Washington: As a Florida church vowed to move forward with a controversial plan to burn the Koran, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined other US officials in condemning it as "disrespectful and disgraceful".
"We sit down together for this meal on a day when the news is carrying reports that a pastor down in Gainesville, Florida plans to burn the holy Koran on September 11th," she told guests Tuesday at the Department of State iftar, where she was joined by Special Representative to Muslim Communities Farah Pandith, an Indian American.
"I am heartened by clear unequivocal condemnation of this disrespectful, disgraceful act that has come from American religious leaders of all faiths-from evangelical Christians, to Jewish rabbis as well as secular US leaders and opinion makers," Clinton said blasting the planned demonstration by the Florida church on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Earlier Tuesday Terry Jones, pastor at the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville, vowed to move forward with his burning of the Koran despite condemnation from US officials and world leaders who believe the act could incite violence in the Middle East.
"We feel it`s maybe the right time for America to stand up," Jones told myFOXorlando.com. "How long are we going to bow down? How long are we going to be controlled, by the terrorists, by radical Islam?"
"We feel it`s time for the church to stand up," he added.
State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley called the decision "un-American."
"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-of the world`s great religions," Crowley told reporters.
But Jones did receive backing from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who while admitting the plan was "distasteful", added that Jones` decision was protected by his First Amendment right, the New York Post reported.
Meanwhile, the imam at the centre of a controversy over an Islamic centre near New York`s Ground Zero also vowed to go ahead with his plans, just hours after a broad coalition of Christian, Jewish and Islamic leaders denounced what they described as a rising tide of anti-Muslim bigotry across the United States.
"We are proceeding with the community centre, Cordoba House," said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf who has just returned from a State Department-sponsored Middle East trip to promote US-Muslim relations, in an editorial published online by the New York Times Tuesday night.
"More important, we are doing so with the support of the downtown community, government at all levels and leaders from across the religious spectrum, who will be our partners. I am convinced that it is the right thing to do for many reasons," he wrote.
Earlier Tuesday, a broad coalition of faith leaders gathered in Washington, where they met with Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss their concerns.
"To quote the attorney general, he called the Gainesville planned burning of Qurans `idiotic and dangerous,`" said Farhana Khera, president of Muslim Advocates, soon after meeting with Holder.
"While it may not be a violation of the law-it may be an act of free speech-it certainly violates our sense of decency," she added about the Florida event.