The Times of India (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com ) is reporting that the U.S. has strongly condemned the burning of the Quran by a radical pastor in Florida and said that the Obama administration is deeply concerned about all deliberate attempts to offend members of any religious minority.“We condemn such acts as disrespectful, intolerant, and divisive. We are deeply concerned about all deliberate attempts to offend members of any religious or ethnic group,” the state department spokesman, Mark Toner told reporters at the start of a special briefing on Libya on Friday.
“Public condemnation of burning the Quran has come from a variety of organizations including the National Association of Evangelicals, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Anti-Defamation League,” he said.
“We believe firmly in freedom of religion and freedom of expression, they are universal rights, enshrined in the US Constitution and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Toner said.
“We reaffirm our position that the deliberate destruction of any holy book is an abhorrent act,” he said adding that “religious freedom and religious tolerance are fundamental pillars of US society.”
“President Bush added a copy of the Quran to the White House library and a member of Congress took his oath of office on a Quran once owned by Thomas Jefferson – one of America’s founding fathers,” Toner said.
The Times of India says that in Florida last week, the controversial pastor, Terry Jones had overseen the burning of the Quran by an evangelical preacher pastor Wayne Sapp in a local church after the holy book was put on trial and was convicted of crime.
Jones had said that trial of the holy Quran was held by a jury of 12 church members and volunteers, with a Dallas Imam as a defense 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 had told The USA Today.
Jones, however, 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 Muslim community in U.S. has declined to respond to such an act by Jones and his small group of followers,” said the Times of India story.
In the meantime, a Pakistani human rights organization, held a press conference in Samundri on Wednesday, March 23, 2011, on the burning of the Quran, in which it issued a statement which said, “We the Christians and Muslims [of Pakistan] condemn the act of Wayne Sapp who has burned the Holy Quran in Florida, USA.”
Professor Anjum James Paul, director of the SHADOW Organization, told the ASSIST News Service, “The press conference that we helped to organize on behalf of our Christian brethren, is a proof that the burning of the Holy Quran is the act of an individual.
“We, the Pakistani Muslims and Christians, will live peacefully together respecting the religions of each other. We equally respect the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran.
“Extremism and fanaticism has already caused a grave loss to the world, but now it is time to discourage such elements. The teachings of all religions are based on the values of peace, human dignity, tolerance and respecting all human beings without any discrimination.
“We have to be united to face the challenges. We expect that such type of incidents must not occur at any level from the followers of any religion.”
He added, “Both Muslims and Christians appreciated the step taken by SHADOW Organization that provided a platform to them so that they may come closer to each other and express their feelings on this sad incident. It was decided that both of the communities will stand together on all issues in future.”
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Minorities Rights Organization (PMRO), a UK-based organization working to achieve equal rights for religious minorities in Pakistan, has also strongly condemned the incident.
Morris Johns, General Secretary of PMRO has told the ASSIST News Service, “This act could put the lives of local Christians in Pakistan and in other Muslim countries in grave danger.
“The Christians in Pakistan have taken immediate action by condemning this act. We, in PMRO, have followed their lead and are hoping that this prompt action will prevent any violent attacks on the minorities in Pakistan.”