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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Even pastor’s old church condemns Quran-burning

It's increasingly looking as though the only spiritual or political figure who will not denounce Florida pastor Terry Jones' plan to commemorate Sept. 11 by burning copies of the Quran is Jones himself. Wednesday brings the news that even the church Jones founded in Germany in the 1980s is condemning the upcoming Quran-burning at his small place of worship in Gainesville, Fla.

"We are surprised and shocked at the extreme radicalism being displayed [by Jones] right now on this issue," Stephan Baar of the Christian Community of Cologne told the Associated Press. The 60-member church kicked out Jones in 2008. Jones' estranged daughter says the eviction arose from her father's reported penchant for dipping into the church's till to pay his own expenses.

Jones' wish to burn hundreds of copies of the Islamic holy book has drawn a wide chorus of protests. Gen. David Petraeus said on Monday the action could hurt U.S. troops, while hundreds of Afghans protested in Kabul and burned Jones in effigy. The Gainesville Fire Department has denied Jones a permit for the event -- but the pastor says he plans to go ahead with it anyway.

Indeed, so many high-profile people have spoken out against the plan that they may now outnumber the fringe church's 50-member congregation, raising the question of whether the condemnations are magnifying the cause of a very small group of extremists.

Here's a partial list of people who have condemned the planned bonfire:

Should Petraeus have weighed in on Koran burning? General defends himself

"It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort," top commander in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus told the media. "It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems.

Washington – Was it a good idea for Gen. David Petraeus, US commander of the war in Afghanistan, to comment on the Koran-burning plans of a small fringe church in Florida? That is the debate quietly making rounds among Pentagon officials and military analysts after Petraeus told the Wall Street Journal that the move “could endanger troops, and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan.”

At issue, they say, is whether a top military commander should weigh in on free speech matters involving American citizens and, what’s more, whether doing so crosses a civil-military dividing line.

Petraeus argues that it does not. “I’m not commenting on an issue of free speech. I’m providing an assessment of the likely impact of an action by a fellow American citizen on the safety of our troopers and civilians,” he says in an e-mail to the Monitor Wednesday. “I think I’ve got an obligation to those I’m privileged to lead to provide such an assessment.”

Government officials are entitled to express their views – and these views can be valuable in lending moral weight and providing practical feedback, says Eugene Volokh, a first amendment law professor at University of California Los Angeles. “It really is him trying to use his moral authority, and his expertise, to opine on what people ought to be doing.”

At the same time, one possible problem, adds Mr. Volokh, is that by jumping into the national debate, “It may be that General Petraeus may be inadvertently exacerbating the problem by encouraging people to restrain what they are saying for fear of extremist violence” waged against US troops by radical insurgents overseas.

What Afghans expect of the USIt also plays into expectations in some parts of the world that American officials can and should control the legal, if undesirable and ugly, behavior of its citizens.

“It could be that these statements from American government officials could quiet at least some critics who will say, ‘Look, at least the American government is saying the right thing here, so we shouldn’t retaliate,’ ” Volokh says.

But, he adds, such statements could also anger some Afghans even more.

“They could say, ‘Even the American government is acknowledging that it’s a bad thing, so why isn’t it stopping them?’ " he says. "There’s reason to say that whatever the practical benefits might be of accommodating your action to the demands of violent extremists, there are also practical costs.”

But there is a difference between stopping or threatening to retaliate against free speech and simply pointing out its possible effects, says Christopher Swift, a fellow at the Center for National Security Law at the University of Virginia School of Law. “It’s perfectly fine for a four-star general whose mission depends on developing goodwill to say that the action of this small group of extremists in Florida is going to undermine what we’re trying to do.”

That doesn’t mean, he adds, “that they are going to shut down these folks. Whether General Petraeus has stepped over the line or is trying to chill free speech – I don’t see that happening. He’s concerned about an 18-year-old private running into an 18-year-old Afghan. How is that Afghan going to give the American soldier the benefit of the doubt when he has pictures of Koran-burning on his mobile phone? Petraeus is right to call that out.”

The spirit of civilian controlBut while such remarks from military officials do not violate any tenets of civilian control of the military, they may violate their spirit, particularly if such statements are sanctioned or encouraged by the Obama administration, says Michael Cohen, senior fellow at the American Security Project.

“What worries me a little is that I don’t think the administration minds that the general is out front on this. They think, ‘Look, he has credibility. It has weight coming from Petraeus,’ " says Mr. Cohen. "To me that’s very dangerous. It puts a national-security cast on what is unfortunately protected free speech, and I think there’s something deeply inappropriate about a general doing that.”

Even as the Koran-burning designs of a 50-member Florida congregation threaten to imperil US troops, such a prospect, he adds, is no less than the high price of democracy.

Clinton: Planned Quran burning not American way

WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that plans by a small church in Florida to burn the Muslim holy book are "outrageous" and "aberrational" and do not represent America.

In remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations, Clinton lamented that the tiny Dove World Outreach Center congregation in Gainesville had gotten so much attention for what she called a "distrustful and disgraceful" means of marking the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"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, but that's the world we live in right now," Clinton said. "It is unfortunate, it is not who we are," she said.

Despite pleas from senior Obama administration officials that it will put Americans abroad at risk, church Pastor Terry Jones vowed to go ahead with the event.

Clinton appealed for Jones to reconsider and cancel. And, in the event he goes ahead with the plan, she suggested to laughter from the audience, that the news media ignore it.

"We are hoping that the pastor decides not to do this," she said. "We're hoping against hope that if he does, it won't be covered as an act of patriotism."

"We want to be judged by who we are as a nation, not by something that is so aberrational and we will make that case as strongly as possible."

Vatican: Burning Quran is outrageous, grave move

The terrorist attacks of 9/11, says the Vatican, "cannot be counteracted by an outrageous and grave gesture against a book considered sacred by a religious community."

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican on Wednesday denounced as "outrageous and grave" plans by a Christian minister in Florida to burn copies of the Quran to mark the Sept. 11 anniversary.

The Vatican office responsible for relations with Islam issued a stern statement saying every religion has the right to expect that its sacred books, places of worship and symbols will be respected and protected.

While deploring those 2001 terror attacks, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said such violence "cannot be counteracted by an outrageous and grave gesture against a book considered sacred by a religious community."

Pastor Terry Jones of the small, evangelical Dove World Outreach Center which espouses anti-Islam sentiments has said he would go ahead with plans to burn copies of Islam's holy book this weekend despite opposition from the White House, the U.S. military and others.

The Vatican said the proper reflection to mark the ninth anniversary of the attacks is to offer solidarity with those affected by the attacks and pray for them.

"Each religious leader and believer is also called to renew the firm condemnation of all forms of violence, in particular those committed in the name of religion," the statement said.

The communique was issued a day after the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, reported that Christians around the world were protesting the plans by Jones. "No one burns the Quran," the paper's headline read

Attorney General Eric Holder called the plan "idiotic and dangerous."

WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder is calling the planned burning of the Quran at a Florida church idiotic and dangerous.

That's the word from religious leaders who met with Holder for nearly an hour Tuesday to discuss recent attacks on Muslims and mosques around the United States.

The meeting was closed to reporters, but a Justice Department official who was present confirmed that Holder said that the plan by the Rev. Terry Jones to burn copies of the Quran at his church in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday was idiotic.

The official, who requested anonymity because the meeting was private, also said Holder was quoting Gen. David Petraeus when he used the word dangerous.

Petraeus said the book burning could endanger U.S. troops

Mitt Romney: 'Burning the Quran is wrong'

Presumed presidential candidate Mitt Romney told Politico
"Burning the Quran is wrong on every level. It puts troops in danger, and it violates a founding principle of our republic."

'It puts troops in danger, and it violates a founding principle of our republic,' Romney said. | AP Photo
CloseBy ANDY BARR | 9/8/10 2:37 PM EDT Updated: 9/8/10 4:43 PM EDT
Presumed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney came out Wednesday against the planned burning of the Quran by a Florida pastor, saying that doing so would endanger American troops.

“Burning the Quran is wrong on every level,” the former Massachusetts governor said in a statement to POLITICO. “It puts troops in danger, and it violates a founding principle of our republic.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0910/41895.html#ixzzG3pgqdTNA

The Rev. Terry Jones has been under pressure to not go forward with the planned burning of the Islamic text on Sept. 11 at his Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., but pledged Wednesday that he will proceed as planned.

"We are still determined to do it," Jones said on CBS’s “Early Show.”

While Romney was critical of the idea, he did not line up with those who have suggested that Jones should not be permitted to carry out his plan.

Romney’s critique echoes that of Gen. David Petraeus, who said the planned burning would endanger military personal stationed in Muslim countries.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also condemned the plan, calling the idea “disgraceful.”

Another possible Republican presidential contender, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, said Wednesday at breakfast with reporters sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor that he does not “think well of the idea of burning anybody’s Quran, Bible, Book of Mormon or anything else.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been the most prominent voice defending Jones’s right to burn the Quran, even though he scolded the Florida reverend for his “boneheaded and wrong” view on Tuesday during an interview on ABC.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0910/41895.html#ixzzG3ph1XlMZ

Barbour: 9/11 Koran Burning A Bad Idea

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said today that he opposes a Florida church's plan to burn copies of the Koran on Sept. 11, and said he accepts "totally" that President Obama is a Christian.

"I do not think well of the idea of burning anybody's Koran, Bible, Book of Mormon or anything else," Barbour told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

"I don't think there is any excuse for it," Barbour said. "I don't think it's a good idea."

A reporter followed up to ask Barbour for his opinion as to why so many Americans (wrongly) think Obama is a Muslim.

"I don't know why people think what they think," Barbour said. He paused and then added, "This is a president that we know less about than any other president in history."

Barbour said that Obama has said that he is a Christian "throughout his public life" and added, "I accept just totally at face value that he's a Christian."

He was then asked if it is a vast right-wing conspiracy that polls show so many voters don't agree. "No, ma'am," he said.

Barbour repeatedly said the GOP should not take their "eye off the ball" with a focus on social issues instead of on the economy and jobs.

"That's what the American people are concerned about," Barbour said.

After the breakfast, several reporters asked Barbour to clarify what he meant by Obama's history being so unknown. He specified that Obama's college-age years are a question mark, and admitted he has not read the president's "Dreams from my Father" memoir outlining his childhood.

"There's not much known about his, in college, or growing up ... we don't know any of the childhood things," Barbour said. "Part of it is the fact that he'd only been in public office a brief period of time."

Barbour said Americans know plenty about Ronald Reagan, or that George Washington "chopped down a cherry tree," and that it's his observation they know "a whole lot more" about other presidents than Obama. "I don't say it as an insult as anything other than just an observation," Barbour said.

Reporters asked if Barbour believes Obama was born in the United States. "As far as I know," he said. He added that, "I don't have any such question."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says no action is currently in the works to respond to the pastor …

"Any type of activity like that that puts our troops in harm's way would be a concern," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday

WASHINGTON – The White House said Tuesday that a Florida church's threat to burn copies of the Muslim holy book could endanger U.S. troops abroad, while the State Department denounced the plan as "un-American" and said it would put American diplomats and travelers at risk.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs noted the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, has warned that images of a burning Quran would be used by extremists to incite violence.

"Any time activity like that puts our troops in harm's way would be a concern to this administration," Gibbs told reporters.

At the State Department, spokesman P.J. Crowley took a tougher line, saying the administration hoped Americans would stand up and reject the the church's plan to burn copies of the Quran to mark the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. He called the plan "un-American" and "inconsistent" with American values.

"We think that these are provocative acts," Crowley said. "They are disrespectful, they're intolerant, they're divisive. ... 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."

Crowley called the announced plan "a divisive potential act of disrespect of one of the world's great religions. And, while we support (and) defend our freedoms, including freedom of expression, this is an action that has potential serious ramifications."

Crowley said U.S. diplomats had already reported small-scale demonstrations against the talk of 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," he said.

The Christian minister who is 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 in Gainesville with an anti-Islam philosophy, said he has gotten more than 100 death threats and has started wearing a pistol on his hip.

Lieberman: Koran-Burners Should 'Reconsider And Drop Their Plans'

"I appeal to people who are planning to burn the Quran to reconsider and drop their plans because they are inconsistent with American values and, as General Petraeus has warned, threatening to America's military," Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman said in a statement.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) released a statement today asking those planning to burn copies of the Koran on September 11th to "reconsider and drop their plans because they are inconsistent with American values."

"I appeal to people who are planning to burn the Quran to reconsider and drop their plans because they are inconsistent with American values and, as General Petraeus has warned, threatening to America's military," Lieberman wrote.

He continued:

We are at war against violent Islamist extremism, as propagated by al Qaeda, its ideological affiliates, and radicalized individuals, who justify their wanton violence based on a corrupted interpretation of Islam. Let us concentrate on working with the moderate Muslim majority to defeat the Islamist extremist minority in Afghanistan, and wherever else it may establish sanctuary, and to discredit this violent ideology that propagates the hateful lie that the Islamic world and the Western World are engaged in a clash of civilizations. We will never defeat this brutally repressive enemy by discarding America's historic respect for religious diversity.Lieberman is the latest politician to speak out about the plans, following Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) who said earlier today that the plans are "unwise," but stopped short of asking for the event to be stopped

House Minority Leader John Boehner spoke out against the event, comparing it to the planned Islamic center near Ground Zero. "Well, listen, I just think it's not wise to do this in the face of what our country represents. ... Just because you have the right to do something in America, doesn't mean it's the right thing to do."

New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg disagrees with a Florida pastor's impending Koran-burning rally on the coming 9th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, calling the plan "boneheaded and wrong."

Even as he defended the pastor's right to carry out his plan, Bloomberg told "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts that he didn't believe the pastor should do it.

Bloomberg made the comments to Roberts on a recent tour of the Ground Zero site, which is being prepared to house a memorial and underground museum to honor the more than 3,000 people who were killed when terrorists flew two jetliners into the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

His reaction echoed similar sentiments expressed by interfaith leaders, politicians, and the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan

Bloomberg: Builders Have the Right to Islamic Community Center and Mosque
Pastor Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., has cited the terror attack as the reason for his planned bonfire of Korans Saturday

Gen. David Petraeus has warned that Jones' plan could inflame some in the Muslim world, resulting in danger to U.S. troops even as the 9th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks approaches.

A proposed Islamic community center and mosque at Ground Zero in New York seems to have sharply polarized the public: critics say such a facility has no place at Ground Zero, while supporters say the nation's Constitution guarantees each individual the freedom to practice his or her religion.

Bloomberg told Roberts that the mosque sends a message, adding that most of the 9/11 victims' family members with whom he has talked have said builders should have the right to erect the community center and mosque.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called it "boneheaded and wrong" but said the protesters are protected by the First Amendment. "He has a right to do it," he said.

Mohammad Sajjad/AP Photo

Angelina Jolie condemns planned Koran burning

Angelina Jolie is in Pakistan to view flood damage as part of her UN humanitarian duties. Angelina Jolie blasted a Florida church's plan to burn copies of the Koran this weekend.

Hollywood actress and the goodwill ambassador of UNHCR, Angelina Jolie visits a camp setup for people displaced by heavy floods, in Mohib Banda near Peshawar, Pakistan on Tuesday. Jolie blasted the planned Koran burning by a Florida church this weekend

Hollywood actress and the goodwill ambassador of UNHCR, Angelina Jolie visits a camp setup for people displaced by heavy floods, in Mohib Banda near Peshawar, Pakistan on Tuesday. Jolie blasted the planned Koran burning by a Florida church this weekend.

Vanity Fair magazine conducted an online poll survey of who's the Most Beautiful Woman, Angelina Jolie- a mother of six, philanthropist, a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee, an academy award winner, and a good actress at her times rank as number 1, garnering 58 percent of the votes. She's been considered as the modern day "Helen of Troy" and most likely a face that could launch a thousand fans and likely to start a war.

Angelina Jolie on Wednesday condemned a Florida church's threat to burn copies of the Muslim holy book to mark the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks

The 35-year-old actress spoke out against the proposed burning during a trip to Pakistan to raise awareness about the floods that have devastated the largely Muslim country over the last six weeks. She visited in her capacity as a goodwill ambassador for the U.N.'s refugee agency.

Jolie's criticism echoed that of top U.S. officials, who have described the church's plan as a disgraceful act and have even warned that it could endanger U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Americans worldwide.

"I have hardly the words that somebody would do that to somebody's religious book," Jolie told reporters in Islamabad after visiting refugees camps in northwestern Pakistan — one of the areas of the country hit hardest by the floods.

The Christian minister organizing the Koran burning, Pastor Terry Jones, has said he plans to go ahead in spite of concerns. He is part of the Dove World Outreach Center, a tiny, evangelical Christian church in Gainesville, Florida, with an anti-Islam philosophy.

The issue has not gotten much attention in Pakistan, where officials and residents have been trying to cope with the devastation caused by floods that first hit the country at the end of July following extremely heavy monsoon rains. The floodwaters have killed more than 1,700 people and have affected over 18 million others.

"I was shocked especially by how high the floodwaters went," said Jolie, who wore a long dress and covered her hair with a black scarf in keeping with local Muslim custom. "In some of the people's houses, it was nine feet (three meters) high."

U.N. officials have expressed hope that Jolie's visit would help spark the fundraising campaign to help Pakistan, which has stalled in recent days. The U.N. issued an appeal for $460 million in emergency funds on Aug. 11, but only $294 million, or 64 percent, has been received so far even though it is one of the worst natural disasters in recent years.

"There's lots of speculation about why this one has not gotten the attention it deserves," Jolie said. "Even all of the wonderful coverage ... is not getting the response that usually it's able to get."

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