Last year, Florida pastor Terry Jones sparked worldwide outrage when he threatened to burn a copy of the Quran outside his church. In the midst of the controversy over the Park 51 Muslim cultural center near Ground Zero in New York City, Jones announced that he would burn the Islamic holy book in order to “stop Islam.” He declared that “what we are also doing by the burning of the Quran, we’re saying stop, stop to Islam, stop to Islamic law, stop to brutality.”
The response from U.S. leaders was swift. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said the burning “could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort.” President Obama called it a “destructive act.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates personally called Jones and asked him not to go through with his plan.
Jones agreed to postpone the burning, but this week, without much fanfare, he burned it anyway. On Sunday, Jones held a “trial”of the Quran in his church, found it “guilty,” and “executed” it.
Fifteen people were killed this morning in Kabul, including ten United Nations workers, when residents enraged at Jones’ act stormed a U.N. office:
Protesters angered by the burning of a Koran by a fringe American pastor in Florida mobbed offices of the United Nations in northern Afghanistan on Friday, killing ten foreign staff members and beheading two of the victims, according to an Afghan police spokesman. Five Afghans were also killed.
The attack began when hundreds of demonstrators, some of them armed, poured out of mosques after Friday Prayer and headed to the headquarters of the United Nations in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
One Afghan official said “several hundred demonstrators were peacefully protesting the purported burning when the gathering suddenly turned violent.” This unfortunate but predictable violence is exactly what Petraeus, Gates, and others warned about.
It’s important to note that several prominent members of the far right — many of them leaders of the anti-Park 51 movement — bashed Petraues for his warnings. Blogger Robert Spencer said he opposed Jones’ plan but called Petraeus’ remarks “a recipe for surrender.” Frank Gaffney criticized Petraues’ “deeply troubling” remarks, and said “[t]he risk is that, were one to take statements like General Petraeus’ to their logical conclusion, any objection to the Quran-derived program of shariah could be deemed an endangerment to our troops overseas. The result of such a practice would inevitably be to put at risk here at home both the American people and their Constitution.” And hate blogger Pamela Gellar wondered “[i]f we stop doing things they dislike, where will we draw the line?”