Washington: US religious leaders have condemned an "anti-Muslim frenzy" in the United States, including plans by a Florida church to burn a Koran on September 11, an act a top general said could endanger American troops abroad.
Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders denounced the "misinformation and outright bigotry" against U.S. Muslims resulting from plans to build a Muslim community center and mosque not far from the site of the September 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks in New York by the Islamist militant group al Qaeda that killed 2,752 people.
Tensions have risen with the approach of both the September 11 anniversary on Saturday and the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival that marks the close of the fasting month of Ramadan, which is expected to end around Friday.
Passions have been further inflamed by Terry Jones, the pastor of a 30-person church in Gainesville, Florida, who has announced plans to burn a Koran on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Jones says he wants to "expose Islam" as a "violent and oppressive religion."
Religious leaders, including Washington Roman Catholic Archbishop emeritus Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Dr. Michael Kinnamon of the National Council of Churches, released a statement saying they were "alarmed by the anti-Muslim frenzy" and "appalled by such disrespect for a sacred text."
"To attack any religion in the United States is to do violence to the religious freedom of all Americans," said the religious leaders, including Rabbi David Saperstein, head of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Rabbi Julie Schonfeld of the Association of Conservative Rabbis.
"The threatened burning of copies of the Holy Qu`ran this Saturday is a particularly egregious offense that demands the strongest possible condemnation by all who value civility in public life and seek to honor the sacred memory of those who lost their lives on September 11," they said.
The planned Koran-burning by the Dove World Outreach Center has already prompted protests in Kabul. Several hundred Afghans -- mostly students from religious schools -- gathered outside the Milad ul-Nabi mosque and chanted "Death to America" in anger over the plans.
General David Petraeus, the head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement the Koran burning could "endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort" to stabilize the Afghan situation.
"It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems, not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community," Petraeus said.