Pastor Terry Jones and his small Gainesville church known as the Dove World Outreach Center will continue with their plans to burn copies of the Koran, the holy book of Islam, on the ninth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks despite a growing backlash and warnings from military leaders, the Obama White House, the Vatican, and now, for some reason, actress Angelina Jolie. Though at least one high-profile American politician, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has come out to defend the rights of the church. Yet others are saying the growing attention paid to the tiny church is only doing harm and magnifying the congregation's actions.
Earlier this week, Gen. David Petraeus made a rare public remark on domestic matters when he said Dove World's protest could lead to the harm of American troops.
"Images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan -- and around the world -- to inflame public opinion and incite violence," Patreus wrote in an email to the Associated Press.
"These deplorable acts of violence, in fact, cannot be counteracted by an outrageous and grave gesture against a book considered sacred by a religious community," read a statement from the Vatican.
And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the demonstration while speaking to the Council of Foreign Relations this morning.
"It is regrettable that a pastor in Gainesville, Florida, with a church of no more than 50 people, can make this outrageous and distrustful, disgraceful plan and get the world's attention, but that's the world we live in right now," Clinton said.
Even Angelina Jolie's reaction, made during a trip to Pakistan, is making headlines. Reports ABC News:
"Of course not. Of course not," she said at a news conference when asked if she supported Pastor Jones's plans.
She said she had "hardly the words" to express her opposition to burning someone's religious text.
She hailed the U.S. government's opposition to the plans, which have already triggered angry protests in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are fighting the Taliban.
"In a strange way, I'm here to defend his right to do that. I happen to think that it is distasteful," Bloomberg said Tuesday.
"The First Amendment protects everybody, and you can't say that we're going to apply the First Amendment to only those cases where we are in agreement," he added.
"If you want to be able to say what you want to say when the time comes that you want to say it, you have to defend others, no matter how, how much you disagree with them."
Bloomberg has also recently made headlines for supporting the building of a Muslim community center within two blocks of Ground Zero. Just yesterday, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the plan to erect the center, praised Bloomberg in a New York Times op-ed, saying, "It was striking: a Christian president and a Jewish mayor of New York supporting the rights of Muslims. Their statements sent a powerful message about what America stands for, and will be remembered as a milestone in improving American-Muslim relations."
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Jones, for his part, vows to continue with his plans, telling the media: "Instead of possibly blaming us for what could happen, we put the blame where it belongs -- on the people who would do it."
But at least some are worried that the media spectacle and the growing crowd of boldfaced names eager to speak on the subject could do more harm than good.
"David Petraeus and the media have decided to magnify the event and guarantee it'll be featured on the front page of every major newspaper in the Middle East," writes prominent conservative blogger Erick Erickson at RedState.com.
"He just wants to provoke the Muslim community," Ramzy Kilic, regional director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Tampa, told the Washington Post: "Why give him attention? No one pays attention to the drunkard walking down the street."