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Clinton condemns Quran-burning plan

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Clinton: Quran burning not America
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemns planned burning of Qurans
  • U.S. Embassy in Pakistan also slams Florida church's plan
  • Pastor calls on Petraeus to confront radical Islam
  • He says congregation is aware of warning that act could cause problems for U.S. troops

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(CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has condemned the planned burning of Qurans on the anniversary of the 2001 attacks on the United States as criticism mounts from Muslims around the world.

Speaking Tuesday at an iftar meal in Washington to celebrate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Clinton said she welcomed the concerns.

"I am heartened by the clear, unequivocal condemnation of this disrespectful, disgraceful act that has come from American religious leaders of all faiths ... as well as secular U.S. leaders and opinion makers," she said.

On Wednesday the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan also condemned the Florida church's plan to burn the Quran, the Muslim holy book, as "disrespectful, intolerant and divisive," in a statement.

The statement comes days after the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, warned that the plan could put U.S. troops' lives at risk.

The pastor of the church, Terry Jones, told CNN Tuesday his flock was taking the warning seriously but had not decided to cancel the event, planned for September 11.

Jones, pastor of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, told CNN's "American Morning:"We have firmly made up our mind, but at the same time, we are definitely praying about it."

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Later Tuesday, Jones had a response to the statement from Petraeus.

"The general needs to point his finger to radical Islam and tell them to shut up, tell them to stop, tell them that we will not bow our knees to them," Jones said on CNN's "AC360."

"We are burning the book," Jones said. "We are not killing someone. We are not murdering people."

The planned action has drawn sharp criticism from Muslims around the world and from U.S. officials.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday issued a statement saying the U.S. government "in no way condones such acts of disrespect against the religion of Islam, and is deeply concerned about deliberate attempts to offend members of religious or ethnic groups."

It emphasized that it strongly condemned "the offensive messages, which are contrary to U.S. government policy and deeply offensive to Muslims especially during the month of Ramadan."

With about 120,000 U.S. and NATO-led troops still battling al Qaeda and its allies in the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban movement, Petraeus warned that burning Qurans "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."

Petraeus said he was concerned about the political repercussions of the church's plan.

"Even the rumor that it might take place has sparked demonstrations such as the one that took place in Kabul yesterday," he said. "Were the actual burning to take place, the safety of our soldiers and civilians would be put in jeopardy and accomplishment of the mission would be made more difficult."

Thousands of Indonesians gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sunday to protest the planned Quran burning.

"The burning is not only an insult to the holy Quran, but an insult to Islam and Muslims around the world," said Muhammad Ismail, a spokesman for the hard-line Indonesian Muslim group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Jones said his congregation was aware that the action was offensive.

"We realize that this action would indeed offend people, offend the Muslims. I am offended when they burn the flag. I am offended when they burn the Bible. But we feel that the message that we are trying to send is much more important than people being offended."

Jones said Muslims are welcomed in the United States, if they observe the Constitution and don't try to impose Sharia law, or Muslim law. The message, he said, is directed toward the "radical element of Islam."

"Our message is very clear," he said. "It is not to the moderate Muslim. Our message is not a message of hate. Our message is a message of warning to the radical element of Islam, and I think what we see right now around the globe provides exactly what we're talking about," he said.

The center says it was founded in 1986 as a "total concept church for the rich, the poor, the young and the old." Its purpose is to "stand up for righteousness and for the truth of the Bible." It stresses that "Christians must return to the truth and stop hiding."

"We need to speak up against sin and call the people to repentance. Abortion is murder. Homosexuality is sin. We need to call these things what they are and bring the world the true message: that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life," it says on the church's website.

It also emphasizes its dislike of Islam, and on its website, it blog posts an item called "Ten Reasons to Burn a Koran.

"Any religion which would profess anything other than this truth is of the devil. This is why we also take a stand against Islam, which teaches that Jesus is not the Son of God, therefore taking away the saving power of Jesus Christ and leading people straight to Hell," the site says.

CNN's Atia Abawi contributed to this report.

 
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