MULTAN, Pakistan, (AP) – A small American church’s plan to burn copies of the Quran is stirring outrage in Muslim nations, with lawyers protesting in Pakistan and Bahrain’s government calling the burning a shameful attack on interfaith relations.
About 200 lawyers and civil society members marched and burned a U.S. flag in the central Pakistani city of Multan, demanding that Washington halt the burning of the Muslim holy book.
“If Quran is burned, it would be beginning of destruction of America,” read one English-language banner held up by the protesters, who chanted “Down with America!”
The Gainesville, Florida, fire department has denied Jones a required burn permit, but he said lawyers have told him he has the right to burn the Qurans, with or without the city’s permission. The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that speech deemed offensive to many people, even the majority of people, cannot be suppressed by the government unless it is clearly directed to intimidate or amounts to an incitement to violence, legal experts say.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has denounced the planned burning and Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, has said it could lead to attacks on international troops there.
“This is a plan by Zionists to put the entire world into trouble, so it should be foiled,” Tariq Naeemullah, the head of the Joint Civic Front, a coalition of non-governmental organizations in Multan.
The foreign ministries of Pakistan and the Gulf nation of Bahrain issued some of the first official denunciations in the Muslim world, with Bahrain calling it a “shameful act which is incompatible with the principles of tolerance and coexistence.” Bahrain is home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet.
The president of Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, has also sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to stop the bonfire.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said images of the Quran in flames could “threaten world peace,” Heru Lelono, a special adviser to the president, told reporters Thursday.
India’s Home Ministry has asked the country’s media to “exercise restraint” in reporting on the planned burning.