State Dept: church Koran burning plan”un-American”
There have been lots of angry words over plans by an obscure Florida pastor to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
But State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley pulled out the biggest gun of all on Tuesday in his effort to distance the government from the pastor’s incendiary proposal — he called it “un-American.”
“We are conscious that a number of voices have come out and rejected what this pastor and this community have proposed,” Crowley told a news briefing. “We would like to see more Americans stand up and say ‘this is inconsistent with our American values.’ In fact these actions themselves are un-American.”
“Un-American” is not an epithet that trips lightly off the tongue for U.S. government spokespeople, carrying as it does the tang of the 1950′s witchhunt for alleged communist sympathizers spearheaded by the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center church in Florida presumably doesn’t think his book burning plans are un-American, at least by his definition.
Jones said he would torch copies of the Muslim holy book on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in an effort toward “exposing Islam” as a “violent and oppressive religion.”
“When do we stop backing down?…when does American stand for truth?” Jones said in an interview with CNN.
Crowley was in no mood to back down either.
He repeated warnings from officials including overall U.S. commander in Afghanistan David Petraeus that the proposed burning could undermine President Barack Obama’s efforts to reach out to the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims as well as trigger reprisals against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
And he said the proposed bonfire — while covered under U.S. First Amendment free speech rights — was nevertheless an extremely “un-American” signal to send to the rest of the world.
“We have a tremendous tradition of religious tolerance in this country….It is un-American in the sense that it does not represent the views of the vast majority of Americans who are respectful of religions,” Crowley said.
While it may well be within someone’s rights to take this action, we believe and hope that cooler heads will prevail and other ways can be found to promote a dialogue among the world’s greatest religions which is what we’ve been trying to do.”
Pastor Jones has said he is considering the various warnings, and is praying about the event.
Crowley, meanwhile, appealed to the world’s public not to assume that any action by the tiny church, which has only about 30 members, represented anything larger about the United States.
“People around the world need to also understand that America is not represented by one pastor or 50 followers. We are a nation of 300 million people and the vast majority of Americans are standing up this week and saying that these contemplated actions are inappropriate, they’re abhorrent, and they should not happen.”
PHOTO: REUTERS/Marko Djurica (A U.S. Marine adjusts U.S. flag on top of his tent at a base in Afghanistan)