US State Dept condemns plans to burn Koran
Plans by a Florida pastor to burn copies of the Koran are "disrespectful," "abhorrent" and violate the values promoted by the United States and its history of religious tolerance, the US State Department said Tuesday, dpa reported.
In some of the strongest language yet from a US official over the controversy, department spokesman PJ Crowley condemned the plans by the "fringe" pastor and his congregation to burn the Koran to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on Saturday.
"These are provocative acts. They are disrespectful. They're intolerant. They're divisive," Crowley told reporters.
He added that if the pastor follows through with the plans, it could put at risk the lives of American diplomats, soldiers and citizens living or travelling abroad.
Crowley called on the rest of the world to not judge the United States based on the acts of a pastor and his small congregation, because it does not represent US society.
"We are a nation of 300 million people and the vast majority of Americans are standing up this week and saying these contemplated actions are inappropriate, they're abhorrent, and they should not happen," he said.
"We would hope that the rest of the world does not indict the United States for the actions of one fringe element in Florida," he said.
The pastor, Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville, Florida, has declared Saturday as "International Burn a Koran Day."
His plans have been sharply criticized by mainstream religious leaders of all faiths. The mayor of Gainesville has called the Dove World Research Centre an "embarrassment to our community."
The top United States military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, early Tuesday warned against the plan, citing his concern about the safety of his soldiers.
Jones told CNN he understood the concerns raised by Petraeus and was "weighing the situation" in light of the general's remarks but said he plans to go forward with the burning to protest Islamic extremism.