Thursday, September 9, 2010

Church’s Koran Burning will Endanger US Troops

Afghans demonstrate against US Koran burning
Afghans demonstrate against US Koran burning
Reuters, the BBC, Voice of America and thousands of other media sources reveal that the commander of the 150,000 strong US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, says an obscure American church’s plan to burn Korans on September 11 could put the lives of US troops in Afghanistan in danger, and damage the overall war effort in that country. The US embassy in Kabul issued a statement condemning the plans. It said it was deeply concerned about the deliberate attempts to offend members of religious or ethnic groups, and condemned the plan as an “act of disrespect” toward Islam. General Petraeus said in a statement to US media:

It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort. It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world, we are engaged with the Islamic community.
The planned burning of the Moslem holy book could be used to stoke sentiment against the US, not only in Afghanistan, but across the Moslem world. The White House and Nato have also expressed concern over the plan. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said:

Any type of activity like that that puts our troops in harm’s way would be a concern to this administration.
The Nato chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, attacked the church’s plans, telling reporters that burning Korans violated the Nato alliance’s values. AFP quoted him as saying:

There is a risk that it may also have a negative impact on security for our troops.
Pastor Terry Jones, of the Gainsville, Florida, Dove World Outreach Center, a small evangelical church, plans to put copies of the holy book in a bonfire to mark this week’s anniversary of the 9/11, 2001 attacks. The church has a right to do so under the US constitution’s First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech. Authorities in Gainesville are preparing special security measures to prevent trouble at the event by the church, which has about 30 members and calls itself a “New Testament, Charismatic, Non-Denominational Church”. The city’s mayor and police department repeated appeals to Jones call off the Koran burning. They warned that while his First Amendment constitutional rights guaranteed freedom of speech, assembly and religion, he would violate city ordinances if he went ahead without proper authorization. Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe condemned what he called the church’s “offensive behavior”. Mayor Lowe said on his Facebook site:

The Dove World Outreach Center is a tiny, fringe group and an embarrassment to our community. They are opposed to the true character of Gainesville.
City officials ahave denied his request for a burn permit.

Mr Jones said he takes General Petraeus’ warning seriously. He said the church was praying on the matter but they had “firmly made up our minds”, adding:

How long do we back down?

We must send a clear message to the radical element of Islam
Mr Jones’s Florida unknown church is reported to have 50 members. Its incendiary plans haven’t emerged out of nowhere. 53 per cent of Americans view Islam unfavourably, and only 42% favourably. American Moslems say they feel more isolated than at any time since the 2001 attacks. Its website labels Islam “violent and oppressive” and has prompted protests elsewhere. Hundreds of Afghans took to the streets in the capital, Kabul, to protest against the plan, chanting “Death to America” as they rallied outside a mosque, burning an effigy of Pastor Jones. Similar protests were earlier held outside the US embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Claims that US soldiers have desecrated the Koran in both Afghanistan and Iraq have caused bloodshed in the past, and this new controversy comes just when religious fanatics in the US are worked up over a proposal to build an Islamic cultural centre two blocks from Ground Zero, site of the 9/11 attacks, in New York. Lives were lost in Afghan riots in 2005 when Newsweek told that US interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet. The story was false and was retracted, after the damage was done. In 2008, protests in Afghanistan followed a US soldier deployed to Iraq shooting up a copy of the Koran.

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