Saturday, April 2, 2011

11 countries speaking out against Koran burning in Florida

More than 10 countries have now condemned a Florida pastor's plan to burn the Koran in commemoration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks of nine years ago. As noted in the Monitor article Why the planned Koran burning causes outrage and alarm, "Muslims see it as the uninterrupted, unchangeable, and eternal word of God. Burning the Koran is akin to directly burning the word of God." Here is what leaders are saying worldwide.
- Stephen Kurczy, Staff writer From The Christian Science Monitor

1. India

The Indian government on Thursday condemned the Florida church pastor's plan to burn the Koran, reported the Indian Express.

"We condemn the action of the pastor. It is totally unbecoming of anyone who claims to be a man of religion. We hope that the US authorities will take strong action to prevent such an outrage being committed," said Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Sept. 9.

"While we await the action of the US authorities, we would appeal to the media in India – both print and visual media – to refrain from telecasting visuals or publishing photographs of the deplorable act," Chidambaram said in a statement.

About 13.4 percent of the Indian population, or 155 million people, is Muslim, according to the CIA World Factbook.

2. Indonesia

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made a personal appeal to President Obama to step in and prevent the Koran burning.

"Indonesia and the US are building or bridging relations between the Western world and Islam. If the Koran burning occurs, then those efforts will be useless," Mr. Yudhoyono wrote in a letter to Obama, according to Agence France-Presse.

His spokesman Teuku Faizasyah told reporters "there is a deep concern over the planned Koran burning ceremony as it could spark conflict among religions."

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, and approximately 86.1 percent of the 230 million population practices Islam, according to the CIA World Factbook.

The Telegraph reported today that the personal appeal from Indonesia will put Obama, who spent four of his childhood years living in Jakarta, "under intense pressure to ban the Koran burning in order to prevent a violent backlash across the Islamic world."

3. Bahrain

Bahrain's Foreign Ministry on Thursday issued a statement that called the Florida Koran burning a "shameful act which is incompatible with the principles of tolerance and coexistence."

The Associated Press reported that the Sept. 9 denouncement is among the first official denunciations in the Arab world against the planned torching of the Koran by the pastor of a small church in Gainesville, Fla.

Bahrain, meanwhile, came under fire from Amnesty International on the same day for blocking freedom of expression.

The country is more than 80 percent Muslim according to the the CIA World Factbook.

4. Pakistan

Pakistan's president has called the proposal to burn the Koran "despicable," while Pakistan's ambassador to the United States has called on conservative radio host Glenn Beck to condemn the burning as a signal of religious tolerance.

President Asif Ali Zardari said "anyone who even thought of such a despicable act must be suffering from a diseased mind and a sickly soul," according to a statement released today and quoted by Agence France-Presse.

"It will inflame sentiments among Muslims throughout the world and cause irreparable damage to interfaith harmony and also to world peace. ... The President called for doing all that it takes to stop such a senseless and outrageous act," the statement said.

Pakistan Ambassador Husain Haqqani on Wednesday told the Associated Press that "the United States should live up to its high ideals and all these people who are against religious extremism and intolerance in the Muslim world should also speak up against meaningless gestures such as burning the Quran," said Haqqani.

"I think it would help if Mr. Glenn Beck came out against it, and said that people of faith do not burn the books of people of other faith," Husain Haqqani told AP. The radio host and TV personality has said that burning the Koran is like burning the flag or the Bible.

About 142 million Pakistanis, or 95 percent of the population, practice Islam, according to the CIA World Factbook.

5. Britain

Past and present British leaders have condemned the Florida pastor's plan.

The spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said today that "primarily this is an issue for the US, but clearly the government's view is that we would not condone the burning of any book. ... We would strongly oppose any attempt to offend any member of any religious or ethnic group. We are committed to religious tolerance," the spokesman said, according to Agence France-Presse.

Parliamentarian Greg Mulholland tabled a motion in the House of Commons that "calls on the Government to express its condemnation of the event and support any actions taken by the American administration in reaction to the event and help to prevent a potential violent backlash for troops in Afghanistan,” according to The Telegraph.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has also come out against the proposed event.

"I deplore the act of burning the Koran. It is disrespectful, wrong and will be widely condemned by people of all faiths and none," Mr. Blair said, according to Agence France-Presse.

"You do not have to be a Muslim to share a sense of deep concern at such a disrespectful way to treat the Holy Book of Islam. Rather than burn the Koran, I would encourage people to read it."

About 1.3 million people practice Islam in the United Kingdom, according to the CIA World Factbook.

6. Canada

“I unequivocally condemn it,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said of the proposed Koran burning in Florida. “We all enjoy freedom of religion and that freedom of religion comes from a tolerant spirit.”

“I don't speak very often about my own religion, but let me be very clear: My God and my Christ is a tolerant God, and that's what we want to see in this world,” he said, according to the Toronto-based Globe and Mail. "I don't think that's the way you treat other faiths, as different as those faiths may be from your own."

Canada's defense minister has also warned that the Florida event could harm NATO troops fighting abroad.

"It will incite further violence and hatred and I'm concerned that this will put Canadians and other ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) soldiers in harm's way," Defense Minister Peter MacKay said in an interview with public broadcaster CBC, according to Agence France-Presse.

More than half a million people are Muslim in Canada, according to the CIA World Factbook.

7. Malaysia

“That is the most heinous crime and action, it's unthinkable," Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said of the proposed Koran burning event.

"There is no doubt whatsoever that it is an attack on Muslims. It will not only anger the Muslims in Malaysia and throughout the world – Christians also don't condone this kind of action," Mr. Aman told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, according to Agence France-Presse.

"I believe America will take appropriate action so this thing will not happen."

Numerous political parties in Malaysia, which has a Muslim majority of about 15.5 million, have also spoken out against the Florida pastor's initiative.

8. Lebanon

"The president condemns the announcement of a religious group in the United States of its intention to openly burn copies of the Koran," Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said in a statement, according to daily newspaper Arab News.

“It is a clear contradiction of the teachings of the three Abrahamic religions and of dialogue among the three faiths [Christianity, Islam and Judaism],” said the leader of Lebanon, whose 4 million population is about 60 percent Muslim, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Amr Moussa, chief of the 22-nation Arab League that includes Lebanon, called the American pastor a “fanatic” and urged Americans to oppose his “destructive approach,” according to Arab News.

Mr. Moussa, who heads the Cairo-based body, said: “We want to see the reaction of the educated in the United States against this fanatic’s destructive approach."

9. Germany

As in the United States, Germany's political and military leaders have spoken out strongly.

“If a fundamentalist, evangelical pastor in America wants to burn the Koran on September 11, then I find this simply disrespectful, even abhorrent and simply wrong," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a speech Wednesday, according to Agence France-Presse.

Brig. Gen. Hans-Werner Fritz, the commander of German troops in Afghanistan, also condemned the action.

“I only wish this wouldn't happen, because it would provide a trigger for violence towards all ISAF troops, including the Germans in northern Afghanistan," he said, according to The Telegraph.

Germany has more than 3 million practicing Muslims, according to the CIA World Factbook.

It also has a small band of Christians with a particular connection to Rev. Terry Jones: he used to be their pastor, until they kicked him out last year. An unnamed church member told Germany's largest news magazine, Der Spiegel, that he created a "climate of fear and control" in the Cologne-based congregation.

10. Vatican City

The Vatican has called the Koran burning an "outrageous and grave" response to the attacks of 9/11.

"These deplorable acts of violence, in fact, cannot be counteracted by an outrageous and grave gesture against a book considered sacred by a religious community," the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious

Affairs said in a statement Wednesday through the Holy See Press Office.

"Each religion, with its respective sacred books, places of worship and symbols, has the right to respect and protection. We are speaking about the respect to be accorded the dignity of the person who is an adherent of that religion and his/her free choice in religious matters.

The Vatican, which is technically the world's smallest country, has a population of just over 800 people, presumably all Roman Catholics. Protestant Christians also condemned planned the Florida event. In America, the 45,000-church National Association of Evangelicals and 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention both criticized it.

"Book burning is a cowardly act by those afraid that their beliefs aren't strong enough to attract people if they are allowed a choice," said prominent megachurch evangelist Rick Warren, according to The Tennessean.

11. Kuwait

"This bizarre plan ... undermines our faith ... is a flagrant insult to the feelings of Muslims worldwide and would ruin efforts to preach understanding amongst faiths," said a foreign ministry official cited by KUNA news agency.

According to Agence France-Presse, the unnamed official said Kuwait has asked its ambassador in Washington and envoy to the United Nations to coordinate with Arab and Muslim envoys to ensure that the “tolerant Islamic faith is respected.”

The statement came after Kuwaiti parliamentarians of various groups expressed outrage at the Koran burning plan.

The head of the Christian churches league in Kuwait, pastor Emmanuel Benjamen al-Ghareeb, also condemned the plan in a statement and stressed it does not represent Christ's teachings of tolerance.

Kuwait's 2.7 million population is 85 percent Muslim, according to the CIA World Factbook.

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