US to mark 9/11 anniversary amid Koran-burning row


US to mark 9/11 anniversary amid Koran-burning row

World Trade Centre tribute in lights during tests 10 September Bells will toll in New York at the time the Twin Towers were struck

The US is preparing to mark nine years since 9/11 amid controversy over plans for an Islamic centre nearby and a threat to burn the Koran.
President Barack Obama urged respect for other religious faiths after the threat, now on hold, sparked protests across the Muslim world.
The Florida pastor behind the threat has arrived in New York.

This year’s anniversary is likely to be the most contentious and fraught yet, says the BBC’s Laura Trevelyan.
Once the city’s official commemorations are over, rallies will begin both for and against the proposed Islamic community centre and mosque near Ground Zero.
Both sides want to use the emotion of the day to highlight their causes, our correspondent says.
Some relatives of the 9/11 victims says it is disrespectful to have a reminder of Islam by the place where so many died but other families support the project as an expression of America’s commitment to freedom of religion.
And there are still more relatives who believe this emotional day is not the one to be making a political point, our correspondent adds.
About 3,000 people died in the attacks in 2001, in which four airliners were hijacked. Two were crashed into the towers of New York’s World Trade Center (WTC) and one into the Pentagon, while the fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, after passengers apparently fought back.
US Vice-President Joe Biden is to attend the official ceremony in New York at which the names of all the people who died at the WTC will be read out.
Houses of worship across the city have been asked to toll their bells at 0846 (1346 GMT), the moment the first hijacked plane struck the North Tower.
President Obama will attend the ceremony at the Pentagon and his wife Michelle will attend the event in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, along with former first lady Laura Bush.
The controversial pastor, Terry Jones, said he hoped to meet a leading imam to discuss the proposal for the Islamic centre, to be located a short distance from Ground Zero, the WTC site.
He said he had suspended the book-burning only because he had received a guarantee, from an imam in Florida, that the centre would be moved.
But the planners of the Islamic centre have said they did not speak to the Florida imam, and would not be moving their project.
Koran-burning row timeline

  • July Terry Jones announces his church in Gainesville, Florida, will stage International Burn a Koran Day. National Association of Evangelicals asks the church to call off the event

  • 18 August Gainesville Fire Rescue denies Mr Jones a fire permit, saying the church will be fined if it goes ahead.
  • 6 September Top US commander in Afghanistan Gen David Petraeus warns that burning could put troops’ lives will be in danger
  • 8 September Vatican condemns bonfire plans as “outrageous”
  • 9 September US President Barack Obama joins international condemnation. Mr Jones then says he has cancelled the burning, before saying it is only suspended.
  • 10 September Protests break out in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and President Barack Obama calls for religious tolerance in the US

Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the proposed centre, said on Friday that he was “prepared to consider meeting with anyone who is seriously committed to pursuing peace” but added that he had no current plans to meet Mr Jones.
Mr Jones is the pastor of the tiny and previously little-known Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, and author of a book entitled Islam is of the Devil.
He had planned to stage an International Burn a Koran Day on Saturday, saying the book was “evil”.
But pressure was put on the pastor to cancel the burning. The FBI visited Mr Jones to urge him to reconsider his plans and he was telephoned by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates.
In his remarks on Friday, Mr Obama denied that his administration’s intervention in the affair had elevated it to greater prominence.
He appealed to Americans to respect the “inalienable” right of religious freedom and said he hoped the preacher would abandon his plan to burn the Koran, as it could add to the dangers facing US soldiers serving abroad.
“This is a way of endangering our troops, our sons and daughters… you don’t play games with that,” he told reporters.

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