Petraeus, NATO chief warn of Qur’an-burning repercussions

WASHINGTON: Fear looms over a week that should be one of celebration — the end of Ramadan, the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days — and solemn commemoration for 9/11.

The Dove World Outreach Center, a tiny 50-member Florida church, is burning up the headlines with its plan to build a bonfire for the Holy Qur’an on Sept. 11, despite warnings from the US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, that he is “very concerned” about potential repercussions that could endanger troops and “the overall effort in Afghanistan.” He said this in a statement around midnight Monday.

With about 120,000 US and NATO-led troops still battling Al-Qaeda and the Taleban, Petraeus warned: “This is precisely the kind of action the Taleban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community.”

“I think this supposed minister epitomizes the words intolerance, ignorance and fear-mongering … he does not realize that he is endangering the lives of both Muslims and Americans…,” a Marine general told Arab News anonymously.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen also condemned the Qur’an-burning plan, saying it posed a risk to allied troops in Afghanistan.

Such a move violated the NATO alliance’s “values” and “there is a risk that it may also have a negative impact on security for our troops,” he told reporters during a visit to Washington.

“I think such actions are in strong contradiction with all the values that we stand for and fight for,” Rasmussen said.

US Muslims, meanwhile, who would, in other years, have celebrated the conclusion of the Ramadan fast with Eid Al-Fitr, have decided to keep a low profile because the celebrations coincide with the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. They fear being seen as celebrating the attacks, as if all believers were complicit with the terrorists.

Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam with a plan to build a community center and prayer room two blocks north of Ground Zero, has cut short a State Department-backed speaking tour abroad to face the clamor back home.

Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center, canceled a planned appearance on CNN to discuss the controversy Monday afternoon with Plemon el-Amin, the imam of an Atlanta, Georgia, mosque, who has served as a faith adviser to three mayors of the city.  He told CNN that Jones’ criticism of Islam is “really quite uninformed.”

“But in America, there is the freedom to be ignorant,” el-Amin said. “The only problem is in the world, many people don’t understand that particular freedom. So what he is doing is like shouting fire in a theater, in a world theater, and people are upset.”

At least 24 interfaith leaders in the Gainesville, Florida, area, near Jones’ church, have planned activities to adamantly reject the Dove World’s planned Qur’an burning. In a statement the leaders said: “We state clearly the act of burning the sacred scripture of Islam has no place in our faith, our religious communities, our town, or in our nation.” -arabnews