US commander in Afghanistan asks church not to burn Quran

September 7th, 2010 - 9:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Washington/Kabul, Sep 7 (DPA) The top US military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, has warned against a plan by a Florida church to burn copies of the Quran Saturday, saying it could end up harming US soldiers, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
“It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems,” Petraeus was quoted as saying in a statement. “Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community.”

Petraeus made the comments in Kabul Monday, after several hundred Afghans protested in front of a mosque in the Afghan capital against the planned incineration of the Islamic holy book, in turn burning American flags and chanting “Death to America”.

“Even the rumor that it might take place has sparked demonstrations such as the one that took place in Kabul yesterday,” Petraeus said. “Were the actual burning to take place, the safety of our soldiers and civilians would be put in jeopardy and accomplishment of the mission would be made more difficult.”

US Lieutenant General William Caldwell, who is responsible for the training of Afghan security forces, also warned against the incineration plans, saying that it would “jeopardise the safety of our men and women that are serving over here in the country”.

He noted that many Afghans don’t understand that the Quran-burning is protected by the US constitutional right to freedom of expression and that President Barack Obama cannot simply forbid it.

The Dove World Outreach Centre, an evangelical Christian church with just 50 members in Gainesville, wants to hold the “International Burn a Quran Day” to mark the ninth anniversary of the Sep 11, 2001 terrorist attack.

Pastor Terry Jones told CNN Tuesday that the church has “firmly made up (its) mind”, but is “weighing the situation” in the wake of Petraeus’ comments.

“We realise that this action would indeed offend people, offend the Muslims,” he said. “I am offended when they burn the flag. I am offended when they burn the Bible. But we feel that the message that we are trying to send is much more important than people being offended.”

“It is not to the moderate Muslim,” he added. “Our message is not a message of hate. Our message is a message of warning to the radical element of Islam.”

Desecration of the Quran has repeatedly unleashed violence in the past. Some 15 people died in Afghanistan in 2005, after the magazine Newsweek wrote about Qurans being defiled in the US Guantanamo Bay detention centre. The report was later retracted.

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