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Local Muslims sound off on 'Burn a Koran Day'

September 7, 2010 12:10:56 AM PDT
Outrage is growing over a plan by a Florida pastor to burn copies of the Koran on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The so-called "Burn a Koran Day" has been condemned by everyone from the Pope to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

But Florida pastor Terry Jones said his Christian church, Dove World Outreach Center in Gainsville, Fla., is going forward with this plan.

Jones said he's using the occasion to take a stand against radical Islam.

"Our message is not a message of hate," Jones said. "Our message is of warning to the radical element of Islam. I think what we see around the globe proves what we're talking about."

Members of a local Muslim community said Jones is misled.

As the faithful gather for evening prayer at a mosque in Culver City, talks turn to the tiny church 2,000 miles away.

Usman Madha is the director of the King Fahad Mosque. He said the pastor's plan is nothing short of outrageous.

"I think he's off his rocker," Madha said. "Everyone can see what he's trying to do, so they're repudiating him. Even churches around him. Other pastors have come out and said it's got nothing to do with Christianity."

Najat Souldba of Cheviot Hills said it's not a good approach.

"Don't judge someone concerning their religious," Najat said. "Try to know the person."

Muslims consider the Koran to be the word of God and insist it be treated with the utmost respect, along with any printed material containing its verses or the name of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad. Any intentional damage or show of disrespect to the Koran is deeply offensive.

Gen. David Petraeus and Lt. Gen. William Caldwell say the book burning could have serious consequences for U.S. troops in the Middle East.

"We're not debating the First Amendment rights that people have. But what I will tell you is that their very actions will, in fact, jeopardize the safety of the young men and women who are serving in uniform over here and also undermine the very mission that we're trying to accomplish," Caldwell said.

The church has been denied a permit to hold the Koran-burning bonfire but has vowed to proceed.

"If, out of this, some type of retaliation should take place, we are deeply sorry for that. If people should lose their life, that would be tragic," Jones said. "Still, I must say that we feel that we must sooner or later stand up to Islam."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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