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9/11 remembered as Koran burning 'cancelled'

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 11 September 2010

Commemorations mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks as a pastor, who planned to burn copies of the Koran, travels to New York in a bid for talks aimed at challenging a proposed Islamic cultural centre near Ground Zero.

As thousands prepare to remember those who died in 2001, US President Barack Obama said the anniversary should be used to mourn victims, but also show that Americans "are not at war with Islam".

"We're at war against terrorist organisations that have distorted Islam or falsely used the banner of Islam to engage in their destructive acts," he said.

Radical pastor Terry Jones arrived in New York today amid international condemnation at his plans to use the 9/11 anniversary to burn copies of the Koran. Speaking today Mr Jones said the event was now officially cancelled.

The Florida pastor - leader of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Centre - is set to hold talks with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf who is overseeing plans for an Islamic cultural centre and mosque near the site of the terror attacks. In an exclusive interview on NBC's Today Show Mr Jones said he hoped cancelling the event would open a door to official talks with the Imam.

'Goal accomplished'
Mr Jones said that while the Koran burning event was cancelled, he felt his original goal had already been completed.

"Our reasons were to expose that there is an element of Islam that is very dangerous and very radical," he told NBC.

"I believe we have definitely accomplished that mission.

"Even though we have not burnt one Koran we have gotten over 100 death threats, we see what is going around in the whole world even if we do it.

"We feel we have accomplished our goal. We were obedient. We feel God is telling us to stop and we also hope that with us making this first gesture not to burning the Koran - not today, not ever - we hope that maybe that will open up a door to be able to talk to the imam about the Ground Zero mosque".  

Last night Mr Jones said he had "a challenge to give to the imam in New York".

Mr Jones had initially called off his plans for "international burn a Koran day", saying he had been told the site for the controversial centre in New York would be moved. After it emerged that no such promise had been made, the pastor said the event was "suspended but not cancelled".   

The book burning plans sparked international outrage as politicians and religious leaders urged the pastor to call off the plans.

Earlier President Obama said the bonfire would prove a "recruitment bonanza for al-Qaida". Mr Jones also received a phone call from Defence Secretary Robert Gates who said burning books would risk the lives of the US troops.

Yesterday one person was shot dead as thousands took to the streets of Afghanistan in an anti-Koran burning demonstration.

How long before someone burns the Bible?
"We are the new Communists." That's how one man described to me what its like to be a Muslim in America today, writes US Correspondent Sarah Smith from New York.
At morning prayers at the largest mosque in New York City today, there was more of a mood of patient resignation, not the fear or fury you might think that the row over Terry Jones' threatened Koran burning would have created.

One man told me his greatest fear was that if Islam's holy book was publically set on fire, then how long would it be before someone else burnt the Bible?

Read more

The world remembers
Thousands of people were killed and injured when Muslim extremists hijacked four planes and flew two into the World Trade Centre and a third into the Pentagon on 11 September 2001. The fourth crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers and crew tried to regain control of the aircraft.

The British victims of the atrocity will be remembered in Grosvenor Square, London, today, where tributes will be laid on behalf of the UK and US governments.

A senior civil service official will lay 67 roses - one for each of the British victims of the September 11 attacks. The flowers will carry a hand-written message from Prime Minister David Cameron, which reads: "In memory of the victims of terrorism in the USA on 11 September 2001. They will never be forgotten."

In the US memorial services will take place at the crash sites and the remembrance event at Ground Zero will be followed by rallies for and against the Islamic centre plans.

After angry protests against the planned Koran burning, Lieutenant Colonel Nick Parker, deputy commander of International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) troops in Afghanistan, told Sky News: "These sorts of incidents outside Afghanistan are unhelpful to us."

Thousands of Muslims gathered at one of western Europe's largest mosques in London yesterday to condemn the pastor.

Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, world head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, addressed millions of people from a live telecast from the Baitul Futuh Mosque and Mr Jones's plans spread "hatred" around the world.

"Religious extremism, be it Christian extremism, Muslim extremism, or any other kind is never a true reflection of the religion," he said.

Foreign Secretary William Hague was among those who condemned Mr Jones's plans to burn copies of the Koran as "selfish and provocative in the extreme".

The White House, the Vatican, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan General David Petraeus and Tony Blair all urged Mr Jones to call off his protest.

UK religious leaders unite against Koran burning
As he Florida pastor's on-off Koran burning threat continued, international broadcasters and news publications were invited to one of the largest mosques in Europe, in south west London, writes Channel 4 News' Samira Ahmed.

They were invited to see local religious leaders and Merton councillors make a stand for reason and tolerance; a media stunt of their own, perhaps, in the face of a media stunt by a man with a few dozen followers that has seen the intervention of NATO's commander in Afghanistan, General Petraeus, and the US President himself.

Jewish, Catholic, C of E, Bahaai and other Christian denominations all took part in an event for the cameras, as well as an American Embassy official.

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