Video: White House, military, Palin denounce Quran burning

  1. Transcript of: White House, military, Palin denounce Quran burning

    MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: And now let's turn to the raging controversy over one Florida church's plan to burn the Quran on 9/11. The leader of that church is hinting this morning that he could be talked out of it. NBC 's Kerry Sanders spoke to him, he is in Gainesville , Florida , this morning with more. Kerry , good morning to you.

    KERRY SANDERS reporting: Well, good morning, Meredith . Pastor Jones told me that if he got a message from God he might reconsider burning the Quran and now in an interview with USA Today , he's gone one step further and said that if he got a direct call from the White House , from the State Department , from the Pentagon , he might also consider backing off. Pastor Terry Jones is the man at the center of an international controversy.

    Pastor TERRY JONES: Our burning of the Quran is to call the attention that something's wrong. Something is wrong.

    SANDERS: Despite pressure from the State Department ...

    Secretary of State HILLARY CLINTON: ...make this outrageous and distressful, disgraceful plan.

    SANDERS: ...and the US military .

    General DAVID PETRAEUS: Concern that the images from the burning of a Quran would be used in the same way that extremists used images from Abu Ghraib .

    SANDERS: Even Sarah Palin is calling on Jones to call off this weekend's planned burning of the Quran , warning on her Facebook page, "It will feed the fire of caustic rhetoric and appear as nothing more than mean-spirited religious intolerance." Pastor Jones says he believes he's been told by God to burn the Quran .

    Pastor JONES: It is possibly time for us in a new way to actually stand up, confront terrorism.

    SANDERS: Worldwide in the Muslim world protests are growing. All this triggered by a small church in central Florida , The Dove World Outreach Center . The congregation numbers less than 50. Have you read the Quran , have you studied it?

    Pastor JONES: I've only read parts of the Quran .

    SANDERS: OK, tell me a part that you have read that offends you, that has you and your small congregation out here planning on burning that Islamic holy book?

    Pastor JONES: We are -- we are burning the Quran as a demonstration.

    SANDERS: Yeah, I know. But quote something that you read that offended you, that has you concerned.

    Pastor JONES: Well, of course, the Quran does not recognize Jesus Christ as God, the son of God, the risen Savior , the crucified Savior .

    SANDERS: Here in Gainesville , Christians, Muslims and Jews have gathered in prayer to try to counteract what they call a message of hate. Wednesday on CNN 's " Larry King Live ," Iman Feisal Abdul Rauf , the imam leading the effort to build a controversial Islamic cultural center near ground zero, called on Jones to rethink his plans to burn the Quran .

    Imam FEISAL ABDUL RAUF: And many Christians say, 'What would Jesus do?' Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek . Jesus taught us to love your enemy. We are not your enemies.

    SANDERS: For now, Pastor Jones says he's going forward with his plans to burn the Quran unless God tells him not to. And you will have gotten your 15 minutes.

    Pastor JONES: Well, it's actually -- it's actually not about -- not about me. I don't enjoy doing these things. These things are very stressful, they're very difficult. I'm not used to this type of attention. As you said, I'm a pastor of a small church. So actually it's really not about me, it's about the message.

    SANDERS: Well, there is now increased security in place out in this rural area. The police are jotting down the tag numbers of all the cars that come here, as well as taking the driver's license information from everybody who makes their way here. In addition to that, on Saturday when this Quran - burning event is planned, there's going to be about 90,000 people gathering a short distance away at the stadium as the University of South Florida takes on the University of Florida in a football game, so there's going to now be increased security there, as well. Meredith :

NBC, and news services
updated 9/9/2010 1:23:39 PM ET 2010-09-09T17:23:39

The international police agency Interpol warned governments worldwide on Thursday of an increased risk of terror attacks if the planned burning of the Quran by a Florida pastor goes ahead.

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"There is a strong likelihood that violent attacks on innocent people would follow," Interpol said in a statement, adding that it was acting partly on a request from Pakistan.

In the U.S., the State Department on Thursday warned Americans abroad of the "high" potential for violence.

"Demonstrations, some violent, have already taken place in several countries, including Afghanistan and Indonesia, in response to media reports of the church's plans," it said in an advisory. "The potential for further protests and demonstrations, some of which may turn violent, remains high."

Terry Jones, leader of a church of about 30 members in Gainesville, Fla., had planned to burn copies of the Islamic holy book on Saturday, the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, which this year coincides with the Muslim Eid holiday.

Thursday afternoon, Jones said he had canceled the burning after being assured that a mosque being proposed near New York City's World Trade Center site would be moved. The backers of the mosque project have denied any deal was made.

At Interpol earlier, Secretary General Ronald Noble said in the statement that "although there are currently no specific details as to what forms of terror attacks would follow, what is clear is if the Koran burning goes ahead as planned, there will be tragic consequences, ones which may well claim the lives of many innocent people." Video: Tony Blair says burning is 'stupid and disrespectful' (on this page)

Interpol said Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik, "personally contacted" Noble "to engage the world police body’s assistance in warning law enforcement of the increased terrorist threat."

"It is our duty to ensure that we pass this information on to law enforcement agencies around the globe so that they can take appropriate measures," Noble added.

Interpol asked that any country receiving information about a potential threat alert the agency.

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“September 11 is a day when the world should come together to redouble our efforts to prevent and fight terrorism, not a day when any individual, especially an American, should engage in provocative acts that will give terrorists propaganda intended to convert September 11 from a day of remembrance, to one of recruitment for terrorists and others inspired to attack the U.S. and other western targets,” Noble said.

"The reaction of Interpol and others around the world in response to this planned hateful act should be seen by the Muslim community as strong evidence that this man and his small congregation stand alone," Noble added.

President Barack Obama has condemned Jones' plan as "destructive."

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The president, as well as Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of forces in Afghanistan, says the act could endanger U.S. troops there as well as Iraq and lead to unrest in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On Wednesday, the State Department said it had ordered U.S. embassies around the world to assess their security ahead of the planned burning.

U.S. diplomatic posts were instructed to convene "emergency action committees" and to alert U.S. citizens in those countries if the potential for protests is deemed to exist.

Video: State Dept. issues travel warning (on this page)

And the FBI earlier issued a bulletin stating that "the FBI assesses with high confidence that, as with past incidents perceived as acts of desecration against Islam, extremist actors will continue to threaten or attempt to harm the leaders, organizers, or attendees (of) the event."

"Depending on the continued national and international publicity the event receives, it may also inspire retaliatory attacks against U.S. facilities overseas," it added.

The bulletin notes that in July, two online threats were posted on the extremist website "al-Faloja" — one of the posts talks of a suicide attack at the Gainesville church, the other talks about killing Americans in general.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Explainer: What they're saying about Quran burning plan

  • Image: Church leader says no plans to cancel burning of the Koran.
    Dove World Outreach Center pastor Terry Jones speaks at a news conference Wednesday at his Gainesville, Fla., church.

    Many people from Sarah Palin to Hillary Clinton are weighing in on plans by the Rev. Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11 at his Gainesville, Fla., church. The issue has generated anger among Muslims abroad and concern among U.S. military officers of retaliation against troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. See what they have to say:

  • Pastor Terry Jones, at Wednesday news conference:

    Wednesday: "As of right now, we are not convinced that backing down is the right thing. Our burning of the Quran is to call attention to the fact that something is wrong."

    Thursday: Jones at a news conference said he prayed about the decision and that if the site of the Islamic center and mosque near ground zero was moved, it would be a sign from God to call off the Quran burning: "The imam has agreed to move the mosque, we have agreed to cancel our event on Saturday. ... We are, of course, now against any other group burning Qurans. We would right now ask no one to burn Qurans. We are absolutely strong on that. It is not the time to do it."

    Later Thursday: "We have not canceled the burning on Saturday; we have suspended it until we get confirmation on the information we were given today. ... We are a little back to square one. I'm praying" to decide what to do next."

  • Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, after news conference with Pastor Jones:

    Image: Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Socie
    PAUL J. RICHARDS  /  AFP - Getty Images
    Imam Muhammad Musri

    "I told the pastor that I personally believe the mosque should not be there, and I will do everything in my power to make sure it is moved. But there is not any offer from there (New York) that it will be moved. All we have agreed to is a meeting, and I think we would all like to see a peaceful resolution."

  • New York Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, in prepared statement:

    Image: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in Dubai
    American Sufi Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

    "I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Korans. However, I have not spoken to Pastor Jones or Imam Musri. I am surprised by their announcement. We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands to build peace and harmony."

  • President Barack Obama, speaking on ABC's ''Good Morning America'' program:

    Image: US Presodent Obama returns from Camp David
    Yuri Gripas  /  Pool via EPA
    President Barack Obama

    "I just hope he understands that what he's proposing to do is completely contrary to our values as Americans. That this country has been built on the notions of religious freedom and religious tolerance. ... This is a recruitment bonanza for al-Qaida. ... You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan or Afghanistan. This could increase the recruitment of individuals who'd be willing to blow themselves up in American cities, or European cities."

  • Gen. David Petraeus, top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, to NBC's Brian Williams:

    Image: US Army Gen. David Petraeus, Comm
    AFP - Getty Images
    Gen. David Petraeus

    “We’re concerned that the images from the burning of a Quran would be used in the same way that extremists used images from Abu Ghraib — that they would in a sense be indelible.

    "They would be used by those who wish us ill, to incite violence and to enflame public opinion against us and against our mission here in Afghanistan, as well as our missions undoubtedly around the world.”

  • Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations:

    Image: Clinton Delivers Foreign Policy Speech At Council On Foreign Relations
    Mark Wilson  /  Getty Images
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

    "It is regrettable that a pastor in Gainesville, Florida, with a church of no more than 50 people can make this outrageous and distrustful, disgraceful plan and get the world's attention, but that's the world we live in right now."

    See video.

  • Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate, from her Facebook page:

    Image: Sarah Palin
    Alex Brandon  /  AP
    Former Gov. Sarah Palin

    "I would hope that Pastor Terry Jones and his supporters will consider the ramifications of their planned book-burning event. It will feed the fire of caustic rhetoric and appear as nothing more than mean-spirited religious intolerance. Don’t feed that fire. If your ultimate point is to prove that the Christian teachings of mercy, justice, freedom, and equality provide the foundation on which our country stands, then your tactic to prove this point is totally counter-productive."

  • Mohammad Mukhtar, cleric and candidate for Afghan parliament in Sept. 18 election:

    "It is the duty of Muslims to react. When their holy book Quran gets burned in public, then there is nothing left. If this happens, I think the first and most important reaction will be that wherever Americans are seen, they will be killed. No matter where they will be in the world they will be killed."

  • Glenn Beck, Fox talk-show host, on his blog:

    Image: Glenn Beck Hosts Controversial "Restoring Honor" Rally At Lincoln Memorial
    Alex Wong  /  Getty Images
    Glenn Beck

    "What is wrong with us? It’s just like the Ground Zero mosque plan. Does this church have the right? Yes. Should they? No. And not because of the potential backlash or violence. Simply because it is wrong. The more I reflect on what happened on 8/28 the more I realize the amazing power of GOOD. ... Burning the Koran is like burning the flag or the Bible. You can do it, but whose heart will you change by doing it? You will only harden the hearts of those who could be moved."

  • Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and presumed 2012 presidential candidate, to Politico:

    Image: Mitt Romney
    Cliff Owen  /  AP file
    Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney

    “Burning the Quran is wrong on every level. It puts troops in danger, and it violates a founding principle of our republic.”

  • New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at news conference about construction at Twin Towers site:

    Image: New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
    Jemal Countess  /  Getty Images
    New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

    "In a strange way, I'm here to defend his (Jones') right to do that. I happen to think that it is distasteful. I don't think he would like it if somebody burned a book that in his religion he thinks is holy. We can't say that we're going to apply the First Amendment to only those cases where we are in agreement."

  • Haley Barbour, Mississippi governor and chair of the Republican Governors Association, at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast:

    Image: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour
    Joe Raedle  /  Getty Images
    Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour

    “I do not think well of the idea of burning anybody’s Koran or Bible or Book of Mormon or anything else. I don’t think there is any excuse for it. ... But I will tell you this. Any issue that takes people's eye off of unemployment, job creation, economic growth, taxes, spending, deficits, debts is taking your eye off the ball.”

  • James Jeffrey, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, in a joint statement:

    Image: US ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey spea
    Ali Al-saadi  /  AFP - Getty Images
    US ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey
    Image: Commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin speaks in Baghdad
    Thaier Al-sudani  /  Reuters
    Commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin

    The plan is "disrespectful, divisive and disgraceful. ... 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."

  • Ann Coulter, author, conservative commentator, on her web site:

    Image: Ann Coulter
    Jason Kempin  /  WireImage file
    Ann Coulter

    "The reason not to burn Qurans is that it's unkind — not to jihadists, but to Muslims who mean us no harm. The same goes for building a mosque at ground zero — in both cases, it's not a question of anyone's 'rights,' it's just a nasty thing to do.

  • Julius Scruggs, the president of the National Baptist Convention, in Kansas City, quoted on

    Image: Rev. Julius Scruggs
    Lance Murphey  /  AP file
    Rev. Julius Scruggs

    "As a Christian pastor I don't advocate burning a Koran. I wouldn't want a Muslim to burn a Bible. There's a better way to disagree, if you want to disagree, than to publicly disgrace a religion by burning its holy book."

  • The Vatican's ''Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue'' statement:

    The "deplorable acts of violence" demonstrated on 9/11 "cannot be counteracted by an outrageous and grave gesture against a book considered sacred by a religious community." The 9/11 anniversary should be a moment "to offer our deep sentiments of solidarity with those who were struck by these horrendous terrorists attacks."

  • Grand Ayatollah Lotfollah Sadeghi Golpaygani, according to Fars News, in Wall Street Journal:

    "The dangers of this despicable action are clear to all. It will ignite massive fires of anger and hatred toward America. The U.S. government and president will be held accountable if this happens in their country."

  • Brandon Hensler, Florida ACLU spokesman, to local media:

    "You can't pick and choose who's protected by the Constitution. People would like to see his (Jones') speech shut down, but that would just make him a martyr."

  • Televangelist Pat Robertson, on the 700 Club:

    Image: Pat Robertson
    Michael Smith  /  Getty Images file
    Pat Robertson

    "Can you imagine a pastor that is so egotistical that he would sacrifice the lives of missionaries and soldiers to go forward with it? … This guy is looking for attention. He's looking for publicity. ... I think it's horrible what this guy is doing."

  • Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin, on her blog:

    Image: Michelle Malkin
    Steven Lane  /  AP file
    Michelle Malkin

    "Gen. Petraeus says (Jones') provocation endangers the troops. But what's in the Koran is far more of an inflammatory threat to American soldiers than any match with which to light it. What's in the Koran has inspired decades of bloody warfare by Muslim operatives targeting our troops, civilians, and Western infidels around the world. ... Instead of burning the Koran, Americans need to be reading it, understanding it, and educating themselves about the Koran passages, Islamic history, and jihadi context that brought us to this 9th anniversary year of the 9/11 attacks."

  • Statement from spokesman for U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron:

    Image: British Prime Minister David Cameron
    Pool  /  Reuters
    Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron

    "Primarily this is an issue for the U.S., 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."

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