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US pastor supervises Quran burning, Pakistan outraged

By Lalit K Jha
March 22, 2011 23:01 IST
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Controversial American pastor Terry Jones, who supervised the burning of the holy Quran by an evangelical preacher in a Florida church, on Tuesday prompted Pakistan to condemn it as a "despicable act" aimed at provoking discord among people across the world.

"Such a reprehensible act could only be the work of extremists and is evidently designed to provoke dissent and discord among communities and people across the world," said Hina Rabbani Khar, minister of state for Foreign Affairs.

President Asif Ali Zardari too condemned the desecration of the Quran during his address to a joint sitting of parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

"I, on behalf of the people and government, and my behalf strongly condemn the deliberate desecration of the Holy Quran by a fanatic in Florida," he said.

"We condemn this act in the strongest possible words. It is a serious setback to the efforts at promoting harmony among civilised communities throughout the world," he added.

The Muslim community in the United States has declined to respond to the act by Jones and his small group of followers.

"Terry Jones had his 15 minutes of fame and we're not going to help him get another few minutes," said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

However, it has sparked outrage in Pakistan, with the Jamaat-ud-Dawah announcing a reward of Rs 10 crore for anyone who kills Jones. The reward was announced by senior JuD leader Amir Hamza, a close aide of the group's chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed.

Jones considered the burning of Quran as a one-time event and said that he had no plans to do it on a mass scale.

The US Embassy in Islamabad, in a statement issued on Tuesday, condemned the burning of the Quran and described it as "an isolated act done by a small group of people that is contrary to American traditions."

The event did not reflect the "general sentiment of respect toward Islam by the people of the US," said Embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez.

"The deliberate destruction of any holy book is an abhorrent act," said US Ambassador Cameron Munter.

"The US commitment to freedom of religion and freedom of expression goes back to the founding of our nation and is enshrined in the constitution. We absolutely reject religious intolerance in any form," he said.

Pakistan expects the US administration, the American people and all civilised societies to take "due cognisance and express their revulsion on this sacrilegious act," the Pakistan Foreign Office statement said.

"As a strong proponent of inter-faith harmony, Pakistan believes that in troubled times, civilised people and societies must resist and oppose any tendency towards extremism of any kind," it said.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington
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