US State Department Spokesperson Mark C Toner on Friday condemned the burning of the Holy Quran by pastors in Florida, saying “we condemn such acts as disrespectful, intolerant and divisive.”
The US State Department had arranged an international audio-based press conference for journalists in South Asia on the continuing crisis in Libya, but Toner prefaced his opening remarks by condemning the desecration of the Holy Quran.
He said public condemnation had come in from several US organisations. “We are deeply concerned. We firmly believe in freedom of religion and freedom of expression,” Toner said, adding that these are universal rights enshrined in the US Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He further said that the “deliberate destruction of any holy book is abhorrent.”
When asked if any criminal prosecution was possible, Toner said this was a legal issue and not within the jurisdiction of the State Department and was for the authorities in Florida to determine. He added that the action of the Florida pastors did not represent the vast majority of Americans.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2011.