Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How American Muslims Are Reacting to Koran Burning Threat

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How American Muslims Are Reacting to Koran Burning Threat

Article excerpt

For American Muslims - already in the eye of a political storm over the proposed mosque near ground zero in New York - a Florida pastor's Koran burning threat is seen as a teachable moment crucial to how the US public views Muslims and Islam.

A Florida pastor's plan to burn copies of the Koran has sparked outrage around the Islamic world and concern among US officials that it could result in a "recruitment bonanza" for Al Qaeda, as President Obama put it on ABC's "Good Morning America" Thursday.

But for American Muslims - already in the eye of a political storm over the proposed mosque near ground zero in New York - it's seen as a teachable moment critical to how the US public views Muslims and Islam.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced Thursday morning that it will distribute 200,000 copies of the Koran in response to the Pastor Terry Jones's plan to burn 200 copies at his Gainesville, Fla., church on Saturday - the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

WATCH VIDEO: Build a 'mosque' near ground zero?

11 countries speaking out against Koran burning in Florida

"People may be surprised to learn about the commonalities between the Koran, the Bible, and the Torah," said Nihad Awad, executive director of CAIR, the largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization in the US.

In recent days, Pastor Jones has been the center of a delicate balance between freedom of expression and the need to prevent any dangerous responses in the US and abroad.

Opponents of stunt grow

The number of organizations and prominent individuals speaking out against the Koran burning continues to grow, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Southern Baptist Convention, the Vatican, the US ambassador and the commanding general in Iraq, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and the Rev. Franklin Graham (who once called Islam "a very evil and wicked religion").

CAIR has written General James Mattis, commander of the US Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is headquartered in Tampa, Fla., asking that he personally visit the Florida church in order to head off the planned Koran burning.

"I believe this attempt to desecrate copies of the Quran will harm our nation's image throughout the Muslim world and fear that those who seek to harm our nation will exploit the burnings to promote their own political agendas," Mr. Awad wrote to Mattis Wednesday.

Meanwhile, as public opposition to the proposed mosque near ground zero grows and Sept. 11 approaches, Muslims are preparing for anti-Islamic acts, encouraging adherents to participate in 9/11 remembrance ceremonies, and changing how they observe the end of Ramadan - typically three days of festivities likened to Christmas for Christians and which happens to fall on Sept. 11 this year.

CAIR's Awad will be going to Gainesville Friday to give the sermon for the end of Ramadan. He will also hold a news conference there on Saturday following any Koran burnings. …

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