- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 9, 2010

BURNING ISSUE

A Florida pastor’s plan to burn the Koran on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks hit the diplomatic community worldwide this week, from the U.S. ambassador in Iraq, who denounced the scheme, to the Pakistani ambassador in Washington, who urged Fox News host Glenn Beck to condemn it.

In Baghdad, Ambassador James F. Jeffrey and Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, called the Rev. Terry Jones‘ determination to burn 200 copies of the Muslim holy book on Saturday “disrespectful, divisive and disgraceful.”

“As this holy month of Ramadan comes to a close and Iraqis prepare to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, we join with the citizens of Iraq and of every nation to repudiate religious intolerance and to respect and defend the diversity of faiths of our fellow man,” they said.

Late Thursday, Mr. Jones said he would not burn copies of the Koran, saying he had secured a deal to move a proposed mosque from ground zero in New York.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Thursday warned that Islamic extremists would use the burning of the Koran to incite widespread violence.

“This ghastly action doesn’t fall within free expression, and there must be an intervention to stop it,” Mr. al-Maliki said during a meeting with Mr. Jeffrey and Gen. Austin. “It might be taken by the fundamentalists as a pretext to do more killings and counterkilling.”

Diplomats from Kuwait to Malaysia on Thursday also denounced Mr. Jones‘ proposed action.

“This bizarre plan is a flagrant insult to the feelings of Muslims worldwide and would ruin efforts to preach understanding among the faiths,” a Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry spokesman told the Kuwait News Agency.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said: “Malaysia condemns this act. I’m sure the United States knows the stand of Muslims around the world on this.”

In Washington, Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani on Wednesday called on Mr. Beck, who held a massive rally at the Lincoln Memorial last month to promote religious harmony and honor, to condemn the planned burning.

“I think it would help if Glenn Beck came out against it and said the people of faith do not burn the books of people of other faith,” he told the Associated Press.

Mr. Haqqani was unaware that Mr. Beck, who is on vacation, denounced the book-burning on his blog on Monday.

“Burning the Koran is like burning the flag or the Bible. You can do it, but whose heart will you change by doing it? You will only harden the hearts of those who could be moved,” he wrote.

“None of those who are thinking about killing us will be affected, but our good Muslim friends and neighbors will be saddened. It makes the battle that they face inside their own communities even harder.”

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