Mayor Michael Bloomberg says a minister’s plan to burn the Muslim holy book on Sept. 11 is “distasteful” but says the minister has a right to do it.
Bloomberg was asked Tuesday about Pastor Terry Jones’ announced plan to burn the Quran on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the terror attacks, amid a national debate about a planned Islamic center near ground zero. The mayor is one of the center’s strongest supporters.
The mayor says that he doesn’t think Jones would like it if someone burned a book that Jones thinks is holy.
But he says Jones’ planned act is protected by free speech rights, and “we can’t say that we’re going to apply the First Amendment to only those cases where we are in agreement.”
Meantime, The White House said Tuesday that a Florida church’s threat to burn copies of the Muslim holy book could endanger U.S. troops abroad, while the State Department denounced the plan as “un-American” and said it would put American diplomats and travelers at risk.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs noted the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, has warned that images of a burning Quran would be used by extremists to incite violence.
“Any time activity like that puts our troops in harm’s way would be a concern to this administration,” Gibbs told reporters.
At the State Department, spokesman P.J. Crowley took a tougher line, saying the administration hoped Americans would stand up and reject the the church’s plan to burn copies of the Quran to mark the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. He called the plan “un-American” and “inconsistent” with American values.
“We think that these are provocative acts,” Crowley said. “They are disrespectful, they’re intolerant, they’re divisive. … We would like to see more Americans stand up and say that this is inconsistent with our American values; in fact, these actions themselves are un-American.”
Crowley called the announced plan “a divisive potential act of disrespect of one of the world’s great religions. And, while we support (and) defend our freedoms, including freedom of expression, this is an action that has potential serious ramifications.”
Crowley said U.S. diplomats had already reported small-scale demonstrations against the talk of Quran burning in several countries “where anxiety levels are building because of the publicity surrounding this proposed action. It does put the lives of ordinary Americans at risk, as well as diplomats, as well as soldiers,” he said.
The Christian minister who is organizing the Quran burning says he will go ahead despite the government’s concerns. Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center, a small, evangelical Christian church in Gainesville with an anti-Islam philosophy, said he has gotten more than 100 death threats and has started wearing a pistol on his hip.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)