Barack Obama has warned that an American pastor’s plan to burn copies of the Koran on the ninth anniversary of September 11 could lead to terrorist attacks in Europe and the US.
Telegraph | Sep 9, 2010
The US President warned that the “destructive” act of burning the Koran was a “recruitment bonanza for al-Qaeda”, as outrage has built across the Islam world.
“You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan or Afghanistan. This could increase the recruitment of individuals who would be willing to blow themselves up in American cities or European cities,” he said.
“This is a recruitment bonanza for al-Qaeda.”
“If he’s listening, I hope he understands that what he’s proposing to do is completely contrary to our values as Americans. That this country has been built on the notion of freedom and religious tolerance.”
“And as a very practical matter, I just want him to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women who are in uniform.”
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Indonesia and Pakistan, two of the world’s largest Muslim countries, have urged President Obama to ban the book burning an international campaign to put pressure on the US authorities grows in the Islamic world.
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia’s leader, has written to Mr Obama asking him to personally intervene to stop irreparable damage to relations between the West and Muslims “threatening world peace”.
“In the letter, President Yudhoyono wrote that Indonesia and the US are building or bridging relations between the Western world and Islam. If the Koran burning occurs, then those efforts will be useless,” said Teuku Faizasyah, the Indonesian leader’s spokesman.
“There is a deep concern over the planned Koran burning ceremony as it could spark conflict among religions.”
The personal appeal from Indonesia will put Mr Obama, who spent four of his childhood years living in Jakarta, under intense pressure to ban the Koran burning in order to prevent a violent backlash across the Islamic world.
But he is also under domestic pressure not to be seen to give into Muslims ahead of Saturday’s ninth anniversary of September 11 terrorist attacks amid a heated American row over Islam and a proposed mosue near New York’s Ground Zero.
Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s President, called on America to stop “such a senseless and outrageous act”.
“Anyone who even thought of such a despicable act must be suffering from a diseased mind and a sickly soul,” he said in a statement.
“It will inflame sentiments among Muslims throughout the world and cause irreparable damage to interfaith harmony and also to world peace.”
Sarah Palin, the former US vice presidential nominee, joined criticism of an “insensitive and an unnecessary provocation.”
“People have a constitutional right to burn a Koran if they want to, but doing so is insensitive and an unnecessary provocation – much like building a mosue at Ground Zero,” she said.
Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, who founded a Faith Foundation after leaving office to promote understanding between the world’s religions, also intervened.
“Those who wish to cause religious conflict are small in number but often manage to dominate the headlines,” he said.
“You do not have to be a Muslim to share a sense of deep concern at such a disrespectful way to treat the Holy Book of Islam. Rather than burn the Koran, I would encourage people to read it.”
Signs of a concerted international Islamic campaign to pressure the US were evident as Malaysia, another Muslim country in Asia, also announced that it is registering a formal protest over an “attack” on the whole of Islam.
“That is the most heinous crime and action, it’s unthinkable,” said Anifah Aman, Malaysia’s foreign minister.
“There is no doubt whatsoever that it is an attack on Muslims, it will not only anger the Muslims in Malaysia and throughout the world. The Christians also don’t condone this kind of action. I believe the America will take appropriate action so this thing will not happen.”
India, which has the world’s third largest Muslim population after Indonesia and Pakistan, has also stepped into the row by calling on Washington to take “strong action”.
“The US authorities have strongly condemned the statement of the pastor, religious leaders all over the world have condemned this proposed action, we too condemn the proposed actions of the pastor,” Palaniappan Chidambaram , the Indian home affairs minister said.
“We hope the US authorities will take strong action to prevent such an outrage being committed.”
Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet, also intervened on Thursday to attack a “shameful act which is incompatible with the principles of tolerance and coexistence”.
Foreign ministry officals in Kuwait said that that the country’s Washington ambassador would ask the US authorities to ensure that “tolerant Islamic faith is respected”.
“This bizarre plan undermines our faith [and] is a flagrant insult to the feelings of Muslims worldwide and would ruin efforts to preach understanding amongst faiths,” said an official.
General David Petraeus, the US military commander in Afghanistan has warned that the burning will have global repercussions and endanger US military personnel serving abroad.
Brigadier General Hans-Werner Fritz, the commander of German troops in Afghanistan, said: “I only wish this wouldn’t happen, because it would provide a trigger … for violence towards all ISAF troops, including the Germans in northern Afghanistan.”
Despite the mounting pressure, Terry Jones, the pastor of an tiny extremist Christian church in Florida, has dismissed the calls for him off a bonfire of 200 Korans, to mark 9/11.
“As of right now, we are not convinced that backing down is the right thing,” he said.
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State said: “It is regrettable that a pastor in Gainesville, Florida, with a church of no more than 50 people can make this outrageous and distrustful, disgraceful plan and get the world’s attention.”
Protests against the book burning have stated to speaf across the Islamic world, with demonstrations in Afghnaistan and Indonesia earlier this week.
About 200 lawyers were among protesters who marched and burned a US flag in the central Pakistani city of Multan, demanding that Washington halt the burning of the Muslim holy book.
“If Koran is burned, it would be beginning of destruction of America,” read one English-language banner held up by the protesters, who chanted “Down with America!”
“This is a plan by Zionists to put the entire world into trouble, so it should be foiled,” said Tari Naeemullah, the head of the Joint Civic Front, a coalition of non-governmental organisations in Multan.
Anjem Choudary, former leader of the banned Islamist organisation Islam4UK, called on radical Muslim groups around the world to burn American flags outside US embassies in retaliation.
“We have called for the people to burn the American flag so that instead of being humiliated or being intimidated they can make this day a day to remember the atrocities being committed in Muslim lands and to expose the aggressor,” he said.