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Clinton: 9/11 Koran burning 'disgraceful'

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 08 September 2010

A radical Christian pastor is set to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks despite international condemnation. Sarah Smith says the US government is "terribly worried" about the backlash.

A radical Christian pastor is set to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks

A small Florida church is defying criticism and insists it will go ahead with the burning on Saturday, in spite of criticism from major political and religious figures and a warning that the act could risk lives.

Radical pastor Terry Jones, author of Islam is of the Devil, says he wants to "expose Islam" as a "violent and oppressive religion" on the ninth anniversary of the attacks. The leader of the 30-person Dove World Outreach Centre has dubbed Saturday "International Burn a Koran Day".

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and General Petraeus have all condemned the plans.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said burning the Koran was a "disrespectful, disgraceful act". She welcomed the unequivocal condemnation from American religious leaders of an "anti-Muslim frenzy".

However, despite the pressure, Mr Jones confirmed in a press conference that he would go ahead with his plans.

The controversy comes at a time of fierce debate in the US over plans to build a Muslim community centre near the site of the 11 September 2001 terror attacks. 

Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders have denounced the "misinformation and outright bigotry" against US Muslims as the debate continues.

Yesterday America's top military leader in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus , said the event could "endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort".

The head of US and Nato in Afghanistan said in a statement: "It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems, not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community."

Channel 4 News Washington correspondent Sarah Smith said that Hillary Clinton had asked the world's media not to cover the event, if it does take place on Saturday.

"She and a lot of other American leaders are terribly worried about what the backlash might be when pictures of the Koran being burned on American soil flash around the world, as they inevitably will," she said.

"American generals talk about this doing as much damage to America's cause abroad as those photographs of prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib in Iraq did."

Is the Koran burning a one off? Or is the world running wild?
What we appear to have here is less a clash of cultures, more a collision of ignorance, power and instant communication, writes Jon Snow.

A collision that America’s leaders seem to feel has all the potential for damage that the assassination of Grand Archduke Frans Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo had upon the course of the First World War.

So what’s to do? Arrest the pastor? Seize his Korans? Who would wish to face down such a crisis?

When Sarah Smith, our Washington correspondent, floated the idea that she would file a report yesterday morning, I had heard nothing of Terry Jones’s threat.

At first I could hardly believe it, then I quickly fell to thinking that it was something of an “accident waiting to happen”.

Read the blog in full

The planned event has already prompted protests in Kabul with several hundred Afghans gathering outside the Milad ul-Nabi mosque chanting "Death to America".

President Barack Obama's administration made clear that it deplored the burning, which State Department spokesman PJ Crowley described as "un-American."

Attorney General Eric Holder, the top US law enforcement official, called the planned Florida event "idiotic" during a closed-door meeting with a small group of religious leaders, said Saperstein and a Justice Department official.

Holder also told the group no one should have to live and pray in fear and that he planned soon to address the issue publicly, the meeting participants said. He also reiterated a commitment to aggressively prosecute hate crimes, they said.

Rallies for and against the Muslim centre and mosque are set for Saturday in New York after a memorial ceremony for those killed in the 9/11 attacks. Families of the victims were debating whether to call a truce on the anniversary, with some saying the day should be reserved for "appropriate remembrance and reflection."

Critics say the planned location two blocks from Ground Zero is insensitive, while supporters say politicians have wrongly commandeered the emotionally charged debate before US congressional elections on 2 Nov.

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