Obama condemns Quran burning 'bigotry'

Published: April 3, 2011
Obama condemns US pastor's burning of the Quran, after violent protests leave 17 dead in Afghanistan.

Obama condemns US pastor's burning of the Quran, after violent protests leave 17 dead in Afghanistan.

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama on Saturday condemned a US pastor’s burning of the Quran, after violent protests at what he called an act of “extreme intolerance and bigotry” left 17 dead in Afghanistan.

Obama also reiterated his condemnation of the “outrageous” attacks by protesters as “an affront to human decency and dignity.”

“No religion tolerates the slaughter and beheading of innocent people, and there is no justification for such a dishonourable and deplorable act,” he added.

Ten people died amid fresh protests that began in the center of the main southern city of Kandahar and spread as police clashed with crowds on Saturday, a day after seven UN staff were killed in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, the worst attack on the world body in the country since the 2001 invasion.

“The desecration of any holy text, including the Quran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry,” Obama said in a statement honouring those killed in the attacks.

Kandahar is the spiritual heartland of the Taliban, who have fought an insurgency against President Hamid Karzai’s government in Kabul and its Western allies since they were ousted by the US-led invasion.

“Death to America” and “Death to Karzai” chanted the demonstrators. “They have insulted our Quran,” shouted one.

Police had fired into the air to try to deter thousands of protesters marching toward the UN offices and provincial administration headquarters.

Provincial authorities said the protesters had damaged government and private buildings and torched vehicles. Smoke rose from different parts of the city as protesters burned cars and tires.

Friday’s attackers in Mazar-i-Sharif had broken away from a large demonstration in the city against the burning of a Quran, Islam’s holy book, at an evangelical church in Florida. They overwhelmed guards at the UN compound before setting it ablaze.

The United Nations did not announce the nationalities of the three civilian staff killed. But Sweden named one as 33-year-old Swede, Joakim Dungel. Norway said Lieutenant Colonel Siri Skare, a 53-year-old female pilot, was killed. Diplomats said the third was a Romanian.

“Now is a time to draw upon the common humanity that we share, and that was so exemplified by the UN workers who lost their lives trying to help the people of Afghanistan,” Obama said in extending his “deepest condolences” to friends and relatives of the victims.

Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center, an evangelical church in Gainesville, Florida, told AFP that “we don’t feel responsible” for the attack, adding: “The radical element of Islam takes (the burning) as an excuse to promote their violent activities.”


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Reader Comments (40)

  • Ruhina Hashmi
    Apr 3, 2011 - 11:11AM

    Woken up, has he?Recommend

  • Nasir
    Apr 3, 2011 - 11:53AM

    All responsibility lies to US who is fighting against extremism all over world but cannot stop it within its own country.Recommend

  • Aftab Kenneth Wilson
    Apr 3, 2011 - 12:23PM

    The West and so called socialist must understand that Muslims all around the world give all out respect to their Holy Book Quran. They are not like others who openly crack jokes not only of their Holy Scriptures but also the prophets. I can only suggest to put these types of mind sets under house arrest or send them direct to “Mad Houses” so that international peace is not disturbed in the name of free speech etc etc etc……My Muslim brothers and sisters must understand that there are many between us who are not willing to have any religious harmony and as such are bent upon insulting each others religion and feelings. I hope USA and the West must understand the gravity and all type of pitfalls if stupids are not stopped and taken care of through some strong legislation. What took place in Afghanistan must be an eye opener. Show respect so that you may also get respect.Recommend

  • Ajay
    Apr 3, 2011 - 12:42PM

    How can actions of Mr. Jones justyify the killing of somany UN personnel in Afghanistan. This is called Bigotry not the actions of one man Mr. Jones. So President Obama is completely wrong. Normally Mr. Jones would not have any support as he doesn’t have but now I suppiort him and I am sure in due course of time most of the world will support him. This is because there is too miuch Madness in the Muslim world and the moderates do not speak out. Who in Pakistan or elsewhere raised their voices against the Afganistan killings at UN office? This isn’t the 1st time. It has been happening for years.
    Mr. Jones cannot be arrested as he hasn’t hurt anyone, killed or maimed anyone. That is how freedom and democracy works and shoudl work.
    Well if those who take qoran seriously, have you raised yoru voice against the many killings and brutal maimings of minorities?

    I find it disgusting when new mosques are setup in US and those protesting are countered with hypocritical explanations that such protests are against American values. Obama is going to loose my support. He is completely wrong here even though I think he is a smart and capable President.Recommend

  • Mohammad
    Apr 3, 2011 - 1:50PM

    Burining any book is a height of stupidity. What do you get by burning the book. Nothing. So it should be condemned and we as a society should make sure that whosoever does these kinds of things should find himself alone.

    But to justify killing of 7 persons by telling that you burn the book they will kill people is utter nonsense. Recommend

  • Apr 3, 2011 - 2:16PM

    It seems the world over, entire nations are hostage to the actions of a hanfull of extremists. Recommend

  • ba ha
    Apr 3, 2011 - 2:30PM

    Fahrenheit 451 revisited? Book burning is not a conspiracy but it should be.Recommend

  • Rayan
    Apr 3, 2011 - 3:00PM


    Before commenting on religion where you don’t have any knowledge, kindly don’t poke your nose in it. First move and check your HINDU extremist madness how they are killing innocent peoples by saying HINDUISM religious procedures i.e. burning of live women with her dead husband.

    Then pop-up to others matter.

    I believe all religions in the world teach respect to other religion, and Islam does the same. A wise person never do harm or this kind of stupidity.

    Humans please please keep peace with each other. Love, Share, Care with all humankind and spread a peaceful life.Recommend

  • Ajay
    Apr 3, 2011 - 4:24PM

    You still didn’t answerr why Muslim moderates in Pakistan and US are not speaking up and have never spoken up?
    Hindu related problems have been criticized by Hindus too and eliminated as was casteism. Nobody defended those shameful practices by saying every culture has its unique practices- good and bad. If there would have been any semblance of intolerance in India, by now India would have broken apart many times over but it is actually becoming stronger. So there is no intolerance in India. We can become even better but we have survived & done well in a region besotted with centuries of intolrance.

    But the same cannot be said of ISlam. Many people including Muslims around the world feel that way. INitially it used to be disconnected voices here and there. Now It is showing up a tad strongly in actions such as those of Mr.Jones. He had been roundly criticized last time around and this time. I think he is trying to make a statement that Islamic intolerance of other religions and theri misuse of freedom/liberties in other societies to subtly bring about changes according to Islamic laws cannot be ignored for too long. Mosques end up becoming centers where hatred gets preached as has been seen in many countries.

    And personally I know the history of Muslim butchering close hand. It was worse than what Chritisan crusaders or anybody else did to anyone else. Have you heard the name “HinduKush” or the millions put to sword in every conquest so that the land was soaked in blood and spirit of Islam satiated before forcing everybody to convert or the cementing alive of children of Sikh gurus, sawing off’s, beheadings or putting young Christian mothers to jail or killing Hindu minorities just because someone saw them talk to a Muslimgirl or someone falsely claimed he/she insulted koran?

    This slaughter of UN personnel is enough example to show that Islam as practiced (it does not matter what Koran says) is barbaric, intolerant and it is further confirmed when its adherants do not protest. I know 1-2 bloggers have protested here but that is too less. I am actually very dissapointed.

    There is a REASON why the world is turning against this form of ISlam. They are not turning against any other religion. Thereis a good reason why Afghanistan’s Taliban government had not been recognized earlier. If ever there was a case of using atomc bomb, it is all places where Taliban reside because these people are unchangeable and will spread their hatred to others if left by themselves.

    I am sorry for my seemingly extreme views. Didn’t mean to hurt anybody but I just do not have any hope of positive thinking from those in Islam who should be speaking out and are in a position to speak. I think they are afraid and have lost to the extremist voice. Actually nobody ever spoke up against extremists in ISlam ever in History. So they should not complain about the Mr. Jones’s.Recommend

  • Abdul-Mughis Rana
    Apr 3, 2011 - 4:29PM

    @Aftab Kenneth Wilson:
    thanks for appreciating, not only Quran and Prophet Mohammad SAW, we cannot even think of any derogatory remarks about other Prophets of God e.g. Prophet Iisa Allehe Salam ( Prophet Jesus pbuh) its part of our beleif. So nice of you! Recommend

  • Ajay
    Apr 3, 2011 - 4:30PM

    @Ruhina Hashmi:
    Who needs to wake up?Recommend

  • Abdul-Mughis Rana
    Apr 3, 2011 - 4:53PM

    What will stop people like Terry Jones bcz a Muslim cannot return this favour! If you could appreciate this than even Terry Jones could do it too this is BELIEF ! If you read Aftab K Wilson’s comment may be you will change your stance!
    What do you do in your country fight with minorities every day because you can’t appreciate their religion. This requires legislation my dear so that you don’t trespass their right and vice cersa. You seem to be a nice individual!Recommend

  • Disco Molvi
    Apr 3, 2011 - 5:15PM

    Pakistani Muslims justify burning of Jewish(religious or others)books when done by Hitler.
    They even remained mum over burning of hundreds of Holy Quran during a squabble between 2 main sects last year in Faisalabad.
    Watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDCjy_9vubo
    But when an American hate mongering pastor does the same, suddenly their ghairat awakens.
    I condemn burning of Holy Quran by pastor Wayne Sapp just as I condemn burning of Bibles by Muslim mob in Gojira.Recommend

  • Abdul-Mughis Rana
    Apr 3, 2011 - 5:31PM

    are you a Cricketer? A batsman may be?Recommend

  • DIG
    Apr 3, 2011 - 6:36PM

    @ Ajay:
    A Muslim cannot understand if they don’t play with other’s believes especially Jews, Christians or beleivers of other Prophets of God and even followers of other religions since all other religions, so it seems, does not have this kind of controll instead they vote for free speech. Governments of most of the countries take it as “so what”!
    This means that they must be stopped with force!
    Like when a group of Muslims in Afghanistan dynamite/explode historical Buddha statues which according to them were not being worshipped, whole World under the leadership of America raised an alarm and did what they could! Now this man in Florida is not an illiterate person who is acting gone so far in ignorance or hatred who is going to stop him, somebody will! Recommend

  • Apr 3, 2011 - 6:56PM

    America, britain and all other western countries which boast of all sorts of freedoms especially freedom of expression iin their societies. However, when it comes to muslim religious scholars, some of the prominent scholars including, just to mention a few names, Tariq Ramzan (son of prominent muslim brotherhood, ikhwanul muslamin scholar shaheed hassan al-banna) and zakir nayak, are banned to visit and give lectures in britain, america and elsewhere. Couldn’t america take some preventive measures to stop the lunatic Terry Jones to commit such act of lunacy. This is sheer duplicity of the west.Recommend

  • Abdul-Mughis Rana
    Apr 3, 2011 - 7:04PM

    For sensible people, I have written enough my dearest Pakistani Muslim! To me you too are sensible enough! Recommend

  • Ruhina Hashmi
    Apr 3, 2011 - 7:47PM

    Obama has been quiet all this time.. So I was surprised to see that he’s finally woken up… Recommend

  • kumar
    Apr 3, 2011 - 8:12PM

    The quran burning is JUSTIFIED because under US Jurisdiction in Florida, the right of free speech is absolute. Even the US Flag is sometimes burnt by protestors! So in the USA,you can burn any book or kiss any book or idea or burn any flag and its constitutionally protected!
    I know, this is very hard for the islamic world to understand, but in the US, free speech trumps any religion or considerations thereof.Even India has nowhere near the unique freedom of speech in the US.
    Let us learn to admire and respect that instead of being indignant!Recommend

  • Porterhouse
    Apr 3, 2011 - 8:48PM

    How does a murder spree against innocent people constitute a response to the burning of the Quran? Recommend

  • Indian
    Apr 3, 2011 - 10:24PM

    So what happens when muslims bomb each other in mosques. I’m pretty sure several Qurans get burnt in that. You really need to seek psychiatric help if you are ok with the killing of 10 people but get indignant at the burning of a book. The book is for the people, the people are not for the book. Recommend

  • Sane Voice
    Apr 3, 2011 - 11:17PM

    @Ajay: It seems your perceptions and thoughts about Muslims and Islam are shaped by the recent events. You need to understand the reason behind retaliations as well as the motive of causing chaos by third parties. The idea of living in coherence and social unity does not dates back to 200 or 300 years but in-fact 1450 years back when Prophet Mohammad (s.aw) (Peace Be Upon Him) established the first Muslim government in the city of Medina.

    Plz consult any author of your choice on religions and history. By the way theologist Karen Armstrong also states the same thing and writes that Jews and Christians felt and lived more safely in Medina during Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w) (Peace Be Upon Him)s’ time.

    The attacks by Muslims on each other is partly created by the powers to be’s interests and adopting the same old rule of divide and rule. Most important of all the individual acts of people cannot carry the blame on their religion.

    An excellent example of double standards which is causing people to take law in their hands is injustice by the powers to be.

    What would say when Israel bombs Gaza, then no “No fly zone is ordered” either by U.S or U.N and the external food aid is blocked for the past 1 year……will they not retaliate.

    I hope sanity will prevail and people should realize that the Muslims give the utmost importance to the integrity and dignity of their Prophet Muhammad(s.a.w) (Peace Be Upon Him) and to their holy book that is Holy Quran. May Allah guide us to the true path (Amen).

    Plz feel free to mail me any queries… on this subject. I believe that the solution to dispute lies in meaningful debates and not by hurling accusations.


  • John
    Apr 3, 2011 - 11:25PM

    The BOOK has become an idol, for both the desecrators and protectionists alike.

    What next? Tomorrow I can not throw my iPad( iPad 2!) that contains the electronic copy of Quran in the trash in protest against Apple company?

    These guys who killed the UN workers and civilians should be hounded like rapid dogs. They are no more than hooligans who loot, destroy and rape innocent women; now Quran has become their idol. Recommend

  • Stephen Jones
    Apr 3, 2011 - 11:42PM

    Tariq Ramadan is the GRANDSON of Hasan al Banna. If he is banned form speaking in Britain then how did he take up his teaching post at St Anthonys College Oxford and why was he invited to be a member of a British government think tank the same year. Ramadan has been allowed to enter the USA since January 2010.@Abdul Rahman Khan: Recommend

  • G. Din
    Apr 4, 2011 - 2:45AM

    This Book has existed for at least 1400 years and no one burned it or even bothered to burn it as a protest until now. Why is it people are so worked up about THIS Book and only this Book that they would wish to burn it? Is there something else that is causing such behaviour? Muslims must think long and hard because these protests will not stop with lampooning a self-declared profit in cartoons or burning his treatise. Already we have seen a so-called mosque reduced to ruble in India, Muslim architecture ( minarets) banned in Europe and mosques bombed or attempted to be bombed in the US. There have been even attacks on symbols remotely resembling Muslim symbols such as turbans worn by peaceful, agreeable Sikhs. Some deep introspection on the part of Muslims is needed. If they want to be treated with respect and consideration, they should show respect and consideration for ideas and values respected by others. Recommend

  • Saad
    Apr 4, 2011 - 2:46AM

    @ Rayan, Nasir and other,

    you ashame Pakistan and Islam.

    So in almost all these protests they burned the Cross, a very holy symbol for Christians, similar incidents were witnessed in Pakistan. So where is respect for all the religions that people like you keep saying? You don’t respect other religions and they have stopped respecting yours, please remember the sweets distributed in mosques when Bamiyan Buddha’s were destroyed.

    If there is anyone to be blamed for the burning of Quran, its people like you and the Taliban.Recommend

  • Vicram Singh
    Apr 4, 2011 - 4:48AM

    @Abdul Rahman Khan: ” ... America, britain and all other western countries which boast of all sorts of freedoms especially freedom of expression iin their societies. However, when it comes to muslim religious scholars, some of the prominent scholars including, just to mention a few names, Tariq Ramzan … and zakir nayak, are banned to visit and give lectures in britain, america and elsewhere. …

    Your reasoning is flawed. The freedoms apply to their citizens – not to foreigners. In UK, a Muslim Anjem talks publicly about over-throwing the elected government of UK and establishing Islam instead. As a citizen, he is able to exercise his rights. He has the protection of the UK state.

    I think they are justified in denying visas to whomever they so decide. The USA has denied Shri. Narendra Modi a visa. It is their right. No big deal.Recommend

  • Vicram Singh
    Apr 4, 2011 - 6:30AM

    @Ajay: “Have you heard the name “HinduKush” or the millions put to sword in every conquest so that the land was soaked in blood and spirit of Islam satiated before forcing everybody to convert or the cementing alive of children of Sikh gurus, ”

    How can this be forgotten …. ?Recommend

  • bvindh
    Apr 4, 2011 - 10:16AM

    Assalamu alaikum my brothers,

    We must show more restraint in reacting to Terry Jones’s dastardly act. We must not indulge in random acts of violence. We should act smartly like our beloved Prophet who declared the treaty of Al-Hudaibiyah null and void to take advantage of the circumstances and laid seige to Meccah.

    We too should use this oppurtunity to kill all the unarmed infidel aid workers in our lands, but, only once we are done with using all the help they can give us. That way we shall have both our halal booty and the blood of the infidels on our hands.

    With such strategies, the pure shall win the holy jihad.Recommend

  • Cautious
    Apr 4, 2011 - 3:42PM

    Xenophobia will be your undoing. Reading these posts is often astonishing – so called religious people trying to rationalize murder – kinda pathetic.Recommend

  • world weary
    Apr 4, 2011 - 8:07PM

    Burning the Koran was an act of religious intolerance and, as such, should be prosecuted. It was intended to produce the response it did. Muslims should see this Texan pastor and his ilk as fundamentalist nitwits who are best ingnored. On the other hand, there are also fundamentalists on the Muslim side who should not be fanned into violence by equally nitwitish clerics. When it comes to religion, few can think straight. Recommend

  • syed Yousaf
    Apr 5, 2011 - 11:47AM

    Every now and then some one from the West who would try to hurt the feelings of Muslims in the name of freedom of speech. This is a delibrate act of shameful hatred towards muslims and their religion.
    The reaction “Enough is Enough”.should than be expected.


  • G. Din
    Apr 5, 2011 - 6:37PM

    @world weary:
    “Burning the Koran was an act of religious intolerance and, as such, should be prosecuted.”
    No, it was not an act of religious intolerance! It was, according to the pastor, a righteous protest against radical Islam, unless you grant that Islam is radical, per se! It probably will be prosecuted but that will not make any difference to the movement that was initiated by lampooning of the prophet. Every significant movement in the world that has brought about change in behaviour has been started by an incident to produce shock. This is no different. Let us hope, it produces the right changes in Islam towards coexistence with other religions!
    Then, on the other hand, when Muslims have slashed the jugulars of non-Muslims, was anyone prosecuted? No! Why not? Because it is not shocking any more!
    @syed Yousaf:
    “The reaction “Enough is Enough”.should than be expected.”
    Those were exact words of the pastor, too!Recommend

  • The Igtheist
    Apr 5, 2011 - 8:36PM

    Who is Terry Jones? Some small town preacher, who had a congregation of something like 50, has managed to get the whole Muslim world excited. Amazing! Why on Earth does anyone take any notice of what he says/does? I would rather listen to a NY/London taxi driver.

    I do find this false indignation very bizarre and it seems to show the insecurities of the religion. Do Christians get upset when the Bible is routinely burnt? Saudi does it frequently and has banned the Bible in their country. Or are we going to play the “my religious book is more important than yours” game.

    Going back to Terry Jones, while I am amazed at certain Muslim’s reactions, I am equally curious to know why the main stream media gave this hick town preacher any air time at all. Why did they do it knowing that it would rouse this fake indignation?Recommend

  • world weary
    Apr 5, 2011 - 8:45PM

    @G. Din:
    Righteous protest is just another name for intolerance. We might, for example, think it right to protest against abortion, homosexuality, blasphemy, the teaching of evolution or free love – but at the base of such protest is the confidence that our religious dogma about these subjects is correct. Dogma, and religious dogma in particular, always creates intolerance. That is the nature of the beast.Recommend

  • G. Din
    Apr 5, 2011 - 11:55PM

    @world weary:
    “Righteous protest is just another name for intolerance.”
    Sir/Madam: let me submit to you that whenever there are two adversarial positions, both sides do think that their position is correct, more correct if you will, than the other. Otherwise the whole exercise is pointless. Whether you call it dogma or religious dogma, it does not matter. Any two starkly opposite viewpoints are in principle intolerant of each other until a via media has been found. In the issue at hand, no such via media has been found nor will be found until radical Islam that initiated this controversy is made to see, not necessarily accept, the opposing viewpoint. We have lived with Islamic terror from sixties or seventies of the last century when airlines were brought down from the skies with impunity, when entire Olympic teams were massacred in cold blood, when paraplegics were heaved over the deck of ships into the seas calumniating in the horrors of 9/11 and 26/11. Pastor’s burning of Quran as also the cartoonist’s lampooning of the prophet are desperate actions, much belated, to administer shock with the hope of righting the continuing wrongs by radical Islam and the acquiescence of the rest of Islam to its radical lunatic fringe.. Recommend

  • world weary
    Apr 6, 2011 - 5:39PM

    Dastardly act in Texas followed by dastardly acts in Afganistan. Both should be prosecuted. But then so should your comments. I think I am right in stating that if such incitement to murder were printed in London, the perpetrator would face the law. Since the Herald Tribune is soon to celebrate its first birthday, then congratulations must be due. However, I must ask how Bvindh’s comment got through moderation. What is your paper’s policy?Recommend

  • bvindh
    Apr 7, 2011 - 1:02PM

    @world weary:

    It was sarcasm. The mods seem to have got it while you failed :-PRecommend

  • G. Din
    Apr 7, 2011 - 5:22PM

    When I read your post, I knew it was sarcastic in tone. But, you are so good at it that others took it for real. You have a gift for satire! Don’t lose it!Recommend

  • world weary
    Apr 8, 2011 - 2:08PM

    I am glad that is cleared up then.
    However, when the Danes used satire it proved counter productive. I am sure you can use your colourful incisiveness to more productive ends. And you are right that I am not a ‘mod’. I am a grandmother who is simply concerned about the vitriolic world my grandchildren have to inhabit.Recommend

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