.

Clinton was the most senior US official to speak out against the burning scheduled for the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, saying she was "heartened by the clear, unequivocal condemnation of this disrespectful, disgraceful act that has come from American religious leaders of all faiths."

The White House added its voice to warnings that the move could trigger outrage around the Islamic world and endanger the lives of US soldiers. "It puts our troops in harm's way. And obviously any type of activity like that puts our troops in harm's way would be a concern to this administration," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said yesterday.

He was reiterating comments by top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, who warned burning the holy book of Islam would provide propaganda for insurgents.

"It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan," said Petraeus of the plan, adding that it could cause significant problems "everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community."

But a small church, the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, has vowed to mark Saturday's ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks by burning Qurans as they remember the almost 3,000 people killed by Al-Qaeda hijackers.

"We are taking his concerns very seriously," pastor Terry Jones told CNN late yesterday, referring to Petraeus, but "we right now have plans to continue." Although the fire authorities turned down an application a few weeks ago from Jones to hold the open-air burning ceremony, police cannot intervene until they actually light the 200 Qurans.

Jones said the Quran torching aimed "to remember those who were brutally murdered on September 11," and to send a warning "to the radical element of Islam." The voices of criticism grew into a chorus today.

Arab League chief Amr Mussa dubbed Jones a "fanatic" and told AFP he urged Americans to oppose his "destructive approach." The Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, an umbrella group representing aid groups in Afghanistan, said civilians and its members in the war-wracked country could be killed if Jones goes ahead with his "irresponsible" plan.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
Comments (+)