Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Religious Tension Marks Sept 11 Anniversary - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page
Americans walk amongst flags erected by students and staff from Pepperdine University in Malibu, who placed nearly 3000 flags in the ground to honor the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on September 10, 2010. (AFP)

Americans walk amongst flags erected by students and staff from Pepperdine University in Malibu, who placed nearly 3000 flags in the ground to honor the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on September 10, 2010. (AFP)

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – Religious tensions are overshadowing the anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States where President Barack Obama urged a Christian preacher to abandon a plan to burn copies of the Koran.

And a day ahead of Saturday’s ninth anniversary, a report warned that the United States faced a growing threat from home-grown insurgents and an “Americanization” of the al Qaeda leadership.

On Friday, Obama appealed to Americans to respect the “inalienable” right of religious freedom and said he hoped the preacher would abandon his plan to burn the Muslim holy book, saying it could deeply hurt the United States abroad.

News of the plan has outraged Muslims around the world and triggered violent protests in Afghanistan in which one protester was shot dead.

Thousands of Afghans demonstrated in the northeast of the country for a second day on Saturday.

“This is a way of endangering our troops, our sons and daughters … you don’t play games with that,” Obama told a Washington news conference in which he included an appeal for religious tolerance.

Pastor Terry Jones, of the obscure Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, has backed off a threat to burn the Koran on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks in which nearly 3,000 people died.

Jones arrived late on Friday in New York, where he was scheduled to appear on NBC’s “Today” show on Saturday morning.

He had said he would call off the Koran burning if he could meet with Muslim leaders seeking to build an Islamic center and mosque near the Manhattan site of the September 11 attacks with the aim of getting it relocated.

While the bewhiskered fundamentalist preacher kept people guessing about his precise intentions, an evangelist acting as a spokesman, K.A. Paul, said he could “guarantee” Jones would not go ahead with the event.

Referring to “the individual down in Florida,” Obama noted the pastor’s Koran-burning plan had already caused anti-American riots in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are in a grueling war against Muslim Taliban militants.

Several thousand people gathered in three districts in Afghanistan’s northeastern Badakhshan province, where a day earlier a protester was shot dead outside a German-run NATO base, provincial police chief Aqa Noor Kentuz said.

On Friday, a crowd estimated at 10,000, protested on the streets of Faizabad, the capital of Badakhshan, after special prayers for Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Protesters also gathered in the capital, Kabul, and in four other provinces.

OPPOSITION TO CENTER

Opponents of the New York center building plan say it is insensitive to the families of the victims of the 2001 events.

The New York imam involved in the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, said on Friday he had no meeting planned with the Florida pastor.

Sharif el-Gamal, project developer for the center, denied it would be moved.

Obama said at the news conference that he recognized “the extraordinary sensitivities” surrounding the September 11 attacks.

But he said it should be possible to erect a mosque near the so-called Ground Zero site, or a building representing any other kind of religion.

“This country stands for the proposition that all men and women are created equal, that they have certain inalienable rights. One of those inalienable rights is to practice their religion freely,” Obama said.

“We are not at war against Islam, we are at war against terrorist organizations that have distorted Islam and have falsely used the banner of Islam,” he added.

Former heads of the 9/11 Commission that studied the 2001 attacks presented a 43-page report they called a wake-up call about the radicalization of Muslims in the United States and the changing strategy of al Qaeda and its allies.

“The threat that the U.S. is facing is different than it was nine years ago,” said the report, released by the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center.

“The U.S. is arguably now little different from Europe in terms of having a domestic terrorist problem involving immigrant and indigenous Muslims as well as converts to Islam.”

U.S. officials have warned that cases such as the threat to burn the Koran could lead to a recruiting bonanza for al Qaeda.

A bouquet of roses from British Prime Minister David Cameron sits in the memorial garden to the victims of the September 11 attacks on the United States, in London September 11, 2010. (REUTERS)

A bouquet of roses from British Prime Minister David Cameron sits in the memorial garden to the victims of the September 11 attacks on the United States, in London September 11, 2010. (REUTERS)

One World Trade Center, which is still under construction at Ground Zero, is viewed on September 8, 2010 in New York City. (AFP)

One World Trade Center, which is still under construction at Ground Zero, is viewed on September 8, 2010 in New York City. (AFP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

More Posts

Follow Me:
FacebookGoogle PlusYouTube