[Updated 4:59 p.m.] Increasingly earnest reaction poured in at home and around the world Thursday to a pastor's plans to burn copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, on Saturday. The Rev. Terry Jones, the head of a small church in Gainesville, said he will go ahead with plans to burn Qurans on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks. The statements in reaction received so far are as follows:
The statements in reaction received so far are as follows:
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said, "While I
will defend any American's First Amendment rights, our generals in the field
tell us that the men and women defending those rights would be endangered as a result of this stunt. If this group insists on going forward, I would hope that members of the media will not reward them with what they crave most: news coverage."
- Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who said he has been in touch with the
church, said, "I think common decency would dictate that this would not occur and that we would be respectful and are a respectful people of all religions." He said there was little he could do to stop the burning because of the First Amendment.
- United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday he is "deeply disturbed" by reports about the plan. "Such actions cannot be condoned by any religion," he said. "They contradict the efforts of the United Nations, and many people around the world, to promote tolerance, intercultural understanding and mutual respect between cultures and religions. ... I sincerely hope that they will not take such unacceptable actions."
- A spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan tells CNN: "If in Florida they were to burn the Quran, we will target any Christians, even if they are innocent, because the Quran is our holy book and we do not want someone to burnour holy book."
- A senior Iranian Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpayegani, condemned the plan to burn the Quran and calling for the arrest of Jones, head of the Dove World Outreach Center, according to Iran's semi-official Fars news agency. Should such an "inhumane incident take place in America, the U.S. government and President [Barack] Obama will be held responsible," he said, according to the report.
- Interpol, the international police organization, warned of "tragic consequences" that "may well claim the lives of many innocent people" if the burning goes ahead. Secretary General Ronald Noble said September 11 should be a day to fight terrorism, not a day to "engage in provocative acts that will give terrorists propaganda" to recruit others to their cause.
- British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he hoped Jones would refrain from carrying out the burning, and he pointed out Muslims are about to celebrate Eid, the end of their holy month of Ramadan. "To seek to mar it in this calculated way would be selfish and provocative in the extreme," Hague said.
- Sajjad Karim, a Muslim and British member of the European Parliament, told the chamber Thursday that the Quran burning "is the act of one man and his followers alone. His actions should not be identified with the West or Christianity. Muslims globally must know that, through this Quran burning, this man will achieve nothing. He has been isolated in his country and his religion. It is only through a reaction that any perverse sense of achievement can be earned."
- U.S. Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, urged Jones against the burning in a posting on his Twitter page Thursday. "Pastor Jones' threats to burn the Quran will put American service men/women in danger – for their sake please don't do it!"
- Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Paris Grand Mosque and France's most important spokesman for the Muslim community, urged Muslims to respond "wisely" to the burning and "not to fall into the trap of provocation."
- Bernard Valero, spokesman for France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said, "This incitement to hatred is unacceptable and can only reinforce all forms of extremism. It is also an insult to the memory of the victims of September 11 and also to all the other victims of terrorist acts motivated by intolerance and the abuse of religion."
- The U.S. Embassy in London said Washington is "deeply concerned about all deliberate attempts to offend members of any religious or ethnic group" and condemned such acts as "unrepresentative of American values." While the embassy said it believes firmly in freedom of religion and freedom of expression, "we reaffirm our position that the deliberate destruction of any holy book is an abhorrent act."
- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki says the burning could be used by extremists to carry out more violence. He spoke after meeting with the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Lloyd Austin, and U.S. Ambassador James Jeffrey. "If it does take place, it will inflict the most severe damage to inter-faith relations and human and cultural dialogue and will be used as a pretext by extremists for more killings and retaliatory killing," al-Maliki said.
- Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed grave concern over the threats to burn copies of the Quran. According to spokesman Farhatullah Babar, Zardari said anyone who even thought of such a despicable act must be suffering from a diseased mind and a sickly soul. He said it will inflame sentiments among Muslims throughout the world and cause irreparable damage to interfaith harmony and world peace. Zardari called for doing all it takes to stop such a "senseless and outrageous act."
- Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik called on Interpol, the international police organization, to stop the church from carrying out the burning, which he called a "crime against humanity." Malik said the burning would be an international crime because it will affect "international peace and harmony."
- Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono wrote a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to stop the Quran burning, which he called a "hideous act." A presidential spokesman said Indonesia is concerned the burning will incite hardline Muslims in Indonesia and around the world.
- A hardline Indonesian Muslim group, the Islamic Defenders Front, told CNN it will protest the planned burning and will issue a death sentence on Rev. Terry Jones if he carries out his plan. "This is not a problem between Muslims and Christians but rather between Terry Jones and mankind," said Sabri Lubis, a secretary general with the group.
- The Vatican implored the church Wednesday not to burn the Quran, saying it would be an "outrageous and grave gesture."
- The president of the United Nations General Assembly, Ali Abdussalam Treki, also expressed concern Wednesday, saying the burning will "lead to uncontrollable reactions" and spark tension worldwide.
- The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, warned earlier this week that the plan "could cause significant problems" for American troops overseas.
- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group, plans to hold a news conference in Washington on Thursday to address the issue. The group's "Learn, Don't Burn" initiative includes the distribution of of 200,000 Qurans and other activities planned for Friday and Saturday, the planned date of the burning.
- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has defended the right of the church's pastor, Terry Jones, to go ahead with the plan, even though he condemns the idea as "distasteful." Bloomberg said this week, "The First Amendment protects everybody, and you can't say that we are going to apply the First Amendment to only those cases where we are in agreement," Bloomberg said, citing the section of the Constitution that promises freedom of speech.
- The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting U.S. troops from religious intolerance, has promised to buy one new Quran and donate it to the Afghan National Army for each one burned in Florida.
- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Quran burning would be a "disrespectful, disgraceful act."
- Former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin urged Jones on Wednesday to halt his plans, saying the burning "will feed the fire of caustic rhetoric and appear as nothing more than mean-spirited religious intolerance. Don't feed that fire."
- The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan condemned it as "disrespectful, intolerant and divisive," in a statement on Wednesday. "We are deeply concerned about all deliberate attempts to offend members of any religious or ethnic group," said Stephen Engelken, the second-ranking diplomat at the embassy.
- The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday issued a statement saying the U.S. government "in no way condones such acts of disrespect against the religion of Islam, and is deeply concerned about deliberate attempts to offend members of religious or ethnic groups." It said it condemned the "offensive initiative" by the Florida church.
- The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, issued a joint statement with Lloyd Austin, the commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq, to condemn the act.
- Lebanese President Michel Suleiman denounced the Quran burning as "contrary to the teachings of tolerant divine religions and totally incompatible with the logic of dialogue among civilizations, religions and cultures." He noted that a United Nations conference on religious tolerance two years ago called on people "to renounce hatred and intolerance and terrorism," and "to reflect on the Christian teachings and concepts of humanity that emphasizes the love and respect for the other."
- Muhammad Ismail, a spokesman for the hardline Indonesian Muslim group Hizb ut-Tahrir, said earlier this week, "The burning is not only an insult to the holy Quran, but an insult to Islam and Muslims around the world."