US officials say Quran burning ‘un-American,’ will put US troops, diplomats, travelers at riskBy Matthew Lee, AP
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
US officials say Quran burning endangers troops
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Tuesday weighed in against a Florida church’s threat to burn copies of the Muslim holy book, with the State Department calling the plan “un-American” and officials saying it could threaten U.S. troops, diplomats and travelers overseas.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the administration hoped Americans would stand up and condemn the church’s plan to burn copies of the Quran on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“We think that these are provocative acts,” Crowley said. “We would like to see more Americans stand up and say that this is inconsistent with our American values; in fact, these actions themselves are un-American.”
“We hope that between now and Saturday there will be a range of voices across America that make clear to this community that this is not the way for us to commemorate 9/11,” he said. “In fact, it is consistent with the radicals and religious bigots who attacked us on 9/11.”
Crowley defended his choice of the term “un-American” to describe the planned Quran burning, saying it was “a divisive potential act of disrespect to one of the world’s great religions.”
“While we support (and) defend our freedoms, including freedom of expression, this is an action that has potential serious ramifications,” he said.
He said U.S. diplomats had already reported small-scale demonstrations against the Quran burning in several countries “where anxiety levels are building because of the publicity surrounding this proposed action. It does put the lives of ordinary Americans at risk, as well as diplomats, as well as soldiers.”
Crowley said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton may address the controversy, as well as the uproar over plans to build a mosque near ground zero in New York, at a dinner Tuesday evening in observance of Iftar, the breaking of the daily fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
At the White House, spokesman Robert Gibbs echoed concerns raised by Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, about the plans. Petraeus said earlier that images of the event would be used by extremists “to inflame public opinion and incite violence.”
“Any type of activity like that that puts our troops in harm’s way would be a concern to this administration,” Gibbs told reporters.
Meeting Tuesday with religious leaders to discuss recent attacks on Muslims and mosques around the United States, Attorney General Eric Holder called the planned burning of the Quran both idiotic and dangerous, according to a Justice Department official. The official requested anonymity because the meeting was private.
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he also was concerned about the effect the planned Quran burning may have. “Of course there is a risk it will also have a negative impact on the security for our troops,” Rasmussen told reporters in Washington, ahead of a meeting with Obama at the White House.
The Christian minister organizing the Quran burning says he will go ahead despite the government’s concerns. Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center, a small, evangelical Christian church with an anti-Islam philosophy in Gainesville, said he had gotten more than 100 death threats and has started wearing a pistol on his hip.
Associated Press writers Anne Flaherty and Mark Sherman contributed to this report.
Tags: Dove world outreach center, North America, United States, Washington