Qur’an burning day to go ahead despite death threats


Qur’an burning day to go ahead despite death threats
Pastor Terry Jones to go ahead with Qur’an burning day despite Hillary Clinton saying plan is disrespectful and disgraceful

Paul Owen, Matthew Weaver and agencies

The gun-toting pastor at the centre of international outrage over his plans to stage a Qur’an burning day to mark the 9/11 attacks says he is determined to go ahead in the face of fierce condemnation from the Obama administration.
The Rev Terry Jones said more than 100 death threats would not put him off Saturday’s event, when he plans to lead the burning of 200 copies of the Muslim holy book at his Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville, Florida.
“If we don’t do it, when do we stop backing down?” he told ABC television. “It’s something we need to do, it’s a message we need to send.”
He confirmed he would be armed during the event. “We our prepared to give our lives for this,” he said.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, led condemnation of the planned burning, describing it as a “disrespectful, disgraceful act”. Others in the administration weighed in, including Eric Holder, the attorney general, who called it idiotic and dangerous. A state department spokesman called the planned protest “un-American”.
The plans have been greeted with alarm in the Middle Eastern press. Lebanon’s Daily Star said they were “likely to ignite a fire of rage that could consume swathes of the globe”, while United Arab Emirates paper the Khaleej Times describe the planned burning as “rabid and insane”.
David Petraeus, the US and Nato commander in Afghanistan, warned of retaliatory action against US troops after protests took place in the capital Kabul at which effigies of Jones were burned alongside the American flag.
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 said.
Jones said he “understood” those concerns but would press ahead anyway.
“Instead of us backing down, maybe it’s time to stand up. Maybe it’s time to send a message to radical Islam that we will not tolerate their behaviour,” he told Associated Press.
At a meal last night marking the breaking of the Ramadan fast at the state department, Clinton said: “We sit down together for this meal on a day when the news is carrying reports that a pastor down in Gainesville, Florida, plans to burn the holy Qur’an on September 11. I am heartened by the clear, unequivocal condemnation of this disrespectful, disgraceful act that has come from American religious leaders of all faiths, from evangelical Christians to Jewish rabbis as well as secular US leaders and opinion-makers.
“Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. Many of you know that in 1790, George Washington wrote to a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, that this country will give ‘to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance’. The real story of Islam in America can be found in this room and rooms across America. We write it tonight in the spirit of fellowship and the celebration of goodwill that is a hallmark of Ramadan. We will write it in the months and years to come as we continue to reach out to engage people around the world in a search for common ground, common understanding and common respect.”
This week, hundreds of Afghans protested outside a Kabul mosque and chanted “Death to America”. Members of the crowd pelted a passing US military convoy with stones before being ordered to stop by protest organisers.
On Saturday thousands of Indonesian Muslims demonstrated outside the US embassy in Jakarta and in five other cities to protest against the church’s plan. Dove World made headlines last year after distributing T-shirts that said “Islam is of the Devil”. The church has been denied a permit to set a bonfire but has vowed to proceed with the burning.
In a joint statement US religious leaders condemned what they described as an “anti-Muslim frenzy” in America. They said this had been whipped up in part by “misinformation and outright bigotry” in response to plans to build an Islamic community centre and mosque close to the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York.
On the plans to burn the Qu’ran the leaders, including Washington Roman Catholic archbishop emeritus Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Rabbi David Saperstein, head of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Dr Michael Kinnamon of the National Council of Churches said they were “appalled by such disrespect for a sacred text”.

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