A Gainesville pastor plans to stage a publicity grabbing event on the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The Dove World Outreach Center is a small evangelical Christian church with a membership of just 50. The center of the controversy is the act itself - to burn Korans, the Islamic holy book. The pastor, Terry Jones, has named the project "International Burn a Koran Day". He claims it is "a message of warning to the radical element of Islam", according to an article in The Washington Post.
Jones now carries a pistol in response to the more than 100 death threats he has received so far. He states that the church is firmly committed to carrying out the event but is also "weighing the situation".
General Petraeus weighs in on the planned event:
"It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems," Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said in a statement. "Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community."
So does the Obama administration spokesperson:
The White House also condemned the Florida church's plan, with press secretary Robert Gibbs reiterating Petraeus's contention that U.S. forces could be put in harm's way as a result.
And, the State Department, too:
"State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley called the proposed demonstration "un-American" and said it was "inconsistent with the values of religious tolerance and religious freedom."
Jones says he agrees with General Petraeus about the potential for provocation of violence. And, in Kabul, protests have begun. Jones was burned in effigy as a crowd of about 500 chanted "Long live Islam" and "Death to America". Various local politicians and members of parliament spoke to the crowd. Some began to throw rocks as a U.S. military convoy went by but they were ordered to stop with a threat of arrest by the speakers.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul released this: "The United States 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 is a mistake, especially as a nation at war in a strongly Muslim country - Afghanistan - to provide Jones with publicity. The media and General Petraeus have brought this misguided man far more fame than he would have ever achieved without such a drastic display. There are kooks residing within all groups of people. This pastor is just as obnoxious as anyone who would burn a book. Any book. How would he be able to criticize the burning of The Bible in the future if he moves forward with burning a Koran? Or a Torah? All religious books are protected in the very freedoms for which soldiers are fighting in places like Afghanistan. Those who wish to kill us over religious differences do not deserve the elevation to victim by those who would allow that due to their own selfish indulgences.
Perhaps Pastor Jones needs to pray a little harder.