US pastor supervises Quran burning, outrage in Pak
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Last Updated: Tuesday, March 22, 2011, 22:33
Washington/Islamabad: Controversial American pastor Terry Jones, who oversaw 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.

Jones, who oversaw the burning of the scripture by pastor Wayne Sapp on Sunday, said that "trial" of the holy Quran was held by a jury of 12 church members and volunteers, with a Dallas Imam as a defence lawyer.

We had a court process. We tried to set it up as fair as possible, which you can imagine, of course, is very difficult," Jones was quoted as saying by The USA Today.

The punishment - burning the book after it had been soaked in kerosene for an hour - was determined from four choices on his organisation's Facebook page.

Pakistan's Foreign Office in a statement in Islamabad said the burning" of the Quran was a "despicable act".

"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 this 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 civilized 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 an angry outrage in Pakistan with 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, while chairing a meeting of the Tehrik Hurmat-e-Rasool.

Leaders of dozens of religious groups attended the meeting held in Lahore. The meeting also decided to organise a protest on Friday against the desecration.

Rallies will be held in cities and towns across Pakistan, said a statement issued the religious groups.

A demonstration will also be held in Lahore on Wednesday.

The religious groups asked traders, lawyers, students, members of civil society organisations and farmers to join the protests.

The meeting claimed "Crusaders and Zionists" were openly committing blasphemous acts under the supervision of the US administration and the Pope following "their defeat in Afghanistan and Iraq".

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 today, 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.

However, the JuD called for "jihad', acussing the US administration and army and the Pope of patronising those who published blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

They are destroying world peace and these acts are the hurting the sentiments of Muslims, it said in a statement.

Islamic countries should quit the UN if it fails to stop such acts and Muslims should give a befitting reply to people like Jones so that they do not commit such acts in future, the JuD statement said.

The Islamist groups also decided to convene meeting of the heads of political and religious parties to frame a "policy to be presented to the world leaders".

Pakistan Minister of State Khar said such sacrilegious acts go against the concept of inter-faith harmony.

"There could be no justification for such acts. This has deeply hurt the feelings of the people of Pakistan and Muslims all over the world," she said.

Pakistan expects the US administration, the American people and all civilised societies to take "due cognizance 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 peoples and societies must resist and oppose any tendency towards extremism of any kind," it said.


First Published: Tuesday, March 22, 2011, 22:33

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