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September 08, 2010

Pakistan Strongly Condemns Planned Quran Burning

The Pakistani government has strongly condemned the plan of a small U.S. church to burn 200 copies of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, on September 11th to mark the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States.  

"This is against the spirit of any religion," said Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told reporters in Islamabad.

"The government and the people of Pakistan, including Pakistani Christians, are outraged at this planned, shameful act by a self-proclaimed pastor," Basit said.

He also urged the international community to oppose those, said Basit, who in the name of freedom and liberty, resort to bigotry and undermine the work of promoting interfaith harmony.

Pakistani Christians have launched protests across the country, insisting the small U.S. group does not represent the sentiments of the Christian community.  There also have been a scattering of small demonstrations by Muslims in Pakistan, condemning the plans to burn their holy book.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad also has condemned the planned event.

Embassy spokesman Rick Snelsire said there are concerns about violent reactions against U.S. citizens in Pakistan.

"Obviously it is a concern for us, concerning the safety of American citizens here in Pakistan," Snelsire. "It is something we track very carefully, and we will be closely monitoring the events as they proceed."

International foreign relations expert Ishtiaq Ahmad said he is disappointed that a small group outside the mainstream has been able to garner so much international attention.

"I think the rational attempt should be for the Muslim leadership and for the Muslim government, not to overreact, just to ignore because such 'crazies' are in abundance, not just in the Western world but also in the Muslim world," said Ahmad.

But he added it is harder to ignore these fringe elements because of the Internet and global media. And Ahmad said he believes the small group's planned actions actually are more inline with the goals of extremist groups, such as al-Qaida.

"Any organization, any entity, any person, which attempts to widen the gulf between the West and Islamic world is basically falling into al-Qaida's hands and attempting to actually serve al-Qaida's global jihadi cause," he said.

The Quran burning plan has faced opposition from various religious, political and military leaders, including Pope Benedict, U.S. President Barack Obama, and the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus.