GAINESVILLE: The Christian community in Lahore protested against the proposal of a Florida church to burn copies of the Holy Quran.
Hundreds of Christians gathered outside the Lahore Press Club on Thursday and staged a protest against the plan.
They raised slogans against the authorities of the church and burned an effigy of the pastor.
Addressing the protestors, leaders of the Christian community said the Holy Books have descended from God and show the right path to humanity, it is the moral duty of every person to protect the Holy Books and pay respect to them.
The leaders said they will support Muslims in raising their voice for the honour of the Holy Quran.
The Church shrugged off global outrage and vowed to go ahead with a Quran burning ceremony amid growing fears it will ignite a wave of Islamic rage.
Condemnation rained down from top US officials, the military, the Vatican and other religious and world leaders, but the church refused to halt plans to torch the Islamic holy book on Saturday’s anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“As of this time we have no intention of canceling,” Pastor Terry Jones told a press conference here Wednesday, adding his evangelical church, the Dove World Outreach Center, had received numerous messages of support.
Jones had indicated he was praying for guidance on whether to go ahead with the incendiary event after warnings from US Afghanistan commander General David Petraeus that US and allied troops could be targeted in revenge.
“We understand the general’s concerns and we are still considering it,” Jones said, but swiftly added he had been contacted by a special forces soldier who told him “the people in the field are 100 percent behind us.”
After his press conference Wednesday, Jones reportedly met inside his church with a Florida imam, in a sign that the renegade pastor might be willing to tone down or even cancel his event.
According to the Gainesville Sun, the imam of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, Muhammad Musri, met with Jones for 40 minutes in the pastor’s office.”I told him the world would admire your courage if you come out and say, ‘Because of my devotion to Christ and the Bible, I’m going to do the right thing.'” the Sun quoted Musri as saying.”I strongly believe at the end of the day that he is going to make the right step and call off this event.”
The gun-toting pastor, who has received death threats, says the aim of Saturday’s three-hour evening event is to send a message to religious extremists.
“Our burning of the Quran is to call attention that something’s wrong. And it is possibly time for us in a new way to actually stand up and confront terrorism,” he said. The planned torching of some 200 Qurans — many of which have been donated to the church — comes amid an angry debate over plans to build an Islamic cultural center in New York close to where the World Trade Center once stood.
Many fear if the Quran burning goes ahead it will further raise anti-Islamic sentiment.
Condemnations from Pakistan
President Zardari has condemned the Church’s plans to burn the Holy Quran and said that the activity will trigger a massive reaction from the Muslim world.
Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik has written a letter to Interpol Secretary General and strongly condemned the planned actions of Pastor Terry Jones to burn copies of the Holy Quran.
In his letter, the Federal Interior Minister said the desecration of the holy book will not be tolerated at any cost.
He urged the Secretary General Interpol to take strong action on the matter and asked Interpol to take up the matter with US officials.
Malik stated that Jones’ actions will be an international crime which will be detrimental to peace internationally. He also stated that the sentiments of Muslims should not be hurt with such vicious actions.
Foreign Office spokesperson Abdul Basit has also assailed the plans of the US church to burn the Holy Quran.
Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Hussain Haqqani has warned that if Florida Pastor Terry Jones goes ahead with his plans to burn copies of the Quran, it will set off a massive reaction in parts of the Muslim world.
The ambassador asserted that the United States should live up to its high ideals. He added that those who oppose religious extremism and intolerance in the Muslim world should speak up against what he termed a meaningless gesture.
India calls for a media blackout
India called Thursday for the US to take “strong action” to prevent a planned Quran burning ceremony and demanded a media blackout.
Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram, in a strongly worded statement after a cabinet meeting, condemned the “deplorable act” that was “obviously calculated to increase bitterness and strife between religious groups.
“We hope the US authorities will take strong action to prevent such an outrage being committed,” he said.
“While we await the actions of the US authorities we appeal to the media, both print and visual media, to refrain from telecasting visuals or publishing photographs of this deplorable act.”
“We should ignore such people, but there is now an added responsibility for the United States to rein them in,” Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the chief imam in New Delhi’s biggest mosque, told AFP.
“Any such act by the pastor can have serious repercussions against the administration in the US and against American troops in Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said.
The All-India Christian Council also condemned the intention of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida to burn the Quran on the anniversary of the Al-Qaeda terror network’s attacks on the United States.
“Al-Qaeda does not represent the Islamic faith and this pastor certainly does not represent the teachings of Jesus Christ,” the council’s secretary general John Dayal said in a statement.
World leaders denounce church’s plans
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has denounced the Florida church’s plans as “disgraceful,” and the State Department sought Wednesday to downplay an event likely to be shown on television screens around the world.
“We hope that the world will appreciate that this is the action of a very small fringe group and does not represent the views of the United States or Americans as a whole,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was deeply disturbed by the plans, with his spokesman releasing a statement saying: “Such actions cannot be condoned by any religion.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel decried the plans as “abhorrent” at an event honoring a Danish cartoonist whose 2005 drawing of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) sparked protests around the world.
Late Wednesday the imam of the mosque to be built near Ground Zero, Feisal Abdul Rauf, told CNN that burning the Quran is “not the right thing to do” because “it’s going to feed into the radicals in the Muslim world. It’s dangerous.”
And former Republican vice presidential candidate and leading conservative Sarah Palin slammed the move as an insensitive provocation “much like building a mosque at Ground Zero,” urging Jones to think again.
“It will feed the fire of caustic rhetoric and appear as nothing more than mean-spirited religious intolerance. Don’t feed that fire,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
Officials in the small university town of Gainesville — reluctantly dragged into the global spotlight — met Wednesday to draw up contingency plans.
City spokesman Bob Woods told AFP that church officials would be violating a ban on open-air burning and would be subject to a 250 dollar fine if they set fire to the books. But there is little they can do to stop the event from going ahead, protected as it is by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of speech.
Fire authorities turned down an application a few weeks ago from Jones to hold the ceremony, and police cannot intervene until they actually light the Qurans.
Condemnations have also poured in from Kuwait, Malaysia and Indonesia with leaders calling on the US to stop the event from taking place.