WASHINGTON — Rep. Keith Ellison today joined a growing chorus in expressing outrage at a Florida church’s plans to hold a Quran burning on Sept. 11, with Ellison calling it a “deliberate attempt to provoke individuals of the Muslim faith.”
Ellison was joined by a host of others — a State Department spokesman called proposed Quran burning “un-American,” while Administration and military officials openly worried that outrage stemming from the action could put U.S. troops in danger.
The controversy began when Dove World Outreach Center, a small church of 100 in Gainesville, Fla. (known principally as the home of the University of Florida and not much else) announced recently its plans to burn the Islamic holy text. The church pastors have been particularly critical of Islam (they run a blog at IslamisoftheDevil.org) and in a statement posted last week cited ten objections to that religion as reasons to burn the book.
Protests have already begun around the world in advance of the burning, and fears have surfaced that they could turn violent, as other protests responding to anti-Islam provocations have in the past.
After a Danish newspaper in 2006 published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, violent protests erupted in many countries, including attacks on European and American embassies across the Arab world and the U.S. base at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan. Several clerics called for the cartoonists and newspaper editors involved in the publishing of the drawings to be executed. In 2009, an anti-Islam documentary by Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders prompted violent protests in Indonesia and Pakistan, as well as calls for Wilders’ death.
Dove church, anticipating that such responses might come again, posted a blog today called “5 more reasons to burn the Koran,” saying in part it would “shock the world” and “get people to start asking hard questions” about Islam. “If violence happens in reaction to this, the violence was not caused by us, it has just been exposed,” wrote Pastor Dave Ingram.
Administration officials expressed concern about a repeat of those incidents while blasting Ingram and co. for what they said was an attention-grabbing stunt that they knew would incite fierce objections from the Muslim world, and possibly help anti-American insurgents to recruit more fighters.
“Images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence,” said Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs seconded Petraeus and added that such actions are a “concern to this administration.”
Ellison called for calm.
“This provocation should not be rewarded with a response,” Ellison said. “I urge caution, patience, and restraint, and I pray that no one takes the bait being dangled by this misguided group.”
“Just as Americans from all religious and ethnic backgrounds condemned the September 11th attacks, I am proud to know that Americans of all faiths have stepped forward to denounce the decision to burn copies of the Quran,” Ellison said. “September 11 should remind us what is best about America. I call upon my fellow Americans to focus on healing, reconciliation, and religious harmony.”