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Vatican: Quran burning 'outrageous'

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Pastor: Quran burning demo will happen
  • Pastor: "We have no intention of canceling"
  • Hillary Clinton condems the idea as "disgraceful"
  • Palin to pastor: "Please stand down"
  • Pastor Terry Jones says his message is aimed at radical Islamists

(CNN) -- Burning the Quran would be an "outrageous and grave gesture," the Vatican said Wednesday, joining a chorus of voices pleading with a small Florida church not to burn Islam's holy book on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The Vatican body responsible for dialogue with other religions expressed "great concern" about the plan by Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it would be a "disrespectful, disgraceful act." She was speaking Tuesday night at a State Department dinner in honor of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Her statement came a day after the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, warned that the plan "could cause significant problems" for American troops overseas.

But despite the growing pressure, the pastor of the Florida church, Terry Jones, said Wednesday that "as of this time we have no intention of canceling."

Jones all week has rebuffed pleas to call off the event, saying radical Islamists are the target of his message.

"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."

Jones announced Wednesday that the church's website provider has "canceled" Dove World Outreach Center's accounts, though its website, and another URL for a book written by Jones titled "Islam is of the Devil," were still accessible Wednesday evening.

"We feel that it's definitely an indirect attack on our freedom of speech," Jones said, adding that the provider, Rackspace, is "trying to shut us down."

But he said, "This is not going to affect the event going forward."

A spokesman for the provider, Rackspace, said the company decided to cancel the center's sites after investigating a complaint and reviewing both sites.

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The center "violated the hate-speech provision of our acceptable-use policy," said Rackspace spokesman Dan Goodgame.

"This is not a constitutional issue. This is a contract issue," said Goodgame, adding that his company had given the center until midnight to find another host and move its content. Goodgame said Rackspace has about 100,000 customers and he did not know how long it had hosted those two specific sites.

On Tuesday, Jones said his flock was taking Petraeus' warning seriously but had not decided to cancel the event.

Jones told CNN that while his congregation still plans to burn Qurans to protest the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the church is "weighing" its intentions.

"We have firmly made up our mind, but at the same time, we are definitely praying about it," Jones said on CNN's "American Morning."

As reaction to the planned event grew Wednesday, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin took to social media outlets, using Twitter to call on Jones to "please stand down."

On Facebook, Palin wrote that Jones' planned Quran burning "will feed the fire of caustic rhetoric and appear as nothing more than mean-spirited religious intolerance. Don't feed that fire."

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is one of the few public officials who defended Jones' right to go ahead, even as he condemned the idea as "distasteful.

"I don't think he would like if somebody burned a book that in his religion he thinks is holy. ... But the First Amendment protects everybody, and you can't say that we are going to apply the First Amendment to only those cases where we are in agreement," Bloomberg said, citing the section of the Constitution that promises freedom of speech.

"If you want to be able to say what you want to say when the time comes that you want to say it, you have to defend others no matter how much you disagree with them," Bloomberg said.

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

The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan condemned it as "disrespectful, intolerant and divisive," in a statement on Wednesday.

"We are deeply concerned about all deliberate attempts to offend members of any religious or ethnic group," said Stephen Engelken, the second-ranking diplomat at the embassy.

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."

"Americans from all religious and ethnic backgrounds reject the offensive initiative by this small group in Florida. A great number of American voices are protesting the hurtful statements made by this organization," the Afghanistan embassy said.

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, issued a joint statement with Lloyd Austin, the commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq, to condemn the act.

"As this holy month of Ramadan comes to a close and Iraqis prepare to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, we join with the citizens of Iraq and of every nation to repudiate religious intolerance and to respect and defend the diversity of faiths of our fellow man," they wrote.

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."

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman denounced the Quran burning as "contrary to the teachings of tolerant divine religions and totally incompatible with the logic of dialogue among civilizations, religions and cultures."

Suleiman noted that a United Nations conference on religious tolerance two years ago called on people "to renounce hatred and intolerance and terrorism," and "to reflect on the Christian teachings and concepts of humanity that emphasizes the love and respect for the other."

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.

Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population.

Jones said his congregation is aware that the action is 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, 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."