THE US commander of the Afghan war warned yesterday that a decision by American evangelicals to burn the Koran on September 11 would endanger his troops as the Muslim world reacted angrily to the plan.
General David Petraeus said the planned torching of Islam’s holy book by a Florida church would be a propaganda coup for the Taliban in Afghanistan and stoke anti-US sentiment across the Muslim world.
Protests have already gone ahead in the capital Kabul and in Indonesia – the world’s largest Muslim-majority country – while Iran has warned that the burning could unleash an uncontrolled Muslim response.
The Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, says it will burn copies of the Koran on this weekend’s ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks in protest at what it calls “the evil of Islam”.
Afghanistan, where Petraeus leads a 150,000-strong US-led NATO force against an extremist Taliban-led insurgency, is a devout Islamic country.
“It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan,” said Petraeus of the plan.
“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,” the general said.
On Monday about 200 men gathered near a mosque in Kabul to protest against the planned torching, shouting “Death to America” and “Long live Islam” for about an hour after their midday prayers, witnesses said.
The planned protest is by a Florida congregation – who have set up a Facebook page in support of the event bearing the motto “Islam Is Of The Devil”.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast advised “Western countries to prevent the exploitation of freedom of expression to insult religious sanctities, otherwise the emotions of Muslim nations cannot be controlled.”
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