Pastor, Despite Protests, Still Plans Quran Burning
(The Wall Street Journal) -- by VALERIE BAUERLEIN And FARNAZ FASSIHI --
The pastor of a small Florida church who has pledged to incinerate copies of the Quran on Sept. 11 said Wednesday he would press ahead with the plan, despite pleas from the Obama administration, U.S. military officials, the Vatican and religious leaders around the world.
"As of right now, we are not convinced that backing down is the right thing," said Terry Jones, pastor of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla.
The church's plans have been denounced by Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and other senior military officials who say they fear images of a burning Quran could be used to drum up anger toward the U.S. and potentially endanger troops.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the church's actions "disgraceful" in a speech Wednesday to the Council on Foreign Relations. Protests against the plan have also come from the Republican and Democratic candidates for Florida governor, as well as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Meanwhile, Muslim media from Turkey to Afghanistan warned that burning the sacred text of Islam could deepen animosity toward the West.
While leaders of Muslim nations have refrained from commenting on the Quran controversy so far, editorials and news bulletins broadcast on state television mostly focused on how the issue had drawn harsh criticism from U.S. officials and world religious leaders.
Iran called Mr. Jones a "Christian Zionist" who was supported by Israel and belonged to a fringe fundamentalist Christian group seeking confrontation between Christians and Muslims.
"America must contain this pastor if it wants to avoid a confrontation with the Muslim world," Mohsen Pak Aien, the head of Organization for Islamic Culture and Communication, told Iran's Tabnak news website...
Mr. Jones's planned actions have put the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida in a delicate position. The group is suing the local public-school system on behalf of two families who attend Dove World Outreach. The families have children who wore T-shirts emblazoned with "Islam is of the Devil" to school last year and were asked to not wear them or to cover them up.
The Florida ACLU condemned Mr. Jones's message Wednesday as un-American but defended his right to free speech."We cannot pick and choose who is protected by the Constitution," spokesman Brandon Hensler said. "We're very concerned about this wave of anti-Muslim sentiment. But the answer is not to infringe on their right to say what they want to say."...MORE...LINK