Pastor in pledge to burn Korans
A US church minister has insisted that he will go ahead with plans to burn copies of the Koran in protest against the September 11 attacks, despite the top general in Afghanistan warning it may endanger American troops.
Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Centre in Florida said he understood General David Petraeus's concerns, but he still plans to hold the burning on Saturday - the ninth anniversary of the attacks.
Gen Petraeus warned that "images of the burning of a Koran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan, and around the world, to inflame public opinion and incite violence".
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also voiced her disapproval of the plan, saying: "I am heartened by the clear, unequivocal condemnation of this disrespectful, disgraceful act that has come from American religious leaders of all faiths."
The Rev Jones said he is concerned about repercussions for troops, but wonders how many times the US can back down.
"We think it's time to turn the tables and instead of possibly blaming us for what could happen, we put the blame where it belongs - on the people who would do it," he said. "And maybe instead of addressing us, we should address radical Islam and send a very clear warning that they are not to retaliate in any form."
The pastor, who runs the small, evangelical Christian church with an anti-Islam philosophy in Gainesville, said he has received more than 100 death threats since he proclaimed in July that he would stage "International Burn a Koran Day".
The fire department has denied him a burn permit for September 11, but he has vowed to go ahead with his event. He said lawyers have told him his right to burn the Koran is protected by the First Amendment whether he has permission from the city or not.
Muslims consider the Koran to be the word of God and insist it is treated with the utmost respect, along with any printed material containing its verses or the name of Allah or the Prophet Mohammed. Any intentional damage or show of disrespect to the Koran is deeply offensive.
At least two dozen Christian churches, Jewish temples and Muslim organisations in Gainesville are planning inclusive events, with some will reading from the Koran at their own services, to counter what the Rev Jones is doing.